Archive for the Off Stage Category

TPC Sawgrass

Posted in Humor Column, Memories, Off Stage with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2012 by Joe Zimmerman

This week the Players Championship is being held at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.  Watching this tournament is particularly interesting for me as I know the course very well, having spent a very bizarre year of my life working there as the range ball picker upper guy.  For some reason I was convinced that I needed to take a year off after highschool and go live somewhere all by myself and do nothing but golf, and that’s what I did.

I didn’t do as well as I thought at living the life of an eccentric eighteen-year-old hermit.  I spent a surprising amount of time at night on AIM, reconnecting with people from Morgantown, some of whom I’d barely known while living in Morgantown.  I would sometimes even save the “interesting” conversations and read back through them like an old grandma flipping through a photo album.  I’m pretty sure reading back through your old instant message chats is the definition of lonely.

I played golf, practiced golf, worked at the golf course, drank red Powerade, ate at Subway, and drove the range-ball picker, or “picker” for short (I don’t think that machine has an official name).  My life skills are minimal now, so at that time we were in the danger zone.  Early on, I put the wrong soap in the dishwasher and the entire kitchen filled up with suds while I watched Sportscenter in the other room.  I then cleaned up the suds by wiping at them with paper towels, as I did not have a mop or functioning brain.  Sometimes I would treat myself to a nice steak at the grocery store (sirloin), marinade it in A1 sauce, and pan-fry it with no sides (yum).   One problem – I thought “marinade” meant to pour your sauce over it while it’s cooking in the pan, so that firy liquid A1 balls jump out of the pan at you and sting you as you duck and dodge and curse the difficult marinade process.

TPC Sawgrass is one of the most corporate golf courses in the world, and the staff is huge.  There were at least two-hundred people on staff, and the range ball picker is the lowest ranking position, right beneath cart barn guy.   Sometimes you’d have to attend a giant staff meeting, and the director of operations would refer to us as a “team” which sounds fun at first, until you realize the corporate version of “team” is not the same as the “team” you’re used to.  At first you think, “Great, I’m on a team. Let’s go guys, let’s win this fun game that we’re playing!”  But then soon you realize you’re just a role player on the team, and your role is to pick and bag and clean thousands of golf balls, and none of your teammates know your name or pass to you, and there is no other team that you play against – it’s just you, all by yourself, against the golf balls.

It’s one of those weird teams where you have to show up to a cart barn in the pitch black at 6 am, and there’s this sixty-five year old Vietnam veteran named Bobbie Sauers barking orders.  I believe his official title was “Head of Cart Barn” which meant that he was my most direct boss, though there were also about twelve assistant pros, a head pro, and two head cart guys who were also my boss.  Bobbie had glazed over eyes and bushy grey nose hairs that came down to his lip.  His happiest moments were at 6:30 in the morning, when all of the carts were lined up and ready to go, and in those rare moments of quiet, he would sit back, chew his tobacco, and reflect with great nostalgia on various French prostitutes he’d known, as though being at war was the best time of his life.   He had the posture and demeanor and raspy voice of Golum, from Lord of the Rings –hunched over at the shoulders with dangling arms and a hungry look on his face and a constant chewing motion from the tobacco.

At 6:30 a.m. I would drive off in my golf cart to the far end of the driving range, to the shed where the picker was parked.  That shed was like a second apartment for me – a nice quiet hiding place far from the corporate bustle of the club house and cart barn – and the time between  6:30 and 7 ( after preparing the carts but before the course got busy) was the best part of the shift, because I had the whole private back range to myself.   It was strictly forbidden to hit golf balls at the back range as it was the private area where the tour pros practice.  It was an immaculate practice area – one of the best in the world – and for that thirty minutes, hidden from the rest of the staff, I had it all to myself.

And then came 7 o’clock, when the range fills up with members, and tourists warming up for their big day playing the famous stadium course – home of the famous 17th island green.   I realize being a range ball picker sounds fun in theory, but I promise it’s grueling – especially working at a golf course that is extremely corporate that takes everything so seriously.   During the tournament I worked 110 hours and afterward I slept for 17 hours straight, which remains my personal record.  My official title was “practice facility” which means that was also my name.    I had to carry a walkie-talkie like I’m in some war against golf balls that only Bobbie Sauers wanted to fight.   I would receive the call from Bobbie every hour or so: “Cart barn to practice facility.”
“This is practice facility.”
“Ranger is low on balls, do you have balls?
“Got balls coming.”
“Alright, over.”
That was the conversation.  There is a strong element of Sisyphus to the work of the range picker, at a busy range.  You are doomed to an eternity of collecting golf balls, cleaning them, bagging them, and delivering them to the driving range, only to have them immediately unbagged and returned to the place you just got them.  I’m assuming Sisyphus didn’t have a 30 minute lunch break though.  Wow, if you hate your job, you love your lunch break. I’m no scientist, but there has to be some correlation to the obesity issues in America.

Life in the picker consists of two primary thoughts: 1) My back really hurts and 2) I wish people would stop practicing.  The initial awe of watching famous tour pros practice wore after finding out my primary interaction with them would be them asking me for more balls, and me being like, “sure, here are your balls.”

The positive thing about a crappy job, is that everything you do after seems awesome.  As a freshman at Davidson I couldn’t believe how easy school work was.  Davidson prides itself on giving students a heavy work-load and the Princeton review ranked it number 1 for “Students who never stop working” so I would often hear gripes about all of the homework, and  I’d think, “Are you crazy?  When you do homework you can sit down in a chair, with a cushion, and listen to nice music.    You don’t even have to have a walkie-talkie – homework is the best!”

Excited to watch the final day coverage on Sunday.  I’m going to say Matt Kuchar wins, and Kevin Na hits in the water on seventeen.  I’ll also go out on a limb and say Rickie Fowler places second and dresses in a plum color.



Posted in Humor Column, Off Stage on May 10, 2012 by Joe Zimmerman

I’ve always thought it would be a fun writing exercise to keep a daily blog, so I’m considering giving it a shot.  How many days do you think I can go?  My buddy Andy Sandford did it for a while, which was inspiring.  Andy, are you still doing it?  Andy and I speak through my blog now.   I am putting the over/under at fourteen days.  “Over/under” is a gambling term which means if I go fifteen days in a row, you would owe me money, and if I only make it thirteen days, I would owe you money.  So how much would you like to bet?

Keep in mind, I could technically post a one-word blog, or even a picture, and it would still count as a blog.  I’ve started up with Instagram (@joezimmerman) so I might be able to ride a few blogs on sweet pics alone.   You want to put in five dollars?   Okay, I’ll take that bet.

Here is what’s new.  Today I am going to the Letterman taping to watch Tommy Johnagin perform as the stand-up guest.  You can catch him tonight on the Letterman that’s on TV (Friday night).  This weekend finds me at the Pittsburgh Improv Friday – Sunday, staying with my friends Craig & Holly who are about to have a baby.  I hope they have the baby while I’m there so that I can name it.  That’s how it works right?  First one to see the baby names it.  I will have to take a look before making my decision, but it will likely be either “Maximillion Achee” or “Baby Achee.”      The following week I will be in NYC performing in the Laughing Devil Festival for major cash rewards.  I plan on winning lots of cash & prizes.  Then, May 20-27 The Beards of Comedy are getting back together for a midwest tour that stops in Urbana (The Iron Post), Madison (Club on State), Iowa City (The Mill), Saint Louis (Firebird), and Bloomington, IN (Comedy Attic).

Finally, I have a new intern named Chad who is heavily involved with my twitter @JoeZimmerman and behind the scenes stuff.  I had to fire my last intern due to a lack of effort and poor grammar (no pressure Chad).  He seems very enthusiastic and he is getting his marketing degree at Phoenix Online.  We’re very proud of him.

Morning TV in Chattanooga & Sleep

Posted in Humor Column, Off Stage, On Tour with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 4, 2011 by Joe Zimmerman

I just finished morning TV in Chattanooga. My alarm went off at 4:40, and arrival time was 5:10. I’m not sure why I agreed to it. It’s painful to wake up that early, let alone be funny. It’s also hard to go back to sleep after, so now I’ll probably end up taking one of those black-out exhaustion naps right before dinner time, and then feel groggy for the show. Meanwhile, I can’t imagine the 5:30 am morning TV audience is going to still be awake at 9 pm, when our show starts, so it’s kind of like promoting to the exact wrong crowd. That being said, there were 4 more pre-sales afterward… I hope those four people take a nap at some point.

There is something interesting about peaking behind the curtain of morning TV. I’ve done it several times now, and it’s shockingly unglamorous. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t have a rockstar image of morning TV anchors with groupies and drug problems, but I did imagine a certain hustle and bustle of camera crews, and personal assistants. Not the case. There are the two TV hosts, and then one camera guy. It’s extremely quiet, and still, and the rest of the building is empty. You walk up to the door and ring a buzzer, and someone unlocks the door, greets you with a grunt, and motions toward a sad pot of coffee – the cheapest coffee possible (Shouldn’t they at least be drinking decent coffee?!) . There’s no waiting room. You sit down on a folding chair, in the actual room where the show is happening, and watch them do news and weather.

Today’s morning show was Brian and Rachel. Brian does the weather, waving his hand at a blank wall, and after an elaborate weather break-down, Rachel goes to the break, “the news next.” She then looks over at us (myself and TJ), and strikes up a friendly banter. After a few minutes of this, and with no indication that the conversation was over, she gets very serious, “We’re back with some sad news. A police officer was shot last night… ”

Wow! That’s a transition. Right out of chit-chat, into a long murder segment. It seemed like they have no attachment to what they’re saying. They’re focused on hitting the lines, and times, and being on point with the graphics. Rachel said her day starts at midnight. That sounds terrible. I don’t care how much I wanted to do morning TV, if you told me I’d have to wake up every day at midnight, I’d find something else.

As much as I’m not a morning person, I do enjoy being up before the sun. There’s something energizing about having a head start on the day. I fear I’ve turned into one of those annoying sleep people – the ones who whine if they don’t get eight hours of rest. I’m jealous of the folks who go, “Yeah, if I get five I’m good to go.”

Really, just five hours? That means, I have three fewer hours per day, 21 hours a week, 1100 hours a year, to LIVE! How can I keep up with the world, when I have to sleep eight hours a night!?? That’s it! That’s what’s held me back all this time, too much quality sleep.

In college I did a paper on sleep in Psychology 101. Of all animals, Giraffe’s need the least sleep, just FYI. I also learned, that a more restful way to sleep at night, is to wake up throughout, in a cycle of naps. I experimented with that for a few nights, waking up at the three-hour sleep cycles, but it didn’t stick. It wasn’t that bad rest-wise, but I never really knew what to do when I was awake in the middle of the night. You just stare at the wall, and wonder how soon you should go back to sleep, for the nap theory to work. Also, alarms and 3 AM don’t mix.

The real problem is all the sleep propaganda, that wants to take my money:
“Then you might have a SLEEPING DISORDER!”
“Oh no!”
“Come on down to Bill’s Sleep Lab, where we’ll hook wires to your brain, and see what the problem is!”
“Okay, is it expensive?”
“Excessively so! But think about the COST of years with a sleeping disorder, THAT’S RUINING YOUR LIFE!!!”

It’s hard to ignore these ads. I have no idea what I’m doing when I sleep. For all I know I’m grinding my teeth and holding my breath – just fainting every 60 seconds, in and out of consciousness. But I don’t want to drink the Koolaid and go to some sleep lab, just so they can tell me I should take Melotonin or Tryptophan before bed. So I haven’t gone, but I’ve compromised by taking Tryptophan on my own accord. Seems to be working.

Be careful who you trust

Posted in Coffee Humor, Humor Column, Some sites I enjoy, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on May 6, 2010 by Joe Zimmerman

I spend a lot of time working in coffee shops, and I’m surprised by how often strangers will walk up to me and ask, “Hey, will you watch my computer?”
I oblige. Who wouldn’t? It’s just a harmless favor right? Well, I always thought so, until the reality of it all hit me, like a reality truck…hitting me. It is a small favor, until the second someone tries to steal said laptop. Suddenly it becomes an enormous favor.

The seemingly simple question, “Will you watch my laptop” is actually a disguised way of saying, “Hey, will you fight crime for me, like a super-hero? I know we’re complete strangers, but could you do that for me? I’m not gonna tell you when I’ll be back, or why I’m gone, or whether I’m a terrorist, or secret agent, with highly important files on my computer – files that someone with armed weapons may be trying to steal as soon as I leave. Again, thanks so much…for guarding my computer.”

What am I expected to do if someone takes the computer? Do I scream at the person? “Hey, don’t you take that other person’s computer!! I told them I’d watch it, and I meant it!!” Do I chase them down and tackle them? As I fall to the ground, the robber turns around and stabs me in the neck? That doesn’t sound good. I don’t want to watch your computer if I’m going end up with a knife wound. I don’t have a good skill-set when it comes to knife wound prevention.

Furthermore, I was in the middle of doing my work (or watching LOST, or THE WIRE, or DEXTER …you know, “work”). If your computer is stolen, I may not even notice. So in order to watch your computer, I literally have to stop everything I’m doing and stare at your computer. If the computer is gone when you return, I’m the number one suspect, adding even more depth to the original favor:
“Hey, can you watch my computer? If it’s gone when I get back, you’re accountable – I will probably tell the police that I suspect you of this. Can you do that for me stranger? Thanks again.”

It’s quite a burden. Therefore, I’ve decided if anyone asks me to watch their computer, I will just walk off with their computer. That way, I’m out of there before anything bad goes down. I don’t get stabbed, and I’m not present to be a suspect. The best part is, I get a little extra pocket money for my efforts. Hey I deserve it – I just got my “work” interrupted. Time is money, so if you’re gonna take my time, I’m gonna take your money.

It also teaches an important lesson about stereotyping me as someone who can be trusted. What about my look, makes me trustworthy? Oh, is it because I’m white?
Is it because I have glasses and floppy hair and freckles?
Is it because I’m wearing a golf shirt, pajama pants, and 3D sunglasses?
I hope that me pawning your laptop for $83 teaches you a valuable lesson about RACISM.

One small defeat for stereotypes, and one small win for paying my phone bill on time.

Law Enforcement on Banana Peels

Posted in Humor Column, Off Stage with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 28, 2009 by Joe Zimmerman

I tend to have bad luck getting pulled over. Most people who drive with me say things like, “Jeez, you drive really low.” Yet, I’ve been pulled over a dozen times in the past dozen months. This is partly because I drive so much, and also partly because I drive late at night when cops are suspicious of drunk driving.

When I say back luck though, I really mean bad luck. Two months ago in Tennessee I was on cruise control at 73 in a 70 (which is faster than my typical 65 in a 70 for fuel economy) and I was pulled over by a trooper who said he had me in his radar at 85 (my Garmin got me off the hook on this one, thank goodness for Carmen my Garmin).

Two weeks later I was pulled over three miles from my house for going “suspiciously slow” at 2 in the morning, and given a breathalyzer test. Not surprisingly, I passed the test, given I hadn’t been drinking, but merely driving 20 in a 25.

So this week, when I tossed a banana peel out the window on the highway, it was business as usual when I heard a siren go off. A cop car coming from the other direction, flashed his lights and made that that “bwoop bwoop” noise. First off, I never litter. Secondly, I don’t eat many bananas. I’m guessing I eat 5 or 6 bananas per annum, and most of those are not eaten in my car. On average, I probably throw a banana peel out of my car window, once…ever.

But here I am, digging around for my proof of insurance and car registration in the glove compartment, because one time in my life, I composted in public.
“Do you know why I pulled you over.”
“Welp, I’m guessing cuz I threw a banana peel out the window.”
“Do you know what the Virginia fine is for littering?”
“Sir, I just didn’t realize a banana peel was litter, because of how quickly it decomposes.”
“An object was thrown from your vehicle was it not?”
“Yes…a banana peel.”
“By Virginia state law, anything thrown from a vehicle is constituted as litter, which is a misdemeanor, blah, bla, blah, up to 12 months in jail, blah blah, blah, a fine of up to $2500, blah, blah, blah.”

I include the ‘blah blah’s” because the only words I remember were the ones involving misdemeanors, jail time, and my entire life’s savings.

Furthermore, Jail is one of my top three phobias, and I think it’s a healthy phobia to have. My other two are torture, and anything involving injury to the eyeball. So when he said “jail,” my mind raced ahead to getting tortured IN jail, with a method that involed pokes to the eye with a prison shank.

So Officer McLitter is going through the scare tactics, and they were working, because I was about to faint.

Very pathetically I said, “Sir, I just thought it would biodegrade quickly, and would be good for the environment, not bad.”

You THOUGHT it would DO good??! Tossing ANY object from your car is not only litter, but it also constitutes a danger to the vehicles around you.”

A danger to the vehicles around me? There were no vehicles around me, and…it was a banana peel. Does he think this is like Mario Cart, and the oncoming traffic is going to hit a banana and go spinning off in a serious of 360’s over a cliff and into a Sea? I wondered if I should tell him that I did not have any turtle shells or lightning bolts waiting in my bonus.

He seemed content to lecture on, “fruit remains ARE bad, because they attract insects, which attract rodents, and the rodents attract predators like hawks and owls, which will then get hit by cars, and cause roadkill incidents.”

Hmm, well now I really do feel like a prick – I had never thought that far ahead in the food chain. Who would have thought that a banana peel would kill an owl?

He ended up letting me go with a warning – probably because my beard makes me look like I love nature.

But he taught me a lesson, because I will never discard any fruit remains out of my window, 1) because I’m convinced that cops follow me everywhere I go, 2) because of my jail/torture/eye phobia, and 3) because owls are the most adorable predators in the world. The last thing I want to do is start a string of events that would result in the unfortunate death of such a huggable, imaginary creature.