The Socializer

By Jim Diffly

To view Rachel Bailey's audio slide show on Rachel Andreas, click on the image.

To view Rachel Bailey's audio slide show on Rachel Andreas, click on the image.

In the spring of 2008, 22-year-old Rachel Andreas was living in Athens and going to a popular community college. Come summertime she enrolled at the big university in Athens—The University of Georgia.  Not only did she upgrade her school status, but her dad bought her a cookie-cutter townhouse on the outskirts of downtown Athens.  The big transition did not start out so great. 

After her first courses, during the short summer semester, she was placed on academic probation at UGA for cumulating a GPA under 2.0. “In my mind, on a scale of 1 to 10, how important I think school is is probably an 8, but my actions and how much effort I actually put into it is more like a 4 or 5. Sometimes I’m jealous of my friends who aren’t in school; but I know I need to be, and in the long run I’ll be making more money than them with my degree. And that’s what it’s all about…I guess.”

Early 2009 Rachel began working as part of the floor staff at a local movie theater for minimum wage, even though her parents pay for her townhouse and give her $500 a month for bills and food. A friend of her ex-boyfriends hooked her up with the job, so it is more like an extension of her social network. “It’s the easiest job of all time,” Rachel said. “I don’t have any responsibilities. It’s so fucking easy.” 

On any Saturday night in Athens, the Beechwood Stadium 11 movie theater is hoppin’. Around midnight the last movies are ending. Rachel and a co-worker dude, named Eric, stand on the dreadful geometric design of the bright red carpet under the painful neon red lights that adorn the concession stands. They make small talk about stuff that is not going to illicit anything other than a smile or laugh. And Rachel smiles—she has a huge ear-to-ear smile with bright white teeth you can’t miss. 

The crowd for the movie “Duplicity” just got out and is leaving the theater, but Rachel and Eric are in the middle of one of Rachel’s stories about when she went downtown to a concert. During their chitchat, neither of them turned to say, “Have a good night,” or even acknowledge the presence of the movie patrons. 

After the crowd was out of her way, dangling a set of keys, Rachel headed to the stadium that just emptied. “Rachel is one of my favorite people to work with,” Eric says while hauling a large gray trashcan on wheels behind him. The inflection in his voice, and the laughter afterwards, insinuates that the reason is because Rachel makes work seem more like fun than actual work.  

By the time Eric gets in the stadium, Rachel has already run up to the top of the stairs and is looking for trash. While the credits are still rolling, Rachel and Eric weave in-and-out of the isles picking up trash. Rachel, not wearing any gloves, picks up popcorn buckets, getting the greasy butter on her fingers. She picks up large concessions cups without lids, her fingers inside the cups that strangers had put their lips on. “It’s really not that gross,” Rachel says. “If people leave finger candy, like Sour Patch Kids or the Crunch things, sometimes we keep them and eat them.” 

Rachel and Eric take the trash out to the dumpster and walk back to the small employee’s area and clock out. As soon as Rachel clocks out, she takes off her blue-collared work shirt and replaces it with a black hoodie sweatshirt that contrasts greater with her soft cream-colored skin—but it fits better with her tattered Chucks. 

As soon as she hops into her fresh-off-the-lot 2008 Kia Sportage, she immediately lights up a Camel Crush cigarette in her left hand. She usually smokes Parliament Lights, but she got these from a friend for free—and free is better than her usual P-funks. After lighting her smoke, she puts the Sportage in drive and she makes her way back to her house quickly.

She gets back to her house around 12:25 a.m. As she drops her bag on her granite topped kitchen counter and hangs her hoodie over the kitchen barstool, she groans, “Oh god, I am going to have just over an hour and a half until the bars close.” Undeterred, she races upstairs to her room and searches for something to change into. She rummages through clothes strewn all over her floor, finding stuff that she may want to wear under her large-paged art notebooks. “No, that won’t work,” she says as she throws it back onto the floor. In less than 10 minutes, she is ready; she has completely changed clothes and put on eyeliner. She now has on another black hoodie with a golden eagle on the chest that says in matching golden letters “fight the good fight,” and darker gray jeans, but still on her feet are her beat-up Chucks.

Rachel slightly lowers her head and turns it to the side, reaches her hand to her head and begins to run it through her hair—which you can’t tell if it is naturally blond or dyed. She stops her hand and grabs a handful of hair in a fist and says, “You know the reason I’m not doing great in school is not because of my job. My job is not the problem. My dad is always like, ‘You know you can quit your job, I’ll give you more money if you need it.’ It’s cause I go downtown maybe five or six times a week. I choose fun over school, that’s what I need to quit doing. But I think I have it under control. I know it doesn’t sound like I do judged on the number of nights I go out, but my grades are all pretty good right now minus that one. Sometimes I just need a drink and some fun.”

She gets a text message from a friend telling her a fight has broken out at Tasty World—the bar she frequents—and she is out the door still smelling faintly like buttered popcorn because “there’s no time” for a shower. 

She parks in the North Campus parking deck, which is a couple of blocks from Tasty World. As she walks toward downtown she passes girls who are in mini-skirts, high heels, and hair that must have taken at least 30 minutes to style, but it doesn’t faze her and her blond hair up in a bun.

Between the parking deck and Tasty World, Rachel runs into a group of friends. “Hey Jason,” she yells at a friend in a light brown bandana. Jason runs over, and over a railing gives her a hug, while at the same time telling her that a fight is about to break out. Rachel’s group of friends is comprised of about 10 rough-looking kids. The other group is a group of four, maybe five, much less ragged kids that look like they ended up in the parking lot looking for a fight because they are just a little too drunk for their own good. Fortunately, for the other group of kids, the fight never happens because a UGA campus cop shows up.

When the cop pulls up, Rachel’s friends hop the short-railed fence and quickly dip out to Tasty World. Instead of going in the front of the bar where ID’s are checked, they bang on the large steel door on the side of the building that leads into a side stairwell. Moments later one of Rachel’s co-workers from the movie theater opens the side door and everyone rushes in and up a flight of stairs to the second level of Tasty World where a band is playing hard metal music. 

Entering through the side door is like the entrance of a superstar. With the music blasting, Rachel smoothly walks straight to the bar and gives the bartender a high-five as she says hey to her girlfriends. The bartender slides Rachel a free mixed drink that includes firefly, sour mix and Sprite. Now it’s mingling time. There are about 30 people around the stage and about 20 people at the bar, but Rachel and her friends post up in between both crowds.

Separating Rachel and her girlfriends from the rest of the crowd is their lack of tattoos. Almost everyone in the crowd has visible tattoos. Rachel does not have tattoos even though her ex-boyfriend, Josh, is a tattoo artist. However, she does have her nose pierced on both nostrils giving her that hipster look; that look helps Rachel stand out as the most attractive amongst her girlfriends.

Josh is in the mix among their still mutual group of friends and you can sense he still seems interested in Rachel. “He professed his love for me still last week,” Rachel says. “And that is just a little weird.” He didn’t say hey to Rachel when she got there, but he eventually makes his way around to her. He awkwardly messes with her hair. Their interaction is short, and is made more awkward by the loud music that forces close conversations. After their brush of conversation, Rachel starts talking to another guy, Nick, who she has been developing a closer friendship with. Their conversation, though muffled by the music, is full of smiles and laughs. After a laugh, Nick hugs Rachel and runs his hand sensually across her neck. 

Rachel and her girlfriends grab another drink and carry them downstairs to the outside patio for a smoke. As they sit on the patio that is enclosed by a short brick wall, other university students walk by wearing baseball caps and collared shirts. Behind the students walking by is the university’s historic north campus, but the last thing on Rachel’s mind is being back on campus. 

Rachel’s work at the movie theater and her social life of bar hopping are often intertwined, but her schoolwork is separated from the rest of her life. “Sure I can see myself doing something with my (art education) degree in the future, but right now I’m in college. I might as well get all this shit in now before I have to get a real job and not be plastered all the time. I don’t want to grow up and have to deal with shit. And that’s just not me right now, fuck that!”

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