Friday, September 12, 2008
**Author's Note** I have been telling this joke since the third grade. I learned it from a master story teller and twenty some odd years haven't dulled it a bit. When I was in college I told this joke once to a group of my friends and almost every day from there on, for two years, they brought someone new to me and asked for me to tell the gorilla joke. At the time it took twenty minutes. It is something of a performance piece and I'm not sure that print can do it justice, but here goes.
A salesman is traveling to a convention and he has been driving all night trying to make it there by morning, but after a few swerves on the highway he realizes that no amount of coffee can keep him awake any longer. He must rest. So he picks the next exit and pulls into the first hotel he sees. He barely notices how swanky the place is as he drags his suitcase from the trunk. He can barely put one foot in front of the other as he is so tired, but he manages to plod his way to the front desk.
A snooty balding man with a waxed mustache greets him, "Good evening," his syrupy voice drips, "How may I help you?"
"I just need a room, any room" the salesman mumbles.
"Well, as we have had a cancellation, I can offer you the presidential suite for a nominal fee of twenty dollars."
"I'll take it," the salesman says as he thumbs a twenty out of his wallet.
"Now you must understand that by renting this room, you are entitled to all of the privileges of the hotel." His smile grows even wider. "The amenities are numerous and free with the rental of this room. You will receive the services of our four star chef who will fix you anything you like. There is a tailor who can have a new suit ready for you in four hours. The laundry will wash, dry and press your clothes. There are several live bands we could call and a bootblack will polish your shoes. A masseuse is on stand-by. The bar is open to you or your guests. Not to mention the Olympic sized swimming pool, sauna, gymnasium, tennis courts, basketball courts, golf course, driving range, polo ponies, shuffle board, skeet shooting, speed boats, skiing, sky diving, lacrosse, or bungee jumping. And should the gentleman desire companionship, that can be arranged, gratis. If sir would be kind enough to leave his keys, I would be happy to fill your car up and have it washed and detailed, and while it is out, a limo is at your disposal for the inconvenience. We just want your stay to be as wonderful as it can be. So," he says with a wink,"What can I get you?"
"No, really, I just want to catch some Z's. Thanks anyway." the salesman says.
"Alright, but feel free to take advantage of our 104 acre complex, but please sir, don't go in the basement." The clerk's voice takes on an edge that is mildly disturbing.
"No, I just need to sack out for a while. That's all I need," mutters the salesman, "Have some coffee sent up around nine." He reaches a weary hand for his suitcase only to find it in the hands of a cheery, freckle-faced bell boy.
The boy leads him to his room and it is laid out like a palace on the top floor. Lots of brass and marble, with large statues and dark wood strewn about. There is a fountain, a wet bar, and the only thing bigger than the bed in the whole suite is the TV.
"Can I unpack your bag sir?" the bellboy asks.
"No. Leave it. Here," the salesman grumbles and hands the kid a few bucks. The bellboy thanks him and bows as he closes the door behind him.
The salesman loosens his tie and pours himself a tall drink from the bar to combat all the coffee he had earlier. He downs it and sprawls across the enormous bed. It feels like heaven. He stretches and is about to fall into a blissful sleep when he remembers he is still dressed. It takes all the effort he has to untie his shoes and drop them to the floor. He is exhausted.
He rests his head on the pillow and he starts to drift off with images of yellow lines passing by at high speed. But as tired as he finds himself, he feels a bit unsettled. He keeps replaying in his mind the final words of the desk clerk. It shouldn't bother him, yet it does. Why would he be able to take advantage of all the amazing things that this hotel has to offer, free, and they would want him to stay out of the basement? He rolls over and tries to think of all the things he has to do in the morning, contacts he needs to make, contracts he has to sign, and tradesmen he needs to get in good with, but to no avail.
He can not quit thinking of the last thing the clerk said, "Don't go into the basement." It haunts him like Jacob Marley. He tosses and turns, and while the bed is a soft as a down nest, he can find no comfort. He tries to forget it, but his brain won't let it go. "Why can I have anything my heart desires, yet the basement is off limits? They must have something to hide," he decides. "Why would they give me the room for so cheap? There must be a catch." And after a lengthy struggle with himself, he gives in and decides to investigate, as he will never know peace until he looks in the basement.
He is a savvy traveler and pulls a flashlight from his suitcase and ventures off towards the elevator. The elevator doesn't have a button for the basement, but just as it reaches the ground floor, the phone rings and the clerk is distracted. The salesman moves silently to the door marked "Basement, Employees Only" and it opens without a sound.
The stairs are metal and steep, and his heels ring with a hollow echo as he descends. He ventures downward with only his small flashlight to guide the way. After three flights of stairs it ends at a large wooden door. He notes the metal bands that hold this oak door in place, but as it is unlocked, he moves on. He opens it to find a steel door ten feet beyond it. He opens that and it leads him to an enormous bank vault door that he opens with some difficulty.
As he steps into the room beyond, there is a distinctive smell that permeates his nose. Here he can smell the scent of thousands of animals. He flashes his light around and finds every sort of exotic animal you could name. The place must be huge, as his light doesn't seem to fall on any wall and his voice and footfalls carry an echo. He finds cages of lions, tigers, and bears, as well as bees, giraffes, spiders, hippos, elephants, and sharks. The zoo before him lacks nothing and he spends a long time traveling from cage to cage, until he pauses at the gorilla.
The sign on the cage reads, "Do not Touch" and the salesman is careful to shine the light just right so it plays over the biggest gorilla he has ever seen outside of King Kong movies. The gorilla is huddled at the back of the cage and turns himself away from the intruding light even as the salesman tries to get a better look. The salesman shifts on his feet to shine the light closer to the behemoths face, and as he does so, he loses a bit of his balance and reaches out to catch himself in his misstep. He might blame it on the drink he had earlier, but he steadies himself on the cage, and just as his fingertips brush the metal, the monster flies into a tirade.
The gorilla suddenly rages. He beats his chest and throes himself against the bars. The salesman recoils and almost drops his flashlight as this monster vents his rage. The gorilla grabs the bars and bends them like taffy and leaps at the salesman.
The salesman wants none of this and turns to flee back the way he came, and regardless how quickly he runs, the gorilla is at his heels overturning cages as he goes and screaming as if he were being scalded.
The salesman beats the gorilla to the first door and he pulls it behind him, locking the bank vault door with a heavy thud. He races for the next door of steel and closes it to the sounds of metal being pushed beyond it's breaking point and the door makes a resounding clang against the floor as he runs for the wooden door.
The gorilla has no trouble breaking the steel door in pursuit of it's prey. It lets out a mighty roar as the salesman hopes for the best and slams the oak door behind him, runs up the stairs and races through the lobby towards the street. He feels the splinters of the oak door strike his back as he runs upward. The clerk is aghast at the monster that appears from the basement and manages to duck behind the counter long enough to miss being hit by the sofa and three old ladies who were on it, as the beast pursues the salesman thorough the front doors and into the parking lot.
The salesman runs as if his life depends on his swiftness, but in the confusion, he can't find his car. He runs on across an empty lot and his feet seem to slow with every step as the gorilla keeps closing the gap and screaming in an inhuman way. His hot breathe is on the salesman's neck. It comes to the point where he can run no more and his heart is beating in his throat and he collapses in a heap and tries to think of his wife and child as the gorilla raises one mighty paw to crush him as he lays panting on the grass.
The gorilla stands over him, about to squeeze the last bit of life from him that he will ever know, and then gorilla slowly reaches out to him, his eyes filled with bloodlust, and screams that would shatter windows for blocks, then says,
"Tag. You're it"
Like I say, you have to see it.