November 3 - Work In Progress

A line had formed outside the unemployment office.
The weather was being grey and grimy.
I joined the line.
We all waited for the office to open.
Some people made universal jokes that aren't really funny.
You know, jokes about coffee or whatever.
Prodding you into conversation.
I did my best to not be an asshole.
Nodding, half-smiling, yeahing.
One guy started boasting about his time in the service.
He was in his forties maybe.
A kid in his early twenties played his lapdog.
"Did you ever have to use your gun?"
"Oh sure!"
The boastful man elaborated on his gunsmanship.
He spoke fondly of all the kills he created.
I can't remember if he said he knew Rambo.
Or maybe they were just Facebook friends.
For entertainment, we all watched the security guard scream at people who dared to park in the parking lot of the unemployment office.
He seemed to really hate his job.
A human NO PARKING sign.
I suppose they could just get an actual NO PARKING sign.
And then the man wouldn't be so miserable.
But he'd be unemployed.
And that would mean more paperwork.
And unfavorable statistics.
Best to just leave things be.

The doors finally opened and we all shuffled in.
This time my number was 13.
By the time I sat down and opened my book, they had called my number.
A fast-talking man ushered me to a nice, distracted woman at a shabby desk.
The fluorescent light accentuated her guidance counselor wrinkles.
She handed me some appeal forms and told me to keep filing.
"There's nothing wrong with switching careers," she encouraged.

Ironically, I did work tonight.
With Kim at the bar.
But it was dead.
We closed early.
I think I made $28.

After hours, Kim told me the story of the bar.
It is owned by two brothers.
Their parents originally owned it.
They all lived in a house next door.
One night while the father was bartending, a man robbed the bar.
He shot the father.
His son watched through a peephole on the back door.
He was in his early teens.
The father died.

They continued on, staying in the house next door.
When the mother passed on years later, they sold the house.
It was torn down and replaced it with condos.
The brother who didn't witness his father's murder moved away.
He works at the bar once or twice a week.
The brother who watched his father get shot and killed lives in the room above the bar.
I've never met him.
But he's always there.
Six nights a week an old high school friend of theirs comes in, usually carrying a plastic bag of take out.
He never drinks or hangs out.
He goes directly to the back room and plays video games in solitude.
Six nights a week he sleeps there.
I guess that's why it's called an inn.

While the neighborhood around it has changed, this bar has remained the same.
It's one of the last few relics of Old Chicago in Wicker Park.
Or Real Chicago if you prefer.
There's still a bullet hole in the door.
It's not on any of the jokey gangster tours.
Maybe because this bullet hole actually means something.

I can't live off of $28 per week.
And I'm not sure if the bar can live off of closing early all the time.
But I like it there.

Verdict: Win

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