Passing Afternoons

I used to have a summer job at a mini golf course when I was in high school. It was on a stretch of the Berlin Turnpike where the densely populated big box stores give way to the occasional motel or stranded gas station. What was left was some beautiful, undeveloped land, which from the perch of the little hut where I sold passes, gave me a perfect view. The golf course was called Safari Golf, and the owners did a really good job of landscaping the property, keeping it cloaked with bushes and all sorts of plant life and painted animals. The rival mini golf spot down the pike was pretty bare bones in comparison.

I liked the job a lot because I was outside, but also because it gave me a sense of responsibility. There was only one employee each shift, and he or she was also responsible for roaming the course, making sure people weren’t teeing off over the turnpike. The owner, who looked over his course like a general would look over his battlefield, did not hesitate to bark at people who acted out of line or charge someone a buck for losing a ball. He definitely showed me that it was okay to lay down a little authority.

A lot of mornings would begin cleaning up the trash from the night before. The sun would beat the hangover out of me and I would feel accomplished after combing through the course, stocking the soda and chip machine and cleaning the golf balls. Aside from bursts of long lines, there was a lot of free time to read books or listen to music. I used to lug over my CD player, and used the time to explore albums from a lot of artists I was discovering for the first time then. Sometimes I would throw something on just to see if it would elicit a reaction from customers. I remember one time playing a Bright Eyes song, and a girl in line was like, “what the hell is this? Is he crying?” Another time I was really getting into Ryan Adams, and a dad, probably in his 50s, walked by and knew exactly what I was listening to.

The most chill times were when the course was empty and the turnpike was silent and I could just put on an album, something spare like Iron & Wine that would blend in with the sounds of crickets and passing cars. It was a great time to just stare at the sky and think. These songs always remind me of that.


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