Remember that Bone Thugs and Harmony song from back in the day? First of tha Month… Yeah, that’s this place. It can be dead all month long, the first rolls around its packed like a sardine can.
I recognize a lot of them; mostly from my last job, from the office lobby. Some of them were even my clients. I processed their food stamp renewals and listened to their case managers complain about how they knew a client was lying but could not prove it.
If only we had known it was easy as going down to the local dive on the first.
A few of them are here tonight and Sally Dee is one of them. She claims she can’t see good enough to use the microwave or bend to wipe her own butt. But I just saw her put a dollar in the juke box, pick a song, and shake that same butt to it.
Sally Dee doesn’t recognize me. Not even when she talks directly to me, orders a beer. She doesn’t remember coming into the office uninvited, without an appointment, on multiple occasions, to complain about her gout or diabetes or any number of things I never had any control of. More than once she claimed her caretaker didn’t get enough hours to help her shower or do the laundry.
“Wow check her out,” a girl at the bar says, referring to Sally Dee. “She’s gotta be like what 50? She’s getting down! I hope I have that much energy when I get older.”
I want to say that it’s easy to save your energy up for a night on the town when the state pays someone to wait on you hand and foot but I’m too distracted by another first of the month regular.
Tasha is about my age. She is a single mother with three kids. She hasn’t worked a day in her life but she takes home more money every month than a lot of people in this city who work full time. Tasha likes to brag about the loop hole she found. More than once I’ve heard her try to advise other women in the bar: “You gotta get off welfare, welfare will make you look for a job. SSI is where it’s at. I got me and all my kids on it. $700 hundred each every month!”
Their jaws always drop. “Don’t you have to be in a wheel chair?”
That’s when she will laugh and brag about the diagnosis that were as easy as suggesting to their family doctor that she has bi-polar, one of her kids has autism, and the other two have ADHD.
I can’t help getting angry as I remember all the clients with serious health problems whose cases were denied or drug out forever. And all the seniors who saw their only income stagnate even further even as prices soared. If it weren’t for people like Tasha…
Speak of the devil. “Hey girl,” she says. Her voice is syrupy. I don’t know why, she always acts like we’re best friends. She’ll come in during the day for cheap beer paid for with a pile of quarters and tell me the intimate details of her life. It’s weird. I’m not sure that I will ever get used to this part of being a bartender.
But the part where I get to cut people like Tasha off, that part I enjoy.
“Tina girl, let me get another Long Island.”
It is really hard not to smile as I shake my head. “Nope. You’ve had enough.”
“What? You can’t do that!”
Oh but I can! “Actually, that’s part of my job.” She wants to argue more but her friends pull her away when I remind her that she can leave the bar instead.
Twenty minutes later, after the rush on PBR and lottery cash outs, I head out for a quick smoke break. On my way to the porch I see Tasha, asleep at a table, abandoned by the friend she had been buying drinks for all night.