Hidden Message

My favorite dive bar started accepting credit cards today! What happened was the ATM broke down so bartenders could no longer point at it and, depending on the shift, commiserate about usurious bank fees and/or mock a patron's "reading ability."

I recently argued, one cold morning before the kerosene space heater had kicked in, that a particular cash-seeking customer (unfamiliar to me) did indeed lack basic English skills but also, more seriously, exhibited a complete failure to recognize the universal symbol for instant cash, three capital English letters together. They have literal ATM signs in Japan. It was about 6:10 in the morning and I wasn't drunk yet, just working on it, but was definitely high and caffeinated, having had my customary morning joint and half a French press.

I love that bar because they once kicked out a heavyset tattooed gentleman at 7:45 on a Tuesday morning for threatening physical violence to a fellow patron and bellowing "can someone get this dweeb to shut the fuck up about the ATM already?"

"In the words of Marshall McLuhan," I continued,"'The electric light is pure information' and, as you can clearly see, the pulsing illumination of this technological marvel over here in the corner, sir..."

It was Mark who kicked the guy out, almost apologetic, but firm. No one wants the cops to come, right? One of his customers was a regular there, purchasing the most expensive beer on tap, Sierra Nevada, at an astounding rate and contributing truly astonishing sums of tip money to various college funds. The other was a guy who couldn't find an ATM from five feet.

"Look," says Mark, after we're both pretty sure the exile isn't coming back from his car with a gun. "Can we just watch the goddamn news? Buy me a shot."

Mark died a couple of weeks ago, before the ATM broke down. Cancer finally got him but man that dude was a fighter and he loved the ladies like I do.

I'm happy they take credit cards now. If you don't, at some time in your life, rack up a 5-figure bar tab with a truly eye-popping minimum payment due on the 15th every month, you're not really drinking. Not like I am, anyway.

When a bartender gives me the tab, I don't even look at it. I just stick my card in. When they bring it back I sometimes ask them if they want a shot and they'll maybe pour a couple and I add on a most generous tip. It's an oldie but goodie and not recommended for airport bars. At all.

Anyway, I always sign what I need to sign and then I always leave all that paperwork on the bar and often joke that it's "evidence" because I don't want my wife to know that I, alone, racked up a $68.43 lunch tab at the Cheesecake Factory in Corte Madera.