Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Weirdo Factor, Part 2

Sometimes weirdos are not really creepy; They are just weird. There is one customer who has been coming in every day for years. I think I will call him Neon because he often wears a reflective safety vest, because he rides a bicycle. I kind of feel bad even classifying him as a weirdo, because he is most likely mentally ill and probably can't help it that he is so weird.

He works for the hotel that is adjacent to The Strip Club. He takes out garbage for them and I often see him in the alley behind my work, where the hotel dumpsters are.

Neon talks a lot. He talks to himself or anyone who is near him and often makes no sense whatsoever. He thinks he is really smart and he is very opinionated. He likes to talk about politics, but listening to him talk is like listening to Sarah Palin. He will start off with a bold statement about something and then degenerate into fractionated sentences and eventually unintelligible muttering. I usually try to avoid talking to him because I can't figure out what the hell he is trying to say and I feel awkward not knowing how to respond to nonsense.

My back was hurting and there is spot behind the bar where I can kind of sit on a cooler. It is right next to where Neon stands, but I decided go ahead and have a seat for a minute. I started some small talk . "How are you? How's work? Did you have to be out in the cold much today?" So far so good. Then he said, "I broke up a gang fight".

Wow. I am wondering what happened out in the alley. Was there really a gang fight? Did I just miss it? So I asked him "When?"
"In 1994."
"OK? Where was this?"
"In Waukegan, IL."
"Oh, how did you break up the fight?"
"I called the police."
"Well, good for you, that was the right thing to do."

He started mumbling unintelligibly about the gang fight I guess, in 1994, and I kind of zoned out, still not wanting to get up, but not really wanting to take the effort to continue the conversation. Luckily the door guy came to the bar, so I could divert my attention and ask him what he needed. The last I had seen him, he had hurt his back, so I asked how his back was doing. He said it still hurt and Neon spoke up.

"I have some Ben Gay in my bag. I'll let you use it."

The door guy said, "No, thank you", and left. Neon stood there in silence for awhile, then said to me "I carry Ben Gay because I rub it on my boils."

So I walked away to the other side of the bar, where another everyday customer, hmm, I'll call him Red, was sitting. Red sometimes gets a kick out of my interactions with Neon. Once, Neon threw an empty water bottle behind the bar, trying to make it in the garbage, but missed. So I picked it up, and jokingly said "Did you throw this at me?" and threw it back at him. Neon apologized profusely, calling me maam a lot. I felt bad, but Red thought it was hysterical. So I lamented to Red how hard it is to carry on a conversation with Neon and told him about the Ben Gay and the boils. Red said, "Maybe he has a speech impediment, and he really rubs it on his balls." So I laughed, but really that would not be beyond the realm of possibility.

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