Not only was the Blues packed, but noisy as hell. Not having much to do this glorious (high up in the 70s) Saturday afternoon, I told Saleem, the bartender, to run me a tab. I was on my third beer chaser when a huge guy --who was being loud and obnoxious-- at the end of the bar all of a sudden keeled over. Pandemonium broke. Then Silence engulfed the joint. The two fellows shooting pool and a waitress kneeled down to assist the two-hundred-fifty pounder.
Indeed the place got silent in a New York minute, but not for long.
A shrill female voice sounded off: "Swine flu!"
“Swine flue!” the parishioners echoed like a church choir.
Panic ensued. Even the guys that were helping the poor soul ran out the door. You should have seen them running in all different directions, scurrying about like roaches when you turn on the light. Of course this made me angry: recalling my ethics training at the Academy, the thought depraved indifference flashed through my mind. Yo, man—not right to abandon a helpless human being, leaving him twitching, jerking, and kicking like fish out water.
Saleem the bartender shrugged his shoulders as if saying, “That’s humanity for you.”
I had a vague idea that "Swine flu" was infectious, but I got down and tried to revive the guy anyway. His pulse was strong. Heartbeat loud and booming. When I opened his shirt I saw the medal that diabetic people wear. Right away I felt a sense of relief because I didn’t want to give the big fellow mouth-to-mouth-res.
Without wasting a second I yelled to Saleem Abdel to pour a glass of orange juice. I pried the man's jaws open; not an easy task because the 280-pound gorilla had his jaws locked tighter than a bear trap. I stuck my cell phone between his teeth and then I poured some of that Tropicana yellow liquid down his gullet.
"Fix another glass, Saleem Abdel!" I screamed. "Load it with sugar--right quick. And call 411!" The second glass went in easy enough, just like pouring oil in a funnel. This is one sad case when I really agree with "water boarding—Guantanamo style," or orange juice boarding.
Like stars twinkling in the night, the man's eyelids twitched and fluttered, opening and closing, and as he sat up, he spat out the damn cell phone, mumbling something incoherent. He looked confused. Of course, he'd left teeth marks on the metal casing of my cell phone, and I marveled that he hadn't chipped a tooth--the big dummy! So strong was his bite that I could barely flip open the gadget.
By the time the paramedics arrived the big fellow was up and about, a little spaced out, white shirt stained yellow, lips and gums bruised, but okay.
The senior medic recognized the man right away and exclaimed,
"Oh, him! My man gets loaded and denn he feggets his med-ee-kayshion."
"What's this thing about swine flu," I asked the paramedic.
"Oh, yeah, it's traveling: from Mexico to Don Diego. Couldda come to New Yoik, too--Queens I heah."
“You mean San Diego,” I said to confirm if what I was hearing was correct.
“Das waddaised,” the sassy man replied, giving me a sore look as if offended that I was questioning his diction.
"Brooklyn, Canarsie?” I asked to confirm the homeboy’s provenance.
“Bed Stuy,” he answered, now a little irritated that I had confused his pedigree. Some people are really touchy about their ‘hoods.’ Anyway, the Bronx and Queens are foreign territories to me. Staten Island? Never been there. Lived in Manhattan all my life.
“Hey, Marc,” I heard Saleem Abdel, the barkeep call. “Next time I’ll give you two on the house. They give you good training in the force, man. Twinkle Toes wouldda been toe-tagged by now if you hadn’t been here.”
My man Saleem Abdel kills me. The only bartender in New York City who doesn’t drink liquor and will give you one on the house only if your tab shows you’ve downed five drinks. The owner —who also doesn’t drink— of the joint loves him. Can never figure out how Saleem Abdel can mix drinks since he has the faintest idea how they taste. If you ever visit this bar, make sure you call him Saleem Abdel. When I first met him I simply called him ‘Saleem,’ and he wasted no time in correcting me: “Saleem Abdel, bitte—too many Saleems in town; don’t wanna be confused with them cab drivers and illegal aliens. I have a college degree from Hidelberg, Germany.”
I'm off duty, so I won't collect OT pay for my good Samaritan work helping the orange-juice-soaked orca, but I feel good about being a cop in New York City --East of Tiffany's, my beat.
So, let me go to McAnn's on 1st and 52nd, to cultivate the Irish garden; if you know what I mean; there all the bartenders, waiters, and waitresses, and the Salvadoran busboys and dishwashers—they all drink. But by the time they (the Irish, not the Salvadoran) start singing “Danny Boy,” and moving from glen to glen I take that as my clue to leave.
Love Manhattan, my kind of town.
The writing techniques I use are explained in Mary Duffy's Toolbox for Writers e-book.