Summer of ’65
Julie Stevenson, 2004
Alex Bay in the ’60s was a lot like other resort villages throughout New York. This river community was busiest on the weekends, with local hotels and restaurants employing many native teens. Some of us performed menial, tedious tasks for a scanty wage. So at the ripe young age of fourteen, my first taste of life in the workplace ranged from outrageous to sometimes stimulating, with occasional insights into the universe-at-large.
To perform my duties at a local flashy establishment, I was expecting to wear a boring uniform: white nylon shirt and shapeless black pants—ugh! Mostly, I hated the gawd-awful hairnets, which we were expected to wear at all times. Being a fresh-faced, stylish brunette, this unremarkable attire was far too prudish and sensible-looking for my tastes. I literally prayed none of my friends would happen by and recognize me. Like most native girls of that age, I was naturally curious and on a quest for an Elvis look-alike. However, I didn’t waltz into the path of the man of my dreams during Summer of ’65.
My workplace, on occasion, attracted couples that were trysting away from their spouses. Oftentimes while cleaning their rooms, I fantasized that I was at the Waldorf Astoria. Occasionally, I applied a guest’s perfume, which was waiting on the nightstand just for me. On quieter days, I “surfed the soaps” and sipped a Coke.
One afternoon halfway through As the World Turns, the couple occupying Rendezvous Room 202 (which I had been assigned to clean) returned unexpectedly. As my Electrolux rested on the floor and I reclined on their extra-marital bed, the door flew open, and the “Do Not Disturb” sign crashed into the corner. Surprised and flustered, I found myself apologizing to no one other than my seventh-grade teacher. He was an older, kind of gone-to-seed, alpha male. His friends called him Biff. Yes, I remember now; Biff was his name. I quickly fled Room 202, expecting my hours of employment were probably numbered.
For reasons unknown to me at the time, I was not immediately remanded to the main office. Early in the morning, though, while shaking restaurant-supply throw rugs, who appeared at my chambermaid station but Mr. Seventh-Grade Teacher from Room 202! The hair stood up on the back of my neck, and I Heard my breath escape as my heart jitterbugged in my chest. This was it. Terrified, I just knew we’d be making a trip to the front office. On the contrary, my innocence was shattered. He instead approached me concerning the issue of his marital status. Obviously believing I recognized it was not his wife the day before, he yanked a twenty from his pocket and began the “bribery dance.” Confused, yet relieved he wasn’t browbeating me for the soap-opera siesta and depleting Mrs. Tryst’s perfume, I numbly accepted his “dangling carrot.” Finally, the thudding in my chest faded, and the beads of perspiration that glistened on my forehead began to evaporate.
The epiphany I experienced that day long ago made me aware none of us is perfect. It also gave new meaning to a locally recognized slogan: “Come Join Us for Fun in the Thousand Islands.”