Now, as intellectually taxing as it sounds, working at a tanning salon is not all that difficult. I would turn the beds on and sanitize them thoroughly after each tanner was through. When the phone rang I was to answer “with a smile in my voice”, and on especially grueling days, I might be asked to make change for a $20.
While the majority of our customers were college students like myself, who used their parents’ credit cards to finance their personal journeys to rawhide splendor, I saw a great number of middle aged women and (to my initial surprise) men enter our establishment as well. As it turns out, not all police officers get their healthy glow standing under the donut hot lights.
After a month or so, I had cute pet names for all of my regulars. There was Medium-Well, Extra Crispy, and The Old Woman Who Looked Like a Shoe. And then there was the redhead we called Ouch. One afternoon, a little before closing time, I noticed a new gentleman lingering outside our door with his hands pushed deep down in his pockets. Every once in awhile, he’d peer in the window, waiting until there was no one in the reception area. When he finally came inside, he approached the counter and looked me up and down.
"It's my first time here," he whispered. "So how does this work?"
“Well,” I explained cheerfully, “we don’t recommend that first-timers go for more than 10 minutes. Over the course of a few visits, you can work your way up to a full 30 minutes in the bed.”
This seemed both to confuse and excite him.
“And how much is … a visit?” he asked, bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet.
“Well, it depends how often you come,” I explained. “Right now we’re running a special. Three visits for $20.”
“Twenty dollars?” he said. “Are you serious?”
“It’s actually a really good deal,” I told him. “Better than most places in town.”
“I’d say so,” he said. “I’ll do it.”
There was an awkward silence as he kept glancing out the windows.
“So, do I pay you now or when it’s over?” he asked, leaning over the desk.
“You can pay first,” I told him, at this point thinking WHY DOES THIS MAN KEEP WHISPERING?
He handed me cash and glanced out the window again.
“We close soon, so I can take you back now if you want,” I said.
We stopped outside the closed door of room one. “I’ll give you a few minutes to get undressed and then I’ll turn it on,” I said. “Just hit the button when you’re ready.” I opened the door and registered a look of profound disappointment on the man’s face. Only then did it dawn on me that DUDE, THIS MAN TOTALLY THINKS YOU ARE A HOOKER.
After his ten minutes had passed, the gentleman emerged, clothes unruffled and without the usual glow that follows a “visit.” When I went back, the bed was completely clean. (Thank GOD.)
“How was it?” I asked, with a smile in my voice. "You don't look like you got burned."
“Heh, right,” he mumbled. “Thanks a lot.”