An older gentleman in a dark-gray mac sipped a cocktail served to him by a robotic-bartender. The robot was nothing more than a couple of mechanical arms connected to the ceiling above the bar; they were just long enough to reach all the various bottles, taps, and serving glassware. The robot’s head was a touch-screen attached to a third arm that currently displayed a smiling computer-generated face. However, the robot’s expression changed to a frown when it observed its customer’s reaction to the drink it had just served.
The old man slammed his glass down onto the bar top, ran his hand through his black and gray hair, and pounded his elbow on the bar rail. “You call this a perfect Manhattan?”
“Why yes sir. A perfect drink is what you ordered and a perfect drink is what was served,” the puzzled computer replied. “It was mixed with two ounces of rye whiskey, one ounce of sweet vermouth, two dashes of orange bitters, and a maraschino cherry.”
“Just what do you think I meant by perfect?” the man in the mac raised a knowing eyebrow.
“To make you our perfect Manhattan, I simply tightened my measurement error tolerances from 0.5% to 0.1%,” the virtual face on the screen seemed to boast, as the text of its answer also scrolled across the bottom of the screen for the hearing impaired.
The customer let out a belly laugh and it took him a few seconds to collect himself enough to respond. “Well, my friend, your programmers failed. A perfect Manhattan is made with a half-ounce of sweet vermouth and a half-ounce of dry-vermouth.” He slid the glass back towards the robo-tender’s screen and added, “Do you think you can make me a perfect perfect Manhattan then?”
The automaton slid the original drink back to the man and said, “Yes sir, I can make you that special drink. Go ahead and keep the first one with my apologies.”
The two mechanical appendages added ice to a metallic cocktail shaker and began blending a replacement drink while the man sipped the defective one with a grin.
A Latino man, sitting two seats down the bar, tapped his fingers on the bar rail like a drum and chuckled, “Well that’s a neat trick!” (ba dum tiss)
The old man shrugged his shoulders innocently, “Sir, I don’t know what you mean.”
“I mean that’s a slick way to get a free drink, I’ll have to try that sometime. How do you know so much about mixing drinks?”
“Twenty years ago, I used to be a bartender,” the old man confessed. “But believe me, it doesn’t always work. Their programming has gotten better and better over time. Hell, in the early days of robo-tenders, I could get away with a whole lot more.”
The Hispanic gentleman stood up and moved up the bar to plop himself down next to the old man. After he sat down on the barstool, he had to push himself back up to adjust his sequined black jean-jacket which he’d sat upon. “So, you used to be a bartender but you’ve been replaced. Welcome to the Sacked Society! We meet here every day at noon. My name is Andre Romero, I used to be a comedian, and look…here comes another member, Mister Lester Moore, former journalist more or less.”
A third man wearing glasses and toting a small laptop sat down at the bar as he was introduced. He put his computer on the bar and ordered his usual, “I’ll have a vodka martini with double olives…and please Andre, please don’t ply your former trade on me today, I’m not in the mood for puns.”
The comedian smiled, “Why don’t you order your drink perfect, Les? You might get a free one.”
“What are you talking about?” asked Lester.
The robo-tender handed the man in the mac his second drink as he began mixing the martini for Lester, while the old man answered on Andre’s behalf, “Forget about it. It wouldn’t work now; there’s no question that the A.I. has learned the term perfect, so you’ll have to try something else. As for introductions, my name is Jack Dunn, former bartender.” He set down one of his two drinks and held out his hand in greeting.
The three men shook hands, and Jack commented, “So, Mister Moore, I wouldn’t have thought a reporter’s job would be obsolete…for that matter, neither would I have guessed that comedians have been displaced, Mister Romero.”
The journalist powered up his laptop and began typing as he answered, “Well, I guess that’s a common misconception. Sure, there are people’s names on stories that you see online and on the telly, but none of them actually did any of the research or wrote any of the headlines. It’s been that way for at least thirty years…you see, the stories are just pretty much fed to us by the Global News Corp, and journalists lost their ability to even question the stories. At this point they’re just glorified editors. I worked like that for a while, but I gave it up around fifteen years ago.”
Jack finished his first, non-perfect, Manhattan and asked, “What is it you’re writing then?”
Lester looked up and pushed his glasses up on his nose, “It’s one of my own personal fiction stories, although I’m quite sure I’ll never be allowed to publish any of them.” He accepted his martini from the robo-tender and returned to his story.
Andre grinned at the old bartender, “He gets preoccupied easy. As for me, comedians went the way of the dodo shortly after bartenders. You must understand, Mister Dunn, our dictatorial state has put so many restrictions on what is politically correct and what is inappropriate…or better yet, should I say, what is funny and what is not…that real comedians, like myself, have all but given up performing. Sure you can find some fools out there sucking up to the state, but how funny is that? I mean honestly, there used to be really great stand-up comedians like George Carlin and Richard Pryor; they were pure gold…well they used to be anyway…I guess now they’re just buried gold.”
The old bartender shook his head, “Never heard of ‘em.”
Lester looked up from his computer, “I guess they’re even more buried than you think. The other job of those editors I despise is going back and modifying or completely erasing old media that doesn’t conform to modern day norms.”
Jack Dunn tried to change the subject, “So you say you’re members of the Society of the Sacked?”
“Sacked Society,” both Lester and Andre corrected him in unison.
Jack continued, “Okay, Sacked Society. So how many other members do you have? Is that guy at the end of the bar a member?” The old man pointed to an even older gentleman hunched over a drink with his head in his hands. Three empty mugs were nearby.
The Sacked Society looked to where the former bartender pointed, and Andre answered, “No sir, that guy has been crying in his beer for over an hour. He wouldn’t tell me his story, but I’ll wager he could very well meet the requirements for the Sacked Society.”
Lester looked around the bar, “Over half the people here could be potential club members.”
After that statement, the three of them spun their barstools toward the bar in harmony and quietly finished their drinks. Les polished off his martini and tried to order a perfect one, but as Jack warned, it didn’t work, and as it turned out, Lester didn’t really love the sweet vermouth anyway. Andre ordered a second margarita with extra salt, and Jack quaffed his second Manhattan and ordered a third.
Since they’d stopped their conversation, it was now abundantly clear that the stranger at the end of the bar was noticeably sobbing. After the robot served up their drink order, Jack picked up his glass and headed down the bar to find out what was the matter; it was obviously one of his old habits as a former bartender.
“Is there something you need help with, sir?” Jack offered.
The older man slouched and covered his head with both hands. Jack shrugged his shoulders and was about to return to his seat when the man volunteered, “I’ve listened to everything you gentlemen have been saying…and it’s made me even more depressed than when I first walked in here. Yes, I have been sacked, but it’s worse than that.”
“How can it be any worse than our own situations? Everybody’s jobs are being replaced by systems and machines!” Jack sneered as he watched the robo-tender doing his job…Jack’s job!
The man anxiously looked up at Jack and explained with beer on his breath, “It’s far worse; I never would’ve thought my job would be deemed unnecessary. Never!” He picked up his mug and guzzled what remained of his ale.
“What was your job, man? What occupation do you think is so essential?” Jack took a confident swig of his perfect Manhattan.
The frazzled man looked straight into Jack’s eyes and answered, “I was a politician.” Then he hung his head and wept.
Jack stumbled back to his seat next to Andre and parked himself at the bar. “Did you hear that, Mister Romero? They finally did it…no more politicians…now there’ll be no checks at all against the tyranny of the state. Can you come up with a joke for that, mister comedian?”
Andre sadly shook his head, “I’m afraid not…at least not one that would make anybody laugh.”
The Sacked Society remained silent for a long time, but eventually, Lester Moore, the former journalist, came up with something to say. “I just remembered an amusing quote for this occasion…of course you’ll not find it in any of the history books because our governmental overseers no doubt have long since whitewashed it. You don’t mind if I share it, do you Andre?”
“Why would I mind?” asked the comedian.
“Well, I wouldn’t want to be stealing your job again,” the journalist replied.
“No, Les, we’re all equal in the Sacked Society…go ahead.”
“Okay, well, there once was a politician name John Adams who made this astute observation. He said, ‘In my many years, I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress.’”
The former politician at the end of the bar began loudly bawling while the former bartender, the former journalist, and the former comedian could only howl with laughter at the end of society as they knew it.