A Tulip Time Confrontation
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Disclaimer: Although the following article might make me look like a jerk, I’m really not. I was just doing my job in the best way possible. I tried to stay calm, but the thoughts in my head were the most interesting part, so I thought that I would put those in this article for effect.

Being out of school for the summer has been pretty exciting so far. I don’t have to think, high school track coaches harass me (that’s another story of its own), and I get to work for eight hours a day like a normal working adult or high school dropout.

My current summer job is working for the City of Holland Parks Department. I’m a groundskeeper at a local park. I get to pick up trash, clean bathrooms, skim ponds, and hang out with the homeless, among other things. I like the work because I’m outside all day, I get to watch the people who come through the park, and I get a chance at some really cool overtime. One such incident of overtime occurred about two weeks ago.

Every year, Holland holds a festival dedicated to the flower called the tulip. Take a guess at what the festival is called. Yep, Tulip Time. Pretty original huh? Anyways, there are a total of three parades during the week -- on Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. These parades draw a lot of spectators, especially the Saturday parade. There is, however, a local ordinance that says that there can be no reserving of seats until 6 am the day of the Wednesday and Thursday parades and no earlier than 9 pm on Friday night for the Saturday parade. Well, one of the overtime opportunities was picking up objects that were left alongside the parade route. Although I also did it on Wednesday night, I would like to talk about the Friday night pick-up.

I arrived at work at 6 pm to pick up the chairs, blankets, and what have you. I was working with one hilarious guy who would make funny comments to pedestrians, have comic relief with local cops, and point out things that we needed to pick up (a BMW, for example).

We began our first sweep down the parade route, keeping our eyes peeled for chairs or blankets that we could rip off the ground. We slowly began to roll through the closed street, picking up blankets, trash bags, tarps, and signs. My first interesting encounter was when we pulled in front of the retirement home downtown. There were signs on the benches that the city puts out. The signs said “Reserved for Warm Friend.” Being the cold-hearted bastard that I am, I said to myself, “Yeah, right.” I began to tear up each sign -- a good thirty of them. Along my rampage, an older lady came up to me and asked me what I was doing. I explained to her the ordinance and that I was an employee of the City of Holland, just doing my job.

“It’s funny,” she says, “the city helped us put these benches out.” I replied by saying, “Yes, Ma’am. The city does put the benches out, but they don’t help put out the signs.” She went off about how they have been putting the signs out for ten years now, and they have never had trouble before. I stopped listening after a while. Then I heard her say one of the dumbest things I have ever heard.

“Well, I guess there’s corruption at the local government, too.” She turned around and walked away. I thought to myself, “What the hell is she talking about? Corruption in the local government? Man she’s a moron.” I told her in a calm manner that I was just doing what I was told, and that if she had a problem with my actions to talk to my supervisor. She turned around and left me with an older gentleman, who was yelling at me.

“What will the public think about what you are doing?” he was shouting at me. I once again told him that I was just doing my job, enforcing a local ordinance. Personally, I didn’t care what the public thought. I was enforcing the law. Usually, the public likes the police until they have a run-in with the law. Any other day, this gentleman would have liked me, but he was having a run-in with the law that he couldn’t handle. He kept yelling at me, but I got into the truck and continued on my way. I was just doing my job, and if they had a problem with that, they could call the Parks Department -- or “Talk of the Town,” a local AM radio show.

We went on to complete our first sweep, picking up many chairs, blankets, etc. We then turned around for our second sweep. This time, I got to drive. We started at the beginning of the parade route again. I was crawling at a nice pace when I heard shouting. I looked in the rearview mirror, and, to my surprise, I saw a man running up behind us. I stopped the truck. Out of breath, he asked, “Do you guys fill up the portable toilets with paper?” We shook our heads no. He then asked, “Do you have a napkin or something I can have?”

We searched around the cab of the truck for a while. Looking in the back, we found a paper towel that had been sitting on the floor. It had a footprint on one half. We showed the guy, and he said, “This might work.” He tore the footprint portion off and told us that it wasn’t for him -- but for his wife. I just bowed my head in shame. I wasn’t sure who to be more embarrassed for -- his drunken self or his wife.

We finished up our second sweep, which was at 8:30 pm. We unpacked the stuff in the truck, told each other to have a nice weekend. I then went home, told my parents about the experience, and made fun of the people I had to deal with. All I have to say is that this was the coolest Tulip Time ever.

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