I grew up in Monticello Florida. It’s a scene right out of Mayberry. Everybody knows everybody – a little too much in some sense. Downtown is Ted’s Barber Shop – “Give your head to Ted” so they say. It’s the hangout for men. Farmers, bankers, the County Judge, and preachers would gather there. Not just for a haircut. Going there was an experience rich in southern culture. Stories were spun about huge catches and all sorts of experiences of southern gentlemen. Sorta like Cheers where everybody knows your name, but without the alcohol. Instead, some folks would stop at either Jackson’s or Simmon’s Drug store and get a hand scooped milk shake prepared with the southern charm of the soda fountains found there. Some drank coffee, but it never came from the soda fountain. Oddly, coffee wasn’t served at either of those soda fountains.
Why not? They could have made a fortune.
In deference to Bobby Snipes.
I guess Bobby was in his 30’s when he started his coffee service. His career spanned some 20 years I guess. Not much is known about Bobby Snipes’ past. I Google’d his name and came up with nothing. Bobby was somewhat disabled. Let’s just say that Goober was pretty sharp compared to Bobby. Physically Bobby was thin. Perhaps because of the nature of his work. More likely because he was poor and could not afford three meals a day. I don’t know what the diagnosis was for Bobby. Perhaps today he would be diagnosed with PTSD. Whatever Bobby’s mental infirmity, it didn’t effect his bright eyed beaming toothy smile and magnetic personality. In spite of his disability, he was very proud and self reliant in a humble kind of way. Bobby rented (or perhaps squatted) the basement of a vacant building that once was the town theater. The building was run down and probably should have been condemned, but no one was calling for that because they knew that Bobby would have nowhere to go.
Bobby awoke early each morning and began brewing his signature coffee. He then filled the Coleman thermos the he had lashed to his old bicycle. He would set off on his route and stop at almost every merchant’s storefront, go inside, and lovingly pour a cup of his brew. If you wanted cream or sugar, he would hand mix it. As he poured in the cream he would look you in the eye and ask “how’s that”? 25 cents was the fare. If a customer paid with a dollar bill, he had one of those change maker belts that strapped around your waste.
But many refused the change. Not all customers paid in cash. If Bobby was out of cigarettes, he would gladly accept the smokes you had on you – regardless of the brand. Smokes? Hey, Bobby was a grown man and wasn’t spending your tax dollars on smoking. Show some respect! Bobby sold lots of coffee. When the burden of the weight of all those quarters got to be too much, the merchants would exchange them for paper money.
Bobby Snipes personified American exceptionalism. He overcame his disadvantage by making the best of what he had. He did it humbly and with a smile. He had no sense of entitlement. His patrons may not always have needed a cup of coffee, but they bought one anyway. Not because they “felt sorry” for Bobby or pitied him in any way – but because they wanted to support his sense of pride as he provided a worthwhile service to the community.
I don’t know what ever happened to Bobby Snipes. Nor do I know what happened to the American exceptionalism that he personified. Bobby Snipes wouldn’t stand a chance today. Today we have Section 8 housing. Today, the government regulates anything that is consumed by mouth. Today, street vendors must have a license. Today, retail sales require sales tax to be submitted. And what about income tax, FICA, workers compensation insurance, and such? I’m sure that Bobby Snipes did not have the cognitive capacity to fill out the forms required to comply with those legal requirements. Today we have welfare, disability, food stamps, and a long list of well intended assistance programs that have permanently extinguished anything resembling the self reliant spirit that made Bobby Snipes a worthwhile and contributing member of society to the point you can’t even find it on Google.
That’s what I think. I’m interested in your thoughts. There’s lots of ways to hit me up so let me hear from you.
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