Shorty Shamanski sat in his usual place at the end of the bar smoking Marlboros and drinking Budweiser. Never a sunny person, he looked especially gloomy this day.
“Why so glum Shorty?”
“Aw, this country’s goin’ to hell.”
“What makes you say that?”
“The mill where I worked closed up and moved to Taiwan or Thailand or some godforsaken place like that where those people work for ten cents an hour. I ran a stamping press for 20 years, lost half a finger in that place, and now they run off and abandon all their employees.”
“Gee, that’s tough Shorty, What are you gonna do now?”
“I went down to the Community College to check out that program for people who have to retrain for different jobs.”
“How did that go?”
“The first thing I had to do was fill out this application using a computer. I can type a bit but because I only have nine-and-a-half fingers I sometimes miss some keys especially the F. That wasn’t much of a problem until I wrote that I’d like a job where I could take an early shift.”
“Don’t tell me you missed the F in shift.”
“Yep. It was obviously a mistake. I mean who the hell would say something like that on a job application? But they said I had a bad attitude. They referred me to a special counselor for difficult cases.
“So I got sent to another office and there is this great big bald-headed black woman behind the desk. The only bald-headed woman I ever saw before was my sister-in-law when she was getting that chemo therapy. So I told this woman that she should hang in there because my sister-in-law did just fine after chemo. Well, she tells me that she’s not sick and that she shaves her head on purpose to express herself.
“Then she tells me that she wants to get a sense of who I am so she asks, ‘What makes Albert, Albert?’ I told her that no one calls me Albert anymore everyone calls me Shorty. ‘OK’ she says,‘ What makes Shorty Shorty?’
“I told her that my mother said it’s because I started smoking at 10, it stunted my growth. That’s why I’m only 5’6”. I guess that’s not what she wanted because then she says, ‘Let’s try something else. In today’s world you sometimes have to multi-task. Would you describe yourself as a multi-tasker?’
“I asked what that meant and she said, ‘Can you do two things at once?’ So I told her that sometimes I sneeze and fart at the same time but I never thought that could get me job except maybe in the circus.
“Well old baldy looks at me like she found a turd in her salad. Then she says, ‘I see that you are missing part of a finger. Does that cause you any problems?’ I told her that the biggest problem it ever caused was landing me in her office. Otherwise it could be fun. She asked how it was fun and I told her that I’ve won a lot of money at the bar from guys who had too much to drink by betting them that I could stick my finger farther up my nose than they could.”
“Just guessing Shorty, but I take it that you’re still jobless.”
“No, baldy says I don’t have a bad attitude, I’m just a Neanderthal. Actually I’m Lithuanian but I wasn’t going to argue with her. She got me a job at that new Japanese company in the industrial park.”
“Well that’s good, isn’t it?”
“ Not really, my old man was a Marine in World War II and until the day he died whenever he saw someone driving a Toyota he would give them the old five finger salute and yell ‘Buy American’. Now I’m working for the Japanese. I guess I’m like my old man. I like to work for Americans and buy American. That’s why I drink Budweiser, the Great American Lager.”
“I hate to tell you this Shorty, but Budweiser is owned by a company in Belgium. They bought them out a year or so ago.”
Pushing his half empty beer to the edge of bar and picking up his cigarettes, he climbed down of the bar stool. As he walked toward the door I could hear him muttering, ”Aw this country’s goin’ to hell.”