Tim’s lips were constantly puckered as if they’d tasted one too many bitter sips of a bad draft. His shoulders were shrugged from too many hours sitting at a bar and he walked around with a kind of half-stumble, half-strut. He had eyebrows like the Grinch, always furrowed and skeptically tilted down over his slivery-squinting eyes.
This summer I worked at Oswego Lake Country Club. They’re so exclusive they’ve changed the name to Oswego Lake, instead of Lake Oswego, the actual name of the lake and city. The members were high-browed, über-rich, and looked down their noses like double-barreled shotguns. Their heads were relentlessly cocked, which is why they insist on playing a game where the ball goes in the air.
No member ever wore green, because that was the color of our uniform; the color of “the help.” Even Mr. Sensemen, the course superintendant, looked at us like the polo was a sign of quarantine. The one redeeming quality of this job was Tim.
He grew up in Southern California and went to all-boy private academies, but was kicked out multiple times for skipping class to go surfing.
“When my wife dies, I’m moving to Thailand to live on the beach and surf every day,” he’d claim. He even spoke fluent Spanish before he knew English because he was raised by the housekeepers.
Probably the most interesting thing about Tim was that he even worked at all. He owns a contracting and landscaping business. The majority of his clients are millionaires who want waterfalls in their pools and gardens and in turn have made him a millionaire. On top of that, his wife, the third one, owns oil refineries. Every time someone asks why he works at a golf course, he plainly answers, “Cause it keeps me outta the bars,” but that’s hardly the case.
Tim loved to bring “fresh squeezed” juice to work. Every day it’d be a different concoction of fresh picked apple and pomegranate, grape and blackberry, strawberry and cherry, or orange and Marion berry. When anyone eyed his tropically colored canning jar, he’d give it a shake or two, unscrew the top, take a healthy sip, and then smack his lips like he’d tasted the sweet nectar of forbidden fruit.
“You know what this is? This is fresh squeezed mango and passion fruit juice,” he’d announce. Then, he’d lean in close and whisper, “with a little vodka.”
Some mornings he’d swagger through the door, cheeks still blushing, embarrassed of the amount of alcohol they’d held the night before. Unabashed, he’d saunter right passed Mr. Sensemen and even sometimes give him and extra breathy “Hhhhhii” before plopping down, shaken but not stirred.
“Tim,” Mr. Sensemen would sigh.
“Yes Sir? Mister Sensemen… Zir.”
“Mow the range Tim,” which was just code for “You’re too drunk to mow anything on the actual course.”
“Aye Aye, Cap’n.”
Then, while the rest of us were shaking our heads or shaking off a yawn, Tim would pop right off his seat and prance out the door, whistling “New York, New York.”
One day we were coming back for the second half of a split shift. It was a strange dynamic coming to work in the evening. Usually, we’d all stumble in lazy-eyed and groggy while the birds were rolling over in their nests. For once, we were alert and anxious to get to work.
Suddenly, in struts Tim sporting a “Surf Hawaii” t-shirt with a picture of a hula dancer on the back, plaid shorts that only patterned themselves half-way down his thigh, and sand-beaten flip-flops. The olive atop this walking vodka martini was a wide-brimmed straw hat with “Corona” belched across the front.
I remember watching him cruise around on the riding mower. His head lay back with sunglasses napping on his nose, and his legs were outstretched over the engine. It was like he was riding a lawn chair instead of a John Deere.
Despite all his tomfoolery, Tim had a surprisingly moral work ethic.
“If you’re gonna do a job, you might as well take the time and do it right,” he’d remind the seasonal kids. Instead of cutting corners and taking elongated smoke breaks like everyone else, Tim would work through break and sometimes stayed after just to finish a project. He was the proverbial tortoise in a crew full of hares.
My first day on the job, Tim made it a point to work with me. He walked right up beside me and slung his arm over my shoulder as if to say, “Stick with me, kid, and I’ll show you the ropes. Plus I’m still a little hung over and am using you to balance.”
He squired me around the shop, break room, and garage, familiarizing me with the equipment I would be using. The entire day he mowed, string-trimmed, and raked by my side.
“Take longer strokes with the rake. It makes for straighter lines, so the bunkers don’t look like crap. When you’re mowing tees and greens, go nice and slow so the mower won’t bounce around and it’s easier to keep it straight.” After every route I finished, he’d mosey over to a random striped green and inspect it from all angles of his drunken sway.
“What? Are you hung over? Those lines aren’t even close to straight.”
“Tim, I didn’t mow that green, you did.”
“Oh. Yeah, well. It’s not bad.”
My last day there was another split shift. We were finishing up the Women’s Invitational tournament and had come back in the evening for the second half. Three hours felt like three days until, finally, it was time to leave. I shook hands and exchanged half-hearted “nice to meet you’s” and apathetic “have a good life’s.”
“We’d love to have you back next summer,” Mr. Sensemen said.
As I walked out to my car, I glanced west down the twelfth fairway, and there was Tim riding his lawn chair into the sunset.