I learned much while I was working in various bars in DC. I learned that I would rather own a bar than work in one. I learned that I love people sometimes, and despise them at other times. I learned that I am a pessimistically hopeful person, which may the strangest discovery.
There were many shifts in which I was desperately short of funds. I would be carefully rationing my oatmeal to make it last all month, and trying to avoid eating even a half price meal while working. Even working on your feet for nine to eleven hours a day, you can gain some serious weight eating burgers every day, but you wind up needing to eat something. I was stuck between warring impulses, either the food I was serving would remind me that I was hungry, or the end of the crossword would result in extreme boredom and awaken my gnawing stomach. Many nights, I would break down, and order some crappy sandwich from the kitchen, or wander over to the market. After a few lean months, May, June, and July in the non-waterfront/roofdeck bars of DC, I noticed an odd pattern.
On nights that I desperately needed customers, I would almost always have a decent night if I gave up and ordered a sandwich as soon as I could. If I held off and toughed it out, I would almost always have a crappy night. When I changed jobs, and started working weekend brunches, this trend continued. If I woke up early, made coffee, had a decent breakfast, and then went to work, I would have a boring Saturday filled with cable television or girl watching out of the big front window. If I got to work hungry, and ordered some french toast or steak and eggs, we would be unexpectedly, and happily, busy. Soon I started calling it my business tax. If I didn't need, or didn't want to pay it, Serendipity and Infinity would spurn me, and my day would spent in idle chatter, speculating on the temperature of the water in the local pools/coffee shops/museums. If I scarfed a meal just before unlocking the doors, I would see a wave of annoying and outstanding customers parade in the doors, just in town for the conference on erectile sustainability, or the United Dairy Solids Conglomerated Federation of America annual meeting.
As the economic and social news of the last three years of my underemployment has steadily continued gloomening, I have at times marveled at all the young expectant mothers and fathers, and at the number of college friends with wives or husbands and new children. Some of these lunatics have TWO children already, while I, as the joke says, have no children THAT I KNOW OF. How could anyone possibly want to spawn in these uncertain times? Why would you want to bother with the trouble of diapers and midnight feedings when Michelle Bachmann is an allegedly serious candidate for the Presidency? She's worse than the Ever Vacuous Palin! Morons all over the world are refusing to even think about any compromise that would allow any humans anywhere to live in peace. The oceans are critically endangered, and Star Trek IV could actually happen! The levels of toxic pollution are rising to the point that all of today's children's children will be inheriting a shit heap with no refuge, and people are STILL buying SUVs! If I think about everything that is going horribly wrong (as I see it), I could end up pulling my hair out in a rubber room, and these freaks are bringing children into the world! What the hell is wrong with them?
Or maybe it was just me, maybe something was wrong with me? There are still events happening that aren't all shit. Scientists in the Midwest are developing trees and programs to clean up the industrial chemical messes left by irresponsible people in years past, organizations are working with Native American nations out west to rewild areas of the country, and not everyone is an uncompromising chundernozzle. We lived through Mutually Assured Destruction, I told myself. Remember when Dad said that ducking and covering was worthless in the event of a nuclear attack? Remember when he said we would hopefully be killed so fast that wouldn't even have time to wonder why it was so bright in the classroom? Boy, that was a hoot.
So I found myself trying to believe that we aren't all so fucking stupid that we would kill ourselves, but that we have to watch it because a TPK* is still quite easy. Despite the fact that our leaders aren't leading, or even pausing to take deep breaths before shoving their heads up some orifice or another, a person must have faith in our collective desire to not live in shit. You have to look harder for it, but there is evidence that we are not a species of incredibly smart dumbasses. With a few notable exceptions, most humans don't enjoy wars or massacres. If everyone everywhere could just take five years off from killing each other, we could get our shit together and really fulfill one of those hippie songs from the '60s.
As I sat at my bar, watching CNN on a slow day that had started with a lovely breakfast of maple syrup-and-sausage-infused oatmeal, I realized that I had become an optimist. I then realized how people could have children, and it made my expressions of faith in humanity through french toast seem pretty fucking trite.
Also, babies are pretty damn cute, especially when they are shitting on my brother's lap. Now that was a hoot.
*Total Party Kill, in role-playing games this happens when everyone including the game master screws up badly enough that everyone admits it was a bad idea, and re-rolls shaman.