It is an axiom in OTA country that bartenders never lie when telling OTA stories. They don’t have to make anything up.
Thus, I believed the bartender at the South Jetty on a Friday afternoon when she told two OTA men and one OTA woman sitting at the bar the following story. I could only taste scraps here and there with the damned 80s hits blaring, but it went something like this (I think):
A regular had walked into the bar a couple days ago wearing some kind of biological hazard mask/apparatus over his head that resembled the helmet of a deep sea diver. The joint was empty except for him. The bartender was understandably alarmed. Was he allowed in public? Sure. The man said it was all perfectly safe as long as he wore the helmet. He just needed to stretch his legs. The bartender was dubious but didn’t ask about the nature of the contagion. The man ordered a beer, a draft of Bud. He could drink it through a straw inserted into a hermetically sealed opening in the helmet. WTF? The bartender was shocked. Should she call the police? She hesitated a bit, then complied and watched a biologically hazardous man wearing a deep sea diving helmet sip a beer through a red margarita straw. Then he ordered a shot of well whiskey! WTF? She gunned the shot and watched him sip it down with one mighty suck. The man paid in cash, thanked her, and left.
I felt weak in the legs and had to sit down. Did I just hear what I heard? Was such an incident possible? Was the bartender and I afflicted with some sort of disease where we couldn’t tell the difference between truth and fiction? There’s a lot of that going around in America.
She came over to me and I ordered a beer. I just sat there and stared into the twinkling lights of the gimcrack drink advertisements. To my far right, there was speculation about the contagion. Someone threw out flesh eating bacteria. Another suggested radioactive contamination. I had no guess myself. I’m a writer, not a doctor, a novelist, not a mortician.