Sunday, August 5, 2012

Geek Hunting - Jersey Style

Mike the Geek owner!
  We took our semi-bi-annual family vacation to the Jersey Shore last week. We had gone every odd numbered year until we skipped the 2009 trip and now we have been going every even numbered year. We stayed at the Toms River Holiday Inn just as we have every time we went to the shore. The hotel is about 5 miles from the shore, but renting a house or an apartment for a week at the shore is pretty expensive and even if you rent the a really nice space there’s no guarantee that next door there won’t be a bunch of drunken kids or adults having loud parties every night.

Left turns - Jersey style.
  5 years ago, we arrived at 1pm and the Holiday Inn wouldn’t check us in until 3pm because we weren’t ‘Priority Club’ members. I signed up to be a Priority Club member and 2 years ago not only were we able to check in early we got 2 free breakfasts a day. This year we didn’t arrive in time for an early check in but on Monday when I tried to get my free breakfast I was told that the free breakfast weren’t being given to Priority Club members any more, just to Gold or Platinum Priority Club members (You have to stay at a Holiday more than 14 days a year to be a Gold member). I had to make do with my consolation prize of free coffee and newspaper and forage for breakfast at a nearby Dunkin Donuts. There’s been some noticeable slippage at the Holiday Inn in other areas this year. While they were able to give us a small refrigerator like last vacation, we couldn’t get a cot and even though we tell the front desk that we’d like 4 towels every day, we still had to make a nightly pilgrimage to the front desk to get 2 extra towels.

The day clerk at the Holiday has an act that you could take on the road!

  Even though I’m on vacation, I still wake up at 4:30 every day (5:30 on the east coast) by force of habit. Everyone else is still sleeping so I head to the hotel lobby and play on the computer until the rest of the family is awake. The early morning hours at the hotel lobby is a nest of predictable activity. At 6:00, the 2 person crew arrives to open the restaurant for the Gold and Platinum Priority club members to get their free breakfast ($11.95 for vanilla Priority Club members like myself along with the rest of the general population). The night clerk, who I’ve seen for at least 10 years, checks people out until her shift ends at 7am, fending off complaints about the noise or shoddy quality of the room with the inevitable request for a discount with a counter offer of a complimentary breakfast. There was one customer who had apparently been through this drill before. He arrived at the lobby 10 minutes after the night clerk left and immediately complained about the kids running up and down the hallways overnight and how he called the front desk and the clerk told him she was only one person and he shouldn’t have to pay for a night at the hotel where no one got to sleep and by god he was a GOLD CLUB PRIORITY MEMBER but he and his family were never staying at a Holiday Inn again unless they got a free room. As the line queued up behind him, the day clerk gave him a free room at 25 after 7, whereupon the customer asked for free breakfasts for the rest of his family beyond the 2 free one afforded by his gold priority status. As his family suddenly appeared from the hallway to eat a free family breakfast, it was all I could do to not stand up and applaud. The next man in line, also having witnessed this award winning performance, lodged a protest at the absence of any carts to take his luggage to his car. He then listed off a list of ailments that would fill 2 episodes of House, and asked for a free room. He bypassed the offer of a free breakfast, claiming he had to leave early to go to the doctor, but all he could get from the day clerk was a helper to serve as his personal bellhop to bring his bags to his car. I was very impressed with the day clerk. She always had a smile on her face whenever anyone was looking at her and engaged her customers in animated conversations. I managed to capture a few minutes her performance art on my camera. I tried to make it look like I was fiddling with my camera, but if anyone had asked I was prepared to say I was filming auditions for the next big reality TV show and then ask for a free room or at least a complimentary breakfast. Unfortunately, I was too circumspect and my talent search went unnoticed.

2 sides of the Jersey Shore. The beach on the left and the bay on the right.

Patrick Stewart
contemplating his next big role.
  There is nothing quite as relaxing as a week at the Shore. We’d head down to the beach around 11, splash around in the ocean for a half hour once or twice and sleep or read on the beach the rest of the day, with an occasional walk along the boardwalk to get something to eat or look at the games. There was a pizza stand that gave away a 12 ounce soda with their pizza slice which was the favored eating place. I had a couple of Italian ices at one of the many Kohr ice cream stands. On Thursday, we rented a boat and a driver and had a 2 hour cruise around the bay that separates the tiny strip of land that contains the beach and shore towns from the rest of New Jersey. We got soaked from the boat bouncing up and down, but the ride was even more relaxing than the beach and on Friday Kathy and Ben went back and rented some jet skis for an hour.

Food, sun, sand, candy, and games. The Jersey shore has it all!

  Kathy won a box of candy, a Yankee sign, and a basketball jersey at the spinning wheel games, while the only amusement game I played was a basketball pop-a-shot game. You have around 30 seconds to make as many baskets as you can using the 3 basketballs that slowly roll down to you. If you get 50 points, you win a cheap ball as a prize. The second time I played I got 62 points and was called a ‘god ‘ by the worker who got my prize because he hadn’t broken 60 points all summer. My secret is a quick release, where I reach into the machine to get my ball and toss it into the basket without standing back up. I don’t make a higher percentage of shots than anyone else but I take many more shots. The next day, a ball got stuck on the rim, so I used a basketball from the next machine over to free the ball and I played the game with 4 balls. I got 52 points and the same guy gave me my ball but told me I cheated because I used 4 balls instead of 3. So I played one more game with 3 balls, scored 56 points to prove I didn’t need a fourth ball, and took another ball as a prize.

  My brother Ed came down on Friday to spend the day on the beach with us. While we were hanging out on the boardwalk, an old guy caught my eye as he kept on screaming at every passer-by to ‘Shoot The Geek’. That game has been on the boardwalk for years. I remember the ‘Geek’ having a giant head with glasses in years past and I thought I remembered this same stand offering to let me shoot ‘Saddam’ or shoot ‘Osama Bin Laden’ with their paintball guns in years past. I think the Geek was lucky Clint Eastwood wasn’t at the shore (‘Shoot the Geek…Sure, I’ll Shoot the Geek’ and out comes the 44 Magnum!). I got a few minutes of video of this guy (whose name was Mike) exhorting everyone to ‘Shoot the Geek’ and offering a free bottle of water to anyone willing to fork over the $10 for the chance to ‘Shoot the Geek’. Once I got done filming, Mike managed to talk an older lady out of a cigarette and then started yelling at me to ‘Shoot The Geek’, saying things like ‘C’mon I see you watching’ and ‘C’mon buddy, you know you want to’.

  As we walked up and down the boardwalk, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for Mile the barker. He was 3 times the age of the other barkers (who are mostly kids with vaguely Eastern European accents), but he was also 3 times louder and 3 times as hard working. No halfhearted ‘c’mon dad…win the kid a prize’ from this refugee from a Rodney Dangerfield lookalike contest. He made it sound like shooting the Geek was going to be the highlight of your life and all for a measly 10 dollars…and you got a free bottle of ICE-COLD water to boot! As we made our way back down the boardwalk, I decided that even though some of my best friends are geeks (really they are, really!) I was going to take the ten dollar plunge and shoot a Geek.

  I tried to get Matt, Ben, or Ed to join me in shooting the Geek, but they just wanted to be voyeurs and live vicariously through me. I gave Mike my 10 dollars and asked him if this guy had suited up as Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden in years past. Both Mike and the Geek denied ever allowing people to shoot Saddam or Osama (which made me question their patriotism), but they admitted to letting customers shoot Snooki (of Jersey Shore fame) and Barack Obama! At that point my gun was loaded, the Geek had his body armor on, and I fired 100 pellets of paint into the Geek as he drunkenly tried to avoid my marksmanship.

Left: How to talk people into shooting a geek. Right: My turn!

  Before Mike gave me my bottle of ice-cold water, he asked me if I would tip the Geek. The Geek looked at me with disgust as I removed all the loose change from my pocket and dropped the 35 cents in his jar. I then fished out a dollar bill which turned his look of disgust into one of mere disdain. I wasn’t interested in seeing how much it would cost to get a thank you out of the man I just shot, so I asked Mike if I could get a picture of him giving me my ICE-COLD water. He said sure and as Ben took the picture, Mike asked me if I wanted a picture with the Geek. I said ‘No’ and Mike put on his biggest smile yet and said, ‘Yeah, ‘F*** the Geek!’.

Bring on them GEEKS!