It’s coming on two months since Katie and I moved roughly 200 yards southwest of our former place on 150th Street, of whose block association we are ardent members. Our allegiance, despite the move, remains with 150th: the $20/year member fee is a sunk cost I cannot psychologically reconcile. I kid. We remain loyal because we love that block and the people we’ve gotten to know.
And with love comes strange happenings. Take for example this past summer’s block party, which took months of planning and organization. Yet on the very day of the party, as Katie was setting up the face-painting tent, 150th’s resident drunk, an emaciated-looking white dude who never fails to ask if you want to shoot some pool, showed up and asked if he could help. Which wouldn’t have been a problem if he weren’t hammed off the bone, his backpack clinking with half-glugged bottles of Fireball. What kind of self-respecting alcoholic drinks Fireball?
Then there was last week’s block association meeting, held at Buddha Taco Bar, which is infamous for deploying the worst business model of any restaurant I’ve ever denizened. The meeting contained the usual shenanigans — the butt-clenching power struggle between Cheree and Signe, the horrifying silence and corresponding death-stares of the association’s older ladies, and so on. But in general, all went as usual, which is to say, all went generally well. Rene cadged the mic when the meeting started on tangents. Signe took the minutes. Emily facilitated in the versatile way she does, adding ideas here, reminding us about a budget issue there. Our district’s newly-elected assemblyman, Al Taylor, made a cameo in his dapper-af suit and bow tie. At hour’s end, it seemed like we’d hit all our marks — and then the check came.
Allow me to backtrack for a moment. You see, at start of the meeting, Signe had taken it upon herself to order a few plates of wings and guac for the table. Any additional beverages and foodstuffs were therefore the responsibility of the individual members that ordered them. This seemed more than fair, if not outright philanthropic of Signe. And yet, when the check came, a certain individual whose name I cannot recall appeared to disagree. Let’s call her Barbara, because Barbara is a name that sucks.
Leading up to this snafu over the check, Barbara had contributed absolutely nothing to our progress. Throughout the meeting, she scarfed down the majority of the wings, lathering grotesque swaths of ranch dipping sauce, which offended the person sitting next to her, who was me. Each time a task sign-up sheet was passed around, she enlisted herself for exactly zero tasks. At one point she suggested that, to help raise funds, we plan a trip to Atlantic City. Signe, who’d in the past attempted fundraiser trips, cautioned Barbara of the travails one might confront in taking on such a project. Still, she encouraged Barbara to take the lead on it. Of course, Barbara demurred. It was out of her purview, for reasons that seemed related to nothing else but her unwillingness to help.
But these actions, which confounded the very purpose of attending a block association meeting, paled in comparison to the snafu upon receiving the check. You see, in addition to the appetizers Signe had ordered for the table — and paid for herself, if you’ll recall — Barbara had ordered two Bacardi-and-Cokes. As in, Barbara had specifically requested Bacardi in her Cokes, and had bitched to me that they’d used a generic rum. Somehow she knew this with unfailing certitude. You might be able to see why I’ve been forced to refer to her as Barbara.
Anyway, upon the check’s arrival, Barbara was aghast. Nine dollars for each Bacardi-and-Coke was beyond unfair. She was indignant. She refused to pay.
It took all of my emotional strength not to say anything — strength that Rene possessed in exponential fashion. You see, while Rene did in fact say something, it was only to offer to pay for Barbara’s drinks so that we could all just go home.
“We’re all adults here,” Rene added.
In Barbara’s estimation, this was not an acceptable sentence, for it unequivocally applied to her. To be honest, despite Rene’s protestations that it was a general comment, I think it applied to her as well. I think it was a sarcastic clip at Barbara’s morally-weak knees. As it should’ve been, for Barbara was not, in fact, acting like an adult — for adults tend to take responsibility for their actions, the least of which being remuneration for ordered beverages.
Most shocking of all, after unleashing her fury upon Rene for his utterly called-for comment, she still allowed him to pay for the drinks. As Barbara continued to unleash upon Rene her infinitely confusing indignation, I simply stepped near them, gave Rene daps, called out my farewells, and left. To this day I am totally bemused by what transpired at that evening’s end.