Wednesday, September 29, 2004


Time for another exciting exploit from my days as a pizza-maker. Let's discuss the ceiling.

The worst duty that could be assigned at my pizza eatery, was that of cleaning the bathrooms. Did you know that girls pee on the lid too? It's true. In fact, the girls bathroom was usually the worst one. For some reason, this amazes me, and scares me at the same time, because I've been in some NASTY men's rooms.

It was on one of these little pee wiping episodes that the "Imp of the Perverse" paid Scott (the fire-starter) another visit and suggested that he wedge something between the bathroom door and the hallway way thus effectively locking me in the worst possible place imaginable. He complied and I was locked in. So, to perpetrate my escape, I was forced to climb onto the toilet, move the ceiling panels, and climb up into the ceiling. What I saw that day was vast uncharted areas, ripe to be explored. I made a mental note to come back at a more convenient time, climbed down into the men's bathroom, and miraculously appeared in the hallway much to Scott's chagrin.

Later that week, the moment arrived. We were in a lull and the manager had extricated himself to the nearest bar for a drink or two. It was time to go the opposite of spelunking, lets call it uplunking. I commandeered my friend Aaron (who would leave an incriminating footprint on the top of the toilet's water tank) and we headed into the men's room, together, and disappeared.

Careful foot placement was vital to our safety and our secrecy, we wouldn't want to fall through the ceiling. Headroom was in surplus up there since the shopping center we were located in had a pretty tall mushroom like sign-laden top to it. Concrete cinder block firewalls cordoned off the neighboring stores, and two large tubes vaulted up through the darkness to the roof, possibly containing swirling pepperoni.

We began our adventure by heading over to dining room 3, the largest one. On the way, I carefully made my way like a monkey around pipes and bundles of wires and through steel trusses. A spider-web of steel pipes permeated most of the ceiling and its many extending pipes ended with a 90 degree downturn to the ceiling panels below, the sprinkler system.

If one were sitting below, enjoying a pizza, one might not notice the many sprinklers dotting the ceiling like a pox. Each sprinkler head was smoothed into the asbestos (really, I have no idea) ceiling panels with a metal chrome ring that pops in the hole to give it that finishing touch. As it turns out, these metal rings pop out fairly easily. I discovered this unfortunate fact when I bumped into a pipe, and saw a beam of light suddenly stab through the darkness as the metal ring fell away like that video of a used rocket stage falling away in slow motion. We held our breath, waiting for the metal clang of the ring on the floor. Strangely, it never came. We repeated the folly later and again, the clang never sounded.

So, we continued on... and got lost, but we didn't panic. "Just lift up a ceiling panel and see where we are." We thought. We located a smaller panel, the corner of some ceiling where poor ceiling design required a 6 by 11 inch panel to fill in the final gap. That fact, in and of itself, should have been enough to devise our location, but we had yet to graduate high school and thus could not figure it out. So we lifted the corner up and peered down upon a----


Now this is the part I feel bad about, because the only observant member of the family was the tiny baby sitting in the high-chair who could not verbalize what he saw to his family, and was forced to start screaming at the top of his lungs because two faces glared down on him from some mysterious dark void above. We slapped the panel back down, and once again held our breath.

Knowing our location, we decided that our adventure was over. Further exploration would have to occur after closing since we had proven ourselves not the limber high-wire artists that we perceived ourselves as, but two lumbering oafs who bump into everything possible and scare babies for no reason.

We climbed down , replaced the tile, failed to notice the large black footprint staring us in the face, and emerged from the bathroom, together, covered in dust that we hadn't noticed due to the lack of light.

"Where the hell have you two been?" Asked the shift leader Derrick.

"Umm, up in the ceiling." We admitted, Derrick was cool. He'd keep it quiet as long as we promised to show him around later.

"Does this look familiar?" He said, holding up the metal sprinkler ring.

"Um, yes."

"This guy, in room 3 came over here and said, 'I heard this rumbling, looked up, and this popped off and hit me on my head!'"

The clang that we were expecting was absorbed by the customer's soft head, probably resulting in a dull thud that was too quiet for us to hear. But what of the second sprinkler ring? We found it later sitting in the dirt of a potted plant.

Derrick loved the ceiling when we took him up with us later. He continued to go up, well after the initial fascination wore off. He's working for the corporate branch of the pizza company now. A week or two later, Aaron was threatened with firing after the footprint had been traced back to his shoe by a sober manager. Nothing else ever came of it except rumor has it that word got out to the general public, and the ceiling tiles in the bathroom have been noticed, disheveled, nearby incriminating footprints.

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