After working two years as a wholesale liquor salesman, I was offered a job working for Jack Daniel Distillery as a sales representative. I had a connection at Jack Daniel, and one of their regional managers contacted me and asked if I would be interested in a position they had open. They had heard of my success from their distributor in Memphis—my competition, and I was flattered by their compliment. It was the goal of most wholesale liquor sales representatives to go to work for a major distillery. Now, I was going to be working for the BMW/Mercedes Benz of liquor manufacturers.
After several interviews, I was hired and immediately transferred to Tampa, and I was assigned the west coast of Florida as my territory. My ego unchecked, I took my wife and son to beautiful, sunny Florida where I had an apartment on the beach, a nice expense account, a new company car, autonomy to work as I saw fit, and free liquor samples. I thought I had died and gone to heaven, and I didn’t draw a sober breath for the next two and one-half years.
I loved every day of my new life, but Angela was miserable. Sometimes the atmosphere seemed intolerable at our house. We had never lived away from Memphis, and Angela was chronically homesick. My boss thought the weekly phone calls from her parents back in Memphis made her discomfort worse. With each call, it reminded her of all the family gatherings she was missing. For Angela, being with her large, Italian family seemed to be the only place she ever experienced happiness—or ever wanted to. Doing things with her family and being with them was all the socializing Angela wanted to do, and she let me know it. A wedding with hundreds of family members, a christening, a birthday party, a funeral, or a holiday dinner brought a smile to Angela’s face that lasted for days. I never saw people who enjoyed going to funerals so much. It was as if the undertaker had put a winning lottery ticket in the casket, and everyone wanted to be the first one to get there and find it. Now, living in Florida, she could attend none of these events.
Our little, three-person family living in St. Petersburg didn’t do much together. When we did, it was often a work-related commitment and Angela seldom wanted to go, but she went and seemed to have a good time. Occasionally I was able to talk Angela into a few outings with just the three of us. Once, we went on a picnic to a park located on one of the small islands in Tampa Bay. I had had a few drinks by the time we arrived there and Angela’s mood reflected her discomfort.
We had been there just a few minutes when I bent over to take off my shirt. A pelican flying overhead decided it was time to release the remnants of his fish breakfast. I heard a loud splat, and it felt like someone threw a baseball and hit me in the back. It was a painful and disgusting mess. I was covered in pelican shit, and I didn’t know what to do. It was so bad, I thought the emergency squad might have to send a crew to dig me out. Once before when I was fishing, a seagull had drop-shipped a personal package to me. It hit me in the arm and while it was messy, it was easy to clean up and I was able to return to my fishing and my beer. This giant, pelican bombardment, however, was a different kettle of fish—as it were.
Now, Jason was laughing like hell as were several people nearby, and I looked over at Angela and she was gagging as if she was going to throw up.
“You’ve got doo-doo all over your back,” she cried.
“Ya think? Please come over here and help me get it off.”
“I’m not touching that.”
“Just help me roll the shit up in the shirt and roll the shirt over my back so I don’t get any on my head or face,” I pleaded.
Jason continued to laugh so hard he got the hiccups. More people were gathering around to watch and laugh, too. Even I was chuckling by this point. Angela, who saw no humor in the situation, approached me and began carefully rolling my brand new Izod shirt up and over my back. “Maybe that bird crapped on you because you’re drunk,” Angela said.
The only thing dumber than Angela’s statement was my response. Exasperated, I hissed, “Now how in the hell could a pelican know I was drinking, and if it did why would it care enough to shit on me?” When we got the shirt over my head, I carefully wadded it up and threw it in the nearby garbage container.
Angela said, “I’ve lost my appetite. Let’s go home.”
“I’m not going to let a pelican ruin our picnic,” I answered.
“You ruined the picnic. The pelican just helped out.”
We stayed a while longer, but Angela was pissed, so I said, “I give up. Let’s go home.”