Where Popcorn at Football Stadiums Comes From (or "My Boss Rarely Punches Me")

In the fall of 2000 I was a college sophomore who needed a job. My roommate had a crappy job at the football stadium where he spent all week hauling junk food to selling stations where people could come on Game Day, buy the stuff, and slowly kill themselves while watching young men wearing pads run as fast as they can toward one another and collide. My roommate said I too could have a crappy job like his. I took the bait -- $8.00 an hour seemed like a lot of money at the time.

"I hope Bob didn't just see me poo poo off this artificial branch or he'll punch me."
Back then, I thought the job sucked. But now, with the wisdom that comes from being slightly less of an idiot, I remember it being a pretty good semester at the football stadium, working for my boss Bob. I learned SO MANY crucial life skills working for Bob, even though Bob was marginally unstable. Unstable people can teach you life skills, like how to stand at least seven feet from Bob when there are empty boxes around because maybe Bob will get mad and kick the boxes, and you don't want them to hit you.

It wasn't Bob's fault when he got mad. He just got frustrated when things didn't go right, like when I hooked up the nacho cheese dispenser upside down, or attached the bag of 7-Up syrup to the Mug Root Beer dispenser. And, to be fair to Bob, it was better that he kicked boxes than me.

But sometimes Bob would surprise us with his ability to keep it all under control. I remember one day Blake was driving a Cushman cart with several pallets of shrink wrapped cans of soda on the back, and he had to drive them down a spiral ramp. Blake was dating a hot chick that semester and was about to ask her to marry him, or at least make out with him more often, so his mind wandered sometimes. And unfortunately it was wandering on his way down the spiral ramp, because he took the ramp too fast. When he got to the bottom he had to swerve a little to avoid a pole and the tower of soda cans tumbled off the cart.

I drove around the corner soon after "The Accident," as we called it, and Blake was standing there in a wasteland of soda cans -- hundreds of them -- strewn about over a huge area. Blake was about to cry, mostly because he was afraid his hot chick would want to make out with him less after Bob punched him in the face and made his lower lip fat. But I told Blake not to worry, that I'd help him pick them all up before Bob noticed, and we'd live to have children after all. Not with each other of course, due to both biological obstacles and the fact that we were just friends. Acquaintances, really.

But only a few minutes into Operation: Don't Let Bob Know, Bob rolled around the corner on a Cushman. Me and Blake froze. Bob slowed, surveying the carnage. His Cushman stopped. The silence hung like a thundercloud about to burst. This was it. Bob was going to murder us with his Cushman key. But then, Bob started to laugh. It started as a chortle as he shook his head, then grew into a belly-shaking eruption of mirth. He threw his head back. He doubled over. He slapped the steering wheel like eighty times. Me and Blake looked at each other and then thought it advisable to laugh as well. And that was it. After laughing for a good minute, Bob just drove off. And me and Blake cleaned up. And Blake married his girlfriend. And I went to Reno once and had pancakes at an iffy diner.

I did other very awesome things at the football stadium during those cold autumn mornings and afternoons. Mostly I hauled boxes of Mike 'N' Ikes and Snickers to concession stands, calibrated the soda machines, wheeled hot dog stands into place, and stuff like that. But sometimes there were other awesome jobs that broke the monotony. Once, Bob had me in the warm kitchen area opening canister after canister of jalepinos. The lady who ran the kitchen told me not to touch the jalepinos, or the juice inside the canister. I asked why not. She said just don't do it. After prying open a few canisters with a can opener, I got curious. So I stuck my finger in one. And the juice seeped into the cracks around my fingernail and killed all the joy that ever existed or would ever exist inside that finger. And that finger has been a sad, joyless little pointer ever since, and I don't even like it anymore because it's just a downer, you know?

Another time Bob told me and Blake to go fill up the Cushmans with gas at the gas station across campus. I remember we rolled through campus in our sweet action "BYU Concession Staff" jackets, and we were really surprised no chicks noticed us. Looking back, it's not surprising, because wearing a jacket that says "Concession Staff" is basically like riding the short bus. I was able to get married eventually, but I'm convinced that wearing that jacket in public set me back several months.

But the best job ever was when Bob told me to go pop popcorn. Bob showed me the huge, industrial-sized popper in this huge room. It was basically a monstrous but shallow pool with funnels on either end where you poured in the kernels. Then you dumped a bunch of oil in with the kernels and it all heated up, and while it did that you dumped some in the other side, and by the time you were done with that, the first side of kernels was popping, so you opened this gate and the popped kernels flowed into the pool. And it was this endless cycle, and when the pool filled up you had to get a big garbage bag and fill it with popcorn and dump a bunch of salt in it. But the best part was -- get this -- since you were literally popping hundreds of pounds of popcorn, who's gonna miss a few thousand pieces of popcorn that disappear into your mouth? Nobody, that's who. So I just jammed tunes really loud on this old radio, popped popcorn, ate a ton of it, and dumped the rest into garbage bags. Now I'm super hungry so I have to go.