Paying for Drinks

A lot of my stories aren’t true, but this is a true story. In the summer of 1985 I was at a bar in Ottawa with a couple of people I knew and a few others I didn’t. One of the guys at our table had been reading Ayn Rand and started going on (and on) about the evils of the welfare state and how people should look out for themselves rather than relying on government coddling.

As he was talking, one of the women in the group slipped his wallet out of his jacket (which was hanging on the back of his chair), emptied it of cash, and then called the waitress over and ordered a round of rather expensive drinks. She waited until the drinks arrived to tell the guy that he’d bought them. He became rather irate, but every time he told her she had to pay him back she calmly said, “Oh yeah? Make me.”

I’m pretty sure that if it had been another guy he’d have gotten physical. I’m equally sure that he didn’t really get the point she was making, and I wonder sometimes if he ever did.

I think about that incident every time I hear that conservatives are going to cut education or health care or public transit or voting rights. They know that when push comes to shove, they will be looked after: they know that if hardship ever touches them the government will step in with farm subsidies and bank bailouts. It won’t be called welfare, because welfare’s for the weak, but they will always get help when they need it.