Barroom Sketches

7/06/17 12:38 p.m.

The bar is shadowy with the ambiance from the natural light pouring through the windows. The wine color of the couches and chairs at the front of the store create a sense of tranquility with the brown linoleum as an afterthought. I’m not feeling well today. In fact, I am sick. This happens frequently in the summer because I overheat easily. I’m fine during the winter and often walk about in shorts. Yesterday it was ninety degrees with the humidity at fifty-six percent. I was sweaty and squishy as I walked down Mass Ave to start my four hour volunteer shift. The manager and the assistant manager kept the front door open which canceled any effect the air conditioner had on the store–except the back room. I was miserable, then my thinking began to lapse, and finally my stomach began to sour. During my four hour shift, I swallowed a full gallon of water, but I barely urinated. It got bad, and I could barely function. I still can’t. I have to work today at the cigar bar, and because of my slow movements and nausea, I opted to sit at the register, drink water, and read.

There are many who are probably like this so I know I’m not alone when I say my patiences goes out the door when I’m sick. I barely suffer fools as it is when I’m well, but right now it is difficult to keep my sharp tongue behind my teeth. 

In walks the first customer. He has a white beard, t-shirt, and shorts. I look up to say hello and return to my book. Most people when they come in at this time are on break, know what cigars they want, get them, and leave. After a few seconds, I noticed the man is lingering near the humidor supplies. “Can I help you find anything?”

“Do you guys have smaller humidor packs?

“The only small ones I know are up here.” I pick up a jar containing small blue and white packs. “How long do those last?”

“About three days.”

“That’s too short. I’m going on a trip.”


“I have this little humidor,” he points the small, black rectangular cases, “and I need a smaller pack than what you have. I need something for at least a week.”

“Ok.” I don’t know why he’s repeating himself. I understand what he wants, but we don’t have what he wants, and saying so again won’t change the situation. He goes for the bigger packs anyway. He hands me his card. “Would you like a receipt?”

“No, thanks.” He scribbles his name and slides the paper to me. “Thank you.” He walks away, and I start to feel at ease, but that feeling is interrupted as he stands with the door open letting in the hot air. “Oh, wait! I forgot! Do you have any fluid?” I thought he meant butane fluid when I asked, “For your lighter?”

“No. For my humidor.”

“The only packs I know about are those small circular packs in front of you.”


“Jesus.” I muttered as walked over to show him. As I come closer he pulls out a medium sized can, and holds it up, “This is what I meant.”


“Do you have a bigger can?”

“What we have out here is all that we have. I am in not in charge of the ordering. The manager does that, and he does not communicate to me regularly regarding his orders.”

“You’re killing me.” I roll my eyes and mutter again, “That’s life.” I had my fill of his incessant bitching, and wanted him to buy something or leave. He buys the medium sized can and mentions, “You know, the manager is a friend of mine.” His tone implies that he, a grown man with a white beard, will tell on me. Whatever. I shrug. “Ok.” I hand him his card and receipt, say thank you, and he finally leaves. This behavior is generally par for the course. I work in a money burb full of people with a country drawl. They have firm opinions on urban life, but have never lived outside their well manicured, white picket Trump loving bubble who think the world will end if they don’t have immediate access for convenient methods to, literally, burn their money on cigars.

Yeah, I’m sick, but that has nothing to do with my low opinion of affluent, white, suburban people who will throw a tantrum if their balls aren’t properly fondled. Today, I don’t have the energy to hide my contempt with “Sirs” and “Maams,” or wishing a good a day on soft bellied, middle aged brats.

1:13 p.m.

Then there is the owner, and he has been the owner for two and a half years. This place has changed hands so many times I will get questions regarding the previous owner who died. The owner rarely comes into the bar, and does not contribute in the day to day business of the bar. I don’t know much about him other than the negative things the manager has said. My impression of the owner is he is a tall, broad shouldered country boy with a shaved head, small white goatee with a low Kentucky accent going on forever down the Ohio River. He spends almost all his time in the main store in another suburb twenty minutes northwest of this store. Talking with him is a painful process, and I leave the conversation feeling like all my teeth have been pulled.

The owner will do all his paperwork on his computer from the main store. He will call, and have one of us plug the computer in the phone jack so he can remote. When this happens the phone will ring, but we don’t answer so the computer will connect. The “call” is a one time thing, but today multiple rings came after the first ring I ignored. I answer both times, and the last time I was irritated. “Hello?” On the other end is the owner, “Hey, dude, I told you not to pick up the phone.” I soak my words with sarcasm, “I know that, but, in the past, the phone only rings once and not successive times.”

“Ok. Whateve. I’ll do it later.” The problem could be solved immediately. I offered the solution. “No. I’ll do it later.” Not my store, not my problem, and I don’t get paid enough to care. Besides, it’s not like I want to work in this place all my life slinging tobacco and alcohol while treated with condescension by the patrons.

3:15 p.m.

Listening to two men discussing business for the hospital where they work. They don’t mention a name because I am there and I might here something I shouldn’t. Something that might be bad PR. Through the blue haze of cigar smoke, I hear words like “fiscal year,” “strategizing,” and “take home profitability.” One of the financial obstacles they’re facing is adolescent psychiatric issues because there is no pay out for the hospital, and most of those adolescent patients are on HIP. Because of HIP (Healthy Indiana Plan–local socialized medicine) the hospital will only get seventeen cents on the dollar. The hospital is also facing drug related issues from patients who mostly used meth or heroin, and the intense vetting they go through before they get treatment. The one on the right works on the financial board, and is a family man. He criteria for what patients are treated–if they are treated–and how they are treated is determined by his ability to keep his big house, his kids attending upscale schools, and smoking cigars. His friend on the left is a doctor operating under a similar paradigm. But socialized medicine is evil. Cue in the eye roll.

Not everyone that comes in are like the four impression I have written. Some people are relaxed and easy going. I make the effort to go case by case, but it is difficult when surrounded by many people who need to unclench, and, let’s be honest, more times than not I need to unclench too.


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