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Friday, June 17, 2011

TGIF: Vera Louise Gorman from Alice

The year was 1999.  August 1999 to be exact.  And in August 1999, I was one very sick eighteen year old.

I was feeling incredibly sick the last part of the summer vacation.  I had a cough that would not go away, and my breathing was heavy, and my head was so clogged up with stuff that I thought it would bust like a balloon that had been pricked with a thumbtack.

So, while most people were swimming in pools, and enjoying cooking outdoors, and riding the Tilt-a-Whirl at carnivals so many times that they threw up cherry sno-cones and cotton candy, I was in bed.  Sick.

Turns out that I had pneumonia.  I battled it from mid-August to early-September that year.  Not my finest experience.

I did try to make the best of a bad situation.  I hooked up my outdated in '99 Super NES and played some games, and when I wasn't doing that, I watched television.

Good thing I did too, because had I not, I would have missed out on seeing this show in reruns.

A lot of people my age probably don't remember the television show, 'Alice'.  Probably because it aired quite some time before I was born, and ended when I was a toddler.  It was based on the 1974 motion picture 'Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore'.  In the movie and the show, Alice Hyatt, a newly-single mother decides that she needs a fresh start, so she and her son decide to pack up and head to California so Alice can get a job as a singer.  Fate causes the car to break down in the state of Arizona, where Alice is forced to take a job at Mel's Diner as a waitress in order to get back on her feet. 

The job was supposed to be a temporary one for Alice, but considering that the show ran from 1976 to 1985, temporary seemed to last forever in Alice's world.

One of the main reasons behind Alice's decision to stay at Mel's Diner for so long was partly due to the warmth and kindness of all of her co-workers. 

There was Florence Jean "Kiss My Grits" Castleberry, who kind of took Alice under her wing and helped her deal with the transition from singer to diner waitress.  She also seemed to have a good working relationship with waitresses Jolene and Belle.  Even her stodgy, short-tempered boss Mel seemed to have a soft spot for Alice in some occasions.

And then there was the waitress who happens to be the subject of this blog entry.

Vera Louise Gorman was one of the few waitresses who lasted the run of the whole series, and was one of the first people that made Alice feel at home at Mel's Diner.  She was a kind woman who rarely ever had a bad word to say about anyone, and she definitely tried her best to be a good person.

Though like all of us, she did have her flaws.  Three of them to be exact.  Three flaws that I am guilty of having.  Two of them, I've managed to overcome...the third I'm trying to work on.

First flaw...Vera was a klutz.  And so was I for that matter.

I mean, if you took a peek at the opening credits of the show, there's one scene that appears in every credit sequence.  It's the one where Vera tries to open up a box of straws and the whole thing explodes on her.  And, then there was that television commercial that she attempted to do in the first part of this clip...

Now, while I can't really claim to have ever appeared on a television commercial, I do know how Vera feels.  I used to be incredibly klutzy.

Here's a true story for you.

When I was first hired at my current job, I started off in the back room of the store.  I was hired as an unloader, and one of my duties was to take a pump truck and pull skids of merchandising onto the sales floor for the overnight crew to stock.

Which would have been all fine and dandy had I ever used a pump truck before.  I was a pump truck virgin, and I wasn't sure exactly if I could handle the pressure of driving a foreign piece of equipment.

I had no choice though.  If I didn't pull the pump truck, I wouldn't have a job.  So, I grabbed one of the trucks, and pumped up the skid.  That part was easy. 

Then I pulled it onto the floor, made a really horrible turn onto the sales floor and took out an entire display of Febreze air fresheners.

Holiday scented Febreze air fresheners.

Holiday scented Febreze air fresheners that spilled all over my brand new steel-toed shoes, causing me to smell of apple pie and pine branches the rest of the shift.

Oh, I was mortified.  It was my first day, and I happened to cause quite a bit of damage.  I thought for sure that I would get fired.

Instead I got demoted to store standards.  Go figure.

There is a cloud to this silver lining though.  Over the year that I did spend on store standards, I got used to using pump trucks, and now I can steer them to the best of them.  It really came in handy when I got promoted to the food department where you have to use them every day on the job.  Eventually, I overcame that klutziness that I initially suffered from my first few weeks on the job, and now using a pump truck is easy.

In fact, it's rumoured that I am to be trained to use the electric pump truck in the near future at some point.  I can't guarantee you all that I'll take out another display of air fresheners, Oreo cookies, or heaven forbid a skid of marble cheese and chocolate milk, but at least I'm not going into it with pure fear.

The walker-stacker...yeah, we won't go there.

It's funny that I brought up pump trucks in the first example because my next example in comparing Vera to myself is on a similar tangent.

Apparently, Vera couldn't drive.

And the comedy of errors surrounding this fact were definitely made evident in the series.  I don't have any examples to show you in regards to this unfortunately, but let's just say that there was many instances in which Vera found herself behind the wheel of a car, and then she remembered that she didn't know how to drive.

Can't say I've ever been THAT bad.  But it did take me almost 14 years before I had the courage to go and get my learner's permit.  I used to have this horrible fear of getting my license because I had a horrible fear of driving off a bridge, or over a cliff, or into a tanker truck filled with gasoline.  Yeah, you get the picture.

It wasn't until recently that I realized that I needed to have a license if for no other purpose than to have identfication to show if ever I needed to show it.  So, I bit the bullet, took the test, and passed with flying colours.

Remember that one disclaimer at the beginning of this blog entry that said that there was one thing that I was currently working on?  The driving this is that.  I'm looking into going for driving lessons though, so that would only help.  Who knows?  Maybe my mastering of the pump truck could assist in that.  Who can say really?

Now, here's the third flaw in Vera's character that I also had to overcome.

Vera let people walk all over her sometimes.  As did I.

I don't really need to go into detail about myself can just look at any of my previous blog entries for that.  Vera on the other hand...oh, there's lots of things that I can talk about.

I think this episode is one that best shows this in action.  It's probably one of the only instances where I'll post a full episode, but you kind of have to watch the whole show fully understand.

First off...Calvin is a complete jerk.

Secondly, this is a prime example of how Vera initially let someone walk all over her.  He manipulated her into thinking that he was going to hurt himself because she wasn't feeling the relationship, so when he made that threat, she took the sleeping pills that caused an already bad situation to go worse.

Towards the end of this episode, although in a sleep-induced haze, she found a backbone and told Calvin just how she really felt about him, and she managed to take control again, albeit briefly.

It seems kind of awkward to showcase a subject like suicide attempts in a comedic venue, but such as it was back in the 1970s.

Much like Vera, I too used to let people walk all over me, but I am getting better at not letting it happen as often, if not at all.

The one bit of comfort that I can take from Vera is that over the course of the show's nine season run, Vera grew as a character.  She became less dependent on others and more independent.  She lost her klutziness and gained new inner strength.  By the end of the series, she had even found love with a police officer named Elliot and had a child just by being the kind, sweet person she always had been.

Sure, she had her quirks, such as writing numbers in the air to figure out math problems instead of using a calculator or adding machine (something I admittedly do myself at times...another connection, who would have thought it?), but in the end, those quirks just made her all that more interesting of a person.

And if Vera Louise Gorman can find a way to live a relatively happy and normal life as a waitress, there's no reason why I can't.

So, the next time you see a sign on the way of life...don't be afraid to take it.  Alice, Flo, and Vera did, and it ended up being a great choice for them.  I'm sure that my 'waitress wanted' sign is out there too.  Maybe I've already found it and don't know it yet.

Though, I refuse to wear those waitress get-ups.  I have hairy legs and look terrible in Pepto-Bismol pink.

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