The Deadhead Shrug

“Ticket?” The conductor held out his hand.

The Deadhead moved the thin plastic bag to his other hand and absently dug into a pocket. “I had it, man.”

“I need your ticket.”

“Yeah.” The Deadhead’s scruffy beard and dirty jacket and pants stood out in rumpled contrast to the commuters on their way home to Connecticut. “I had it.”

“You’ll have to get off at the next stop.”

“I can’t do that, man.”

The conductor was perhaps reflecting on how such cases are handled in Scotland. “Ticket is $14.”

The Deadhead offered a crumpled dollar bill. “I have this, man.”

The conductor glared back. “Next stop.”

“Listen, man, I…” He held out his hands and raised his shoulders in a pathetic, slow motion shrug.

The conductor continued on through the car. “Tickets, please.”

The Deadhead stayed where he was, half hiding between cars, slumped in the corner, hoping the conductor wouldn’t come back. And he didn’t.

The Deadhead got off at his stop, Port Chester where there was a Phil Lesh concert, and adjusted his pants and CVS bag on the platform.

It struck me, as I walked past, how I’d seen this same character many times before, so often at Grateful Dead concerts, everything sweet and cool as long as they got what they wanted: free rides, food and tickets.

The issue was significant enough for Jerry Garcia to write Day Job, in which he preached to his followers: If you ask me, which I know you don’t/ I’d tell you to do what I know you won’t/ Keep your day job until your night job pays.jerry-garciaThe Deadheads never liked that song much, giving it that tell-tale Deadhead Shrug, ironically enough, the same shrug offered by The Dead’s management and promoter David Shapiro when only 10% of the people got tickets through the mail order while Ticketmaster, Stubhub, etc feasted on profits. “Sorry, man, hope to see you there.”

Oh well, there’s always the music.Lesh&Friends

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