For reasons beyond my comprehension, at least once a week I encounter a patron at my bar who, with great empathy and pity, asks me why I am still bartending at my age. Because I’m not retarded (for the most part), nor do I have any major disfigurations or facial lacerations to speak of (not even so much as a lazy eye) they expect that someone as healthy-looking and capable as me should by now be making a living in a way that is more, well…dignified, I suppose.
As offensive as this might seem, I get it. Professionals like school teachers and dentists are considered the luminaries of our society in that they provide respectable services for our kids and our community. On the other hand, the nice man who gets them sloshed when they go out is more like an executioner with that black hood over his head: he’s not that bright, but he has some good stories to tell because he’s seen a lot, and he provides a necessary service for his betters. Nevertheless, nice man or not, you’d prefer that he didn’t date your daughter.
Believe me, I have spent a good deal of my youth fantasizing about becoming something fantastically eccentric one day, something completely unique from the men I imagined sitting miserably in their crowded cubicles, committed to cold calls and penciling in numbers on gridded paper. It just hasn’t happened yet.
What I really want is a job in which enormous amounts of money flood my bank account on a daily basis without having to do any actual work. A real turnkey operation, like selling subscriptions to my porn sight on the Internet. A job I could do on my yacht while entertaining my friends, who would look on with jealous resentment as I answered my cell phone and barked orders at whoever was on the other end: “Well you tell miss goody-two-shoes that if she wants a job with this company that she’d better reconsider doing anal.”
I understand that this type of unambitious dream might give you cause for anger. You would argue against such lethargy because you have the romantic notion that every American should shoulder an equal load for equal pay and that hard work is its own reward. You’ll say that we should all contribute something worthwhile and useful to society, and that spine-crippling labor is the yardstick that measures and ranks a person’s reputation and moral fiber.
I hear you loud and clear. Hard work certainly can be rewarding. Just not for me. I find it rather burdensome.
Even so, if it makes you feel any better, I am (and have been) amongst the working class for many years now. And yet, for whatever reason, I am grilled on a weekly basis from those who relentlessly inquire what else I want to do with my life. Apparently bartending is not a real career, but more of a hobby or part time distraction, like working at Jamba Juice, which implies that I am, at best, somewhere in the range of two-thirds of a man as opposed to a full time contributing man.
Though I certainly appreciate the foresight and concern from those of you who have pointed out my failings thus far as a serviceable member to our society, I would like to mention that I am not without accomplishments. I even sat down and compiled a list to silence all you naysayers. It only took me six days to finish.
MY 10 MOST AMAZING ACCOMPLISHMENTS UP TO THIS POINT IN MY LIFE
(in mostly chronological order)
1. I am born and manage to stay alive, despite my stubbornness to breathe. It takes three minutes of vigorous swatting on my backside from the doctor to trigger my first gasp of life. Apparently breathing is more effort than I care to tolerate.
2. I learn to read at an early age and as I grow up I read almost anything—novels, magazines, newspapers, comic books, the backs of cereal boxes. Besides basketball, it’s the one credible thing I do up through high school, and because my parents witness me reading, I am able to convince them for two years after I graduate that I am writing a novel. I stay locked in my room for hours sleeping or listening to Nirvana with my headphones on. When my mom or dad come knocking on the door I raise my head groggily from the sheets and call out, “Be out in a bit; I’m at a real crucial part here.”
3. I receive a patch for “Whittling” from the Cub Scouts at the age of nine because I can carve a regular stick into a marshmallow stick. I believe this accomplishment speaks for itself.
4. I grow a mustache by the age of thirteen. It is thin and cheesy, but while wearing it around I feel like I have a leg up on all the other boys in the race for manhood, like smoking must make you feel when you first start.
5. It turns out I am right about the smoking. I take it up at fourteen and feel downright invincible. After school lets out I lean on the giant oak tree just off campus dressed in a tarnished leather jacket and shredded 501’s, a Jimmy Dean replica, only I’m not an irresistible bad boy. Truth told, I’m so regrettably introverted that I’m only a step removed from invisibility. I am not fully aware of this at the time, though, and as the other students stroll past I pinch and waggle the cigarette between my thumb and index finger while taking an occasional drag and stroking my moustache. Unfortunately, I quit smoking the next day. The coughing is more commitment than I signed up for.
6. I give a dollar to a girl from the Salvation Army who is standing outside Safeway at Christmastime ringing that annoying bell. Even beneath her sweat suit I can tell that her body is lean and compact in the thighs and generous up top where it should be, like one of those silhouettes on the mud flaps of trucks. This fact doesn’t make my donation any less admirable, I hope you know.
7. After being grilled by my parents for the gabillionth time about what I think I’d like to do for a career after high school, I foolishly blurt out, “Park Ranger” and before I can say, “Just kidding,” I find myself counseling a bunch of smart-ass sixth graders at a nature-motivated experience called Ecology Camp, where you sleep in cabins, go on nature hikes and basically spend a week gathering bugs and leaves and falling backwards into each others arms to spread glorious feelings of trust. This isn’t the accomplishment, though. During the first day’s hike I fake an ankle sprain and spend the week sleeping in the cabin and ordering the boys around to wait on me hand and foot. I am a male Cleopatra. As a precaution, I warn the boys that if they squeal to anyone about my little secret that I will tell every girl in camp that we are having all night gay orgies. Extortion is such an ancient, forgotten art of persuasion.
8. Lying in bed one night I have a revelation: I realize I can name all 172 episodes of The Duke’s of Hazard, The Six-Million Dollar Man and MacGyver. I understand that this should be a depressing, possibly suicidal moment, but I am giddy with my talent to recall. If I should ever get a call from Jeopardy and one of the categories happens to be “Shows Only Seven Year Olds Watched Thirty Years Ago”, you may as well step down. Game over.
9. One night I sit down to play some online poker for an hour or so but instead I somehow stumble across a site called partybingo.com and spend the next 27 straight hours playing bingo online. When my girlfriend comes out of my bedroom to ask me what I’ve been doing all night, I panic and cover up the screen and tell her I’m looking at S & M porn sites.
10. I memorize the lyrics to Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” the first day I buy the tape, though I have to admit it takes me nearly two years to learn that Jeremy commits suicide at the end of the song. Upon digesting this information, I find myself looking over my shoulder everywhere I go, as if I have discovered some cosmic wisdom that only I and a handful of other secret agent Pearl Jam fans know about. This, I realize, is silly and cannot really be considered an accomplishment. Still, because of the song’s intensely profound message and the fact that, of all the songs on the tape, I intuitively chose that one in particular to memorize, I feel that the coincidence cannot be overlooked.
There you have it, my accomplishments, which, looking back now, don’t seem as impressive as they did when I thought them up in my head. In fact, I’m rather depressed now. For argument’s sake, and so I don’t have to read a bunch of emails from people judging my life’s work, let’s just go ahead and declare right now that I’m more like half a human being than two-thirds of one. I don’t want to generate any unwarranted expectations concerning my true value. The last thing I need is for someone to come into my bar and point out the precise fraction of a man they think I am.
Cheers, until next time. I’m going to play bingo.