Give Me Your Huddled Masses, And Your Business

Where do you put your wallet in a toga? Even a national icon could use an extra buck or two these days.

With the tax deadline looming, the Statue of Liberty still holds vigil at my busy intersection.

Liberty waves to drivers and twirls a sign offering tax help while popping to whatever a national symbol listens to through ear buds. (Sousa samplings?)

On my corner, Liberty hopes to score W2s right under a gas station’s “2 for 2” sign – two cheeseburgers or two ham and Swiss sandwiches for two bucks. Cheap eats for tough times.

The Statue of Liberty is like those guys in front of Steve’s Tire and Auto on 46th and Nicollet. They try to drum up business from those of us who push our vehicles way beyond the three-month, 3,000-mile manufacturer’s recommendation just to save a few $29.95s a year.

Unlike the oil changers, Lady Liberty and fellow mascot of the recession, Little Caesar, suit up to draw in customers. In costume they declare, “WE ARE HERE! WE ARE HERE! WE ARE HERE! Come in while there are still pizzas to flip and taxes to file.”

The other day, I pulled into the gas station’s parking lot and noticed Liberty wasn’t on her usual corner pedestal, which was really just the curb. When I got inside I saw Liberty waiting in line to get cash at the ATM with the rest of the downtrodden masses.

I had some time to study Liberty up close. There was some other guy in front of him – or rather her – or rather him – in line. (Did I mention that Lady Liberty was really a man?)

He’s shorter than I imagined. Not even six feet tall. I could tell because one of those reflective rulers was on the doorframe next to the ATM. You know the thing that cashiers use to gauge the height of a perp. It’s not like Liberty was standing up against the ruler. I’m just estimating.

Even though his foam crown was cocked slightly to the right, it was nonetheless impressive.

The seafoam green toga was just a swath of faux velvet material jury rigged on his shoulder with a safety pin. Under it, he wore shiny, synthetic workout pants.

Instead of Grecian sandals, the toga draped over too-white court shoes with their laces splayed really far apart over the tongues. Like his patriotism couldn’t be contained by mere shoe leather.

First guy finished. Liberty stepped up to the ATM.

He slid in his card. Punched in his PIN.

Waited. Pushed the button for cash withdrawal, the button for checking.

Pressed eight. Zero. Zero. Zero.

80 bucks – impressive. I wondered how much he got paid. (Anywhere from 7 to 9 bucks an hour if you can believe online ads soliciting for Statues of Liberty.)

Then the screen flashed – This account has insufficient funds. Cannot complete transaction.

The ATM spit out his card. “Shit,” he said as he grabbed it and shoved it back in his wallet.

Guess the foreclosures, the bailouts and the bankruptcies have even taken down the New Colossus.

When I went back out to the parking lot, Lady Liberty had re-claimed his position at the busy intersection. Even though it was cloudy, Liberty was now wearing sunglasses. 

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