This was really the only rule on office road trips. I didn’t realize at the time what the point of that rule was. Now I understand—it means no drinking and definitely no doing anything stupid.
The first road trip I lead went to Statesville. Showmars, David, Eric and I gathered around Shaun while he explained the rules in the parking lot, as was the tradition. We were all leaders.
“If Noonan says the sky is purple, the sky is purple,” Shaun declared.
I had never been given power like this.
It was the first time we were allowed to sell Internet by itself and I had people calling me all day, asking internet questions. We did some serious sales, and crushed our goal. That night, I rolled back to the hotel with Eric and an 18 pack of Lights. We turned on Impractical Jokers.
“Let’s go to a strip club,” said Eric.
“I’m in,” David said after a long, slow, “ha ha ha ha HA.”
“Hmm. Okay, okay. I see where you’re coming from,” I said diplomatically.
“Ahhhhh shit guys. You serious Noonan?” said Showmar across the room. He was engaged.
“Fuck dude I don’t know,” I said.
“It’s team night,” said Eric with David agreeing. “What do you want us to do? Sit around and drink 7-Up in this shit hotel room?”
“Shit,” I mumbled. I had not planned a team night.
“Ok,” Eric said, beginning to flip through the white pages. “That settles it.”
We found a place, and began yelling at Showmar to come with us. I beckoned with each side, to no avail.
“Alright Noonan, we’re gonna be waiting out at the car,” said David as he and Eric walked out of the room.
“Mars, Bro. I feel bad leaving you back here on team night,” I said.
“It’s okay Noonan. She said no.” Mars had called his fiance and asked permission to go to the strip club, and we all heard her answer. She was not on speaker. She was not amused.
“Are you sure? We can stay here and just chill,” I said, as the other two leaned against the headlights of the started car in the parking lot, just outside of our open-doored room.
“Yeah. You guys have a good time.”
“Okay um, tell me if you change your mind.”
The club was right off the highway. Literally the first right we took off the highway, 1 exit up. The small parking lot next to the overpass was made of gravel and Harleys took in a red glow underneath the neon signs as they stood, wrapped around the building.
We walked in to a room that was under the command of a motorcycle club. So many leather vests. We sat down by the stage and the emcee announced the names of the strippers as they walked out. The same lights that they used for my middle school dances were now adorning the pillars around the catwalk next to the bar. It was more like a dimly lit talent show with a ton of titties.
“Alright Noonan, you just have to lay back for a while and act indifferent, that’s how it works with these girls,” said Aaron. “Just say no to the first five or ten.” He was younger than I and far more experienced.
“Just like a house-cat: only around for the food,” I said.
“Hi I’m Valerie,” a shaggy woman said to me just after walking off the stage. She grabbed my arm and began to yank me up. “Let’s do a dance.”
“Okay,” I said.
Aaron shook his head low.
“What are you doin here in Statesville?” she asked, elbow to elbow with me as we turned into the hallway with the private rooms. Two massive men guarded the entrance.
“Just out here for work,” I said.
“What do you do?”
In the car, I admitted that this was going to be my first strip club. Aric told me to tell the private dancer that I was a helicopter pilot. “Actually out here working with at&t U-verse,” I mumbled.
Valerie’s heel broke and she fell down, crumbling towards a face-first dive into the concrete floor beneath the thin carpet of the dance room.
“Oh my God,” she screamed over and over as she struggled up and hobbled out of the room with her face covered in blood.
“Va, Valerie?” I stuttered.
I leaned out of the room to find the two massive guards catching her and carrying her towards a recovery spot. Aaron ran back.
“What the fuck?”
“Dude she just fell,” I said. “Are those guys pissed?”
“What did that tattoo on his arm say? What was that inside the diamond?” I asked Aaron.
“Uhhh. I think it was a 1% sign.”
“FUCK,” I said. I was beginning to feel weak in the knees. “Are you sure it didn’t say 99?” I pleaded.
“I mean I saw a 1 for sure. Maybe the percent sign was actually just some zeros? Like these guys are in a group of a hundred good dudes.”
I started to slide down the wall when the massive guys showed up and started to wander down the hall.
“Get up,” one said.
“Get up,” they both repeated and slung me up.
“Come over here and get some water,” the first one said.
They walked me to the table next to Val and sat me down in front of a glass of water. I looked over and saw she was covered in fancy napkins soaked in brownish red. Her nose was broken. She was pissed, but had explained to the men that it wasn’t my fault.
“You didn’t catch her buddy?” a large, bald man loomed over to ask.
“Shut up Ronnie leave the poor boy alone,” Valerie coughed out. And I had once planned on feeling like a man at this place.
“Come on I was just fuckin with him. Here, look. I’ll give him a beer.”
He tossed me a Coors Light and I did not hesitate to get the cap off. It had never tasted so good.
“Looks like someone might need a dance,” said Ronnie.
“I’d still like to give him one, said Valerie. Her nose was plugged with bloody tissue paper and her blonde tiny mustache was now dry and crusty.
“Whataya say?” asked Ronnie, looking at me.
“I mean hey, why the hell not.”
She took me back and we began dancing to a Jay-Z song, and I told her that it was my 24th birthday.
“It’s all downhill from here baby,” she said. It was one of the most depressing moments of my life.
She grinded on my angry boner for 2 more songs and then the boys and I all got the hell out of there. “Dude,” we all agreed. We went back to the hotel room and were pleasantly surprised that Mars was still up. We all had a few beers and a huge laugh.
The next morning we woke to the sound of a ruckus coming from outside. I climbed out of bed and, in my boxers, drew the curtains to a swarm of police men. The room next to us had been stripped of it’s furniture and all that was left behind was a chair and a few metal parts that belonged to automatic weapons, according to Aaron. It made no sense to me, but it seemed like a perfect time to check out. We did a groundbreaking 11 sales between the three of us that day, and headed back to Charlotte with a victory. We stopped at Burger King before getting on the interstate.
“You know what I’m really good at,” I asked as I drove out of the parking lot.
“What?” asked Showmar.
“I’m really good at, um, eating cinnamon buns,” I said with a mouth full of cinnamon bun.
“What kind of shit is that?” Showar asked after a laugh.
When I got back to the Cutter house and hung by myself at the bar, I thanked Jesus that everything was alright.