Mention being in a bar at 7:00 a.m. and the average person recoils in horror as his mind conjures up images of an ancient drunk sweating his way through the DTs, eyeballing the clock and wondering if he can make it to seven for his first drink.

While I have had a few with that guy, the before noon crowd is a pretty eclectic group and can be found in any dive anywhere in America (only a dive would be open at 7 a.m.).

You have the melanin deficient graveyard worker with that far away look in his eye as he tries to convince himself that the sun is going down and not coming up. He doesn’t want to drink too much because he still has to go to the bank. It’s hard to maintain a sense of normalcy when you keep these hours. After some serious consideration he orders another. After all what normal person works graveyard anyway.

Next to him sits a couple of coked-up waiters trying to drink themselves down so they can get some sleep. In the booth behind them is a barmaid from a downtown wine bar getting ready for the lunch shift. It’s hard work to smile at a liquored-up, stuffed-shirt executive trying to impress his coworkers by barking complaints about the wine in his best “How to impress your friends and degrade the little guy” voice taught by his favorite self-help book POWERPLAY! Better make it a beer and a shot of well whiskey. She’ll treat the bartender better than anyone else because she’s been there.

Here comes the crew of day labor folks with tales of hard luck: ”Just got outta jail,” “My old man beats the shit outta me,” “I don’t know where rent’s coming from.” Are they having a drink on the way to work or on their way home? Does it even matter? Five dollars an hour for slave labor is hardly a deterrent against having a drink. It’s draft beers paid for in change and crumpled singles for these folks. The tips are few and far between but if you need advice on rebuilding a ‘68 Corvair or directions to the nearest cheap liquor store, you’re in the right company.

Nine a.m. means it’s time for a Bloody Mary with the insomniac punk rocker who likes it real spicy. The morning drunk is a creature of habit, his internal clock is set to bar time and he’s always on time. He sorts the spoils of an early morning dumpster dive and power drinks while he has the cash. Then he’ll try to cadge a couple while keeping you company until you turn deaf. Then he’ll fade into the daylight like a vague memory.

Some might call it a motley crew, but those are the same slaves commuting to the place where they murder eight hours of their day and wouldn’t pick up a magazine called Modern Drunkard if it were stuffed with high-yield bonds.

The more informed, such as myself, heartily salute the daytime drunk as a veteran in the war against bad jobs, bad bosses, bad luck and bad habits, possessing secrets beyond the average man’s ken. So the next time he stumbles into the supermarket where you work to trade five wadded-up singles for a twelver, resist the temptation to feel sorry for him. Watch him proudly stumble homeward with his prize and realize you’re the one with five more hours of mind-numbing labor in front of you.

—Gaar Potter

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