restricted access I Am Grand Rapids
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173 As opposed to the airlines, the bus people didn’t mind my loading seven large pieces of luggage into the Greyhound’s belly free of charge. No one even questioned why I checked in an Antler hardside, two Samsonite Spinner uprights, a Victorinox Swiss Army cargo duffel , one twenty-seven-inch Titan, and two vintage leather suitcases— all with fancy ID tags that didn’t bear my name. The tags had other people’s names on them, is what I’m saying, for the luggage had traveled haphazardly around these United States, become temporarily lost or delayed, and finally arrived at the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport. I’m a bag runner. That means I get contracted out to return people’s temporarily lost or delayed belongings, most of which showed up at dawn, when I started my job. Unlike every other faction of employment in America—teaching, high finance, construction, and the airline industry, for example—my job had seemed secure up until I made this one particular pickup. I collected the addresses, loaded the van, and, instead of stopping seventy miles north, in Asheville, where all these angry travelers resided without their clothes, toiletries, and vacation gifts, kept on driving, fifty miles past, to the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino. I went inside, actually won a few hundred dollars within an hour, then returned to my van parked a half mile away, turned the ignition, threw a rod, and blew the engine. fiction GEORGE SINGLETON I Am Rapids Grand 174 ecotone Maybe I had a gambling problem. It was not the first time I’d been to the casino, but with the exception of those six or eight times when I’d kept going to the ATM for more money to put into tight video-poker machines, I knew when to quit. Anyway, as I say, up until this point, a Tuesday, all had been secure. Being a bag runner wasn’t something I’d have chiseled into my tombstone, but I considered it meaningful employment until I had enough money to quit and write one of those dummies’ guides to winning at Shamrock Sevens, or Deuces Wild, or Jacks or Better. I foresaw an entire series ahead of me, excepting keno. With that money, who knows? Maybe I’d take up flying, become a pilot . I could look people in the eye—people closest to me—and go, “Haha -ha, I told you.” But at this point I was receiving phone calls from my boss, picking up luggage from an office adjacent to the baggage claim area, and driving around with suitcases that had been to Cincinnati, Detroit, Houston, Charlotte, Memphis, Salt Lake City, et al. I wore a name tag, though on occasion frustrated ex-passengers chose to call me Fuck Face, Shit Head, Pissant, Numb Nuts, and Dickhead. “Hey, Lick Knob, thanks so much for charging me thirty dollars so my bags wouldn’t show up where I did,” someone might say to me, man or woman alike. “How is it that I can fly from La Guardia to Greenville nonstop, and my suitcase ends up in Grand Rapids, Michigan?” I’ve never kept proper, scholarly notes and graphed it all out, but I would bet the luggage that accidentally ended up in Michigan had something to do with a harried and inept ticket agent seeing “Gr” and making assumptions. I said “Grrrr” to a lot of people myself. What I didn’t say to those who took it out on me was “Look, Screw Gravy, you’re blaming the wrong person.” I got it. If anyone understands frustration and futility, it’s me. I might bring that up in the first paragraph of my gambling books. I could bring it up in regards to video poker, and in my job right before, when I led a more glamorous lifestyle. You see, up until I became a bag runner, I’d worked as the specialteams coach at a college whose president finally realized that an institution of higher learning intent on gaining a reputation as an institution of higher learning didn’t need a perennial 1–10 football team that cost the school money and only...