"Laying Waste" Memory Provides What Life Does Not

3 years ago

Bear with me. The 'backstory' (as they say in Hollywood) is vital to appreciate "Laying Waste." He's the canine star of the funniest shaggy dog story you'll ever hear - and it's true. You can't make this stuff up, and this is truly the shaggiest of stories.

First, you need to understand that Entertainment Data, Inc was a now-defunct company where I worked in the 90s. The call room employees, of which I was one, would call movie theaters all over the United States and Canada to get their dollar profits for each movie they had just shown that day. We called movie theaters of all sizes and in all size markets to get movie grosses for films like INDEPENDENCE DAY that they'd just shown. In theory, by midnight, we'd deliver a complete record of that day's grosses to each movie studios. The studio executives would have the reports with the next morning's breakfast..

Sounds simple? Not so fast: our office was on the West coast, in Beverly Hills and we signed on our computers (which were then little more than data entry machines) at 7PM (10PM East coast time.) We also started calling East coast theaters at 7PM our time.

The movie theaters on the East coast were just beginning to close at 10PM their time. Logically, that's when they were supposed to be ready with that day's grosses. But what if they weren't ready yet? What if there was a freak ice storm at the begining of July? What if the adolescent manager bugged out on us and left work early?

We'd still 'requeue' their call and try calling back a little later. Meanwhile, theaters to the west, say in Buffalo, were ready with their grosses. We'd need to call them on time, and Chicago soon after that. The domino effect got set in motion, and Hell froze over shortly after that. And that freak ice storm? It had been howling down from the Arctic to British Columbia for several hours.

At this point, life wasn't providing anything pleasurable. The bosses were testy and started yelling at us. We were all telling them silently what they could do with their goddamned grosses.  But memory has its way of sorting out the shards and knife-point jabs and leaving us with laughter. That's certainly the beginning of this case. A Canadian rancher named (for these purposes) Joe Canada, decided to take his 45-lb puppy, a Siberian Husky named, "Laying Waste" (for these purposes) for his first dog sled ride in to a city near Penticton, British Columbia. The date was Sunday July 2, 1996.



The little theater in question opened its doors just as Joe yelled, "mush" and Waste took off from home.. The sled itself was a minature training version and the reins were simply a lead line attached to the dog's regular harness. Waste performed brilliantly and soon they were in front of the theater that would be previewing INDEPENDENCE DAY, scheduled for opening July 4th, of course. Joe sat Waste down on the icy sidewalk with the command "line down." This meant that the dog was to stay there until his master returned and told him what to do next. Gotcha. 

For the next hour and 50-some minutes Will dragged the alien across the desert and punched him in the nose. The monster woke up while he was in the very secretive lab. The good guys and the monsters did battle in space. And all the while, the audience feasted on their nachos and Coke and candy,

 Will kissed his loyal love. The screen began to fade to black, the credits started rolling and the house lights went up. The manager opened the front doors to let in a little (Artic) air from the little theater.

But just then Waste woke up and smelled something he'd never smelled before - hot and delicious and just designed for a hungry puppy's tummy. He trotted across the street, picking up speed as he went.

By the time he hit the front door, he was at a gallop. He bounded across the lobby and onto the plexiglass concession stand. Luckily, it held his weight. Next he jumped on to the now barely-warm heating elements that held the corndogs, nachos and hot dogs that hadn't sold that day.. He downed them in a few bites and carried the extras in his mouth. Next, he pushed his whole snout into the chopped onions and relish bins.

But wait, there's more. What's a savory snack without a drink? In those days, some sodas were still made the old- fashioned way. Coke syrup got mixed with the right amount of seltzer.  So the teenage concessioneers were  unloading the giant bottle of syrup just as Waste made a varsity-style tackle right at them. The Coke syrup was the consistency of heavy-duty motor oil. Waste soon had it convering the carpet, the the employees and all the food he'd just dumped on them and the carpet.

As best they could, the manger and staff shoved the food and Waste into a corner and occupied the latter with all the food and syrup he could devour.  In the lobby, the frantic manager sent his staff to man the doors and find something to cover the carpet. They found some old tarps left over from painting and escorted the audience members out one by one and arm in arm. Waste caught Joe's scent and began to bark and howl with delight.

Just then the telephone rang:

   "Hello, this is Maureen from Entertainment Data, calling for your grosses."

   "Hey, this is the lady from Entertainment Data. She wants our grosses."

   " Our grosses? She's friggin' crazy. Tell her to call back in an hour."

   "Sir, I heard that and that's impossible.  We're already almost half an hour behind. We need those grosses now. Let me talk to your manager....do you have a dog in there? Why is he howling and barking like that?"

   Joe Canada now came out of the theater and held his head in horror. He offered to repair the damage, but the theater refused. They wisely deduced that their story would only sell more tickets, which it did.

   With or without the heavy-duty Coke syrup, INDEPENDENCE DAY was a monster hit.

Once in a while, one of the oldtimers will dredge up the memory. The story gets better with each telling. And, like most memories. the pain fades and the laughter remains and grows with each telling.














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