In light of recent news of a national war between the sexes, I’m going to tell you a little story I think explains everything.
I tended bar for a while. That’s no surprise. Young working-class men who need money and don’t want to join the military often end up behind the bar.
The place where I worked was small, dark inside and not very clean. It was friendly though, and I didn’t make any judgments about how much you drank or how early in the day you started.
We served a lot of cheap draft beer. We didn’t have a blender. We didn’t take credit cards. We didn’t have a jukebox, because the owner hated music. We didn’t serve food. In the men’s room, we had a machine that dispensed cheap cologne, and a condom machine. In the ladies’ room, we had a machine that dispensed cheap perfume, and a condom machine.
I shoved glasses of beer across the bar, and men drank the beer. When I looked down the length of the bar, I didn’t see people. What I saw was glasses and money. I filled the glasses, and I picked up the money, and that was the job.
About two weeks into working there, I was standing behind the bar on a dark winter afternoon, lining up the two brands of vodka we sold in alphabetical order, when the owner, who was in the place to see if he could catch me stealing, called me down to the end of the bar.
“I forgot to tell you there’s no condoms in the condom machine in the girl’s room,” he said.
“Did it run out?” I asked.
“Nah, I never put no condoms in the girl’s room,” the owner said.
“Guys, they go in, they put a half-a-buck in the machine, they don’t get no condom, they come out and ask the bartender for their money back,” he said.
“Women, they go in there, they put money in the machine, they don’t get no condom, they’re too embarrassed to complain. The condom machine in the girl’s room’s been empty for 25 years. Pure profit.”
“They never complain?” I asked.
“Look, if some skank complains, give her the half-a-buck,” he said. “Don’t worry, though. It ain’t gonna happen.”
It didn’t, not during the year I worked in that place. During that year, I broke up quite a few fights, cut myself more than once slicing limes, threw out several prostitutes, caught a young guy snorting coke in the men’s room and helped a few customers drink themselves out of marriages and jobs. But no woman ever asked me for the half-a-buck.
Almost everything you need to know about men and women in America is in that story somewhere, and so is a bunch of stuff you need to know about capitalism.
If some woman had asked me for the half-a-buck back, I would have given it to her.
“Don’t put the money in again,” I would have told her. “It must be out. I’ll tell the owner.”
The perfume machine was never empty. Because the perfume machine is never empty.
Marc Munroe Dion is the author “The Land of Trumpin’,” is a nonperfumed account of Trump’s America.