You try to ignore the question, but the guy’s right in your face. The place is one of those large restrooms that hold 20, maybe 25 easily. You’re just the plumber, sent here to do a plumber’s job. He gives you a heartbeat to answer, then…

“I asked you a question,” he says, a little agitated from your lack of response. “There’s this fellow down the hall,” he sputters. “He took my last five dollars in a crap game. I’m telling you, the s.o.b. doesn’t deserve to live.”

You try to change the subject as you run a plumbing snake down the drain in the sink. You tell him about the new concerts you heard about on “Static-X and The Living End are coming to town,” you say, but he’s not listening. Instead, he’s slumped in a corner of the room. “I used to be someone,” he mutters mindlessly. I used to have class, a bitchin’ SUV, tickets to John Leguizamo. Yeah, I had it all.”

Back to the job. You’re replacing the washers in the faucets when another man walks in. “Say, Bud,” he says as he pulls out a deck of cards. “Looking for some action?”

“He places three cards on the countertop, two jacks and a queen. “Easiest game in the world,” he says as he turns the cards over and starts moving them around the table. “Pick out the lady and win. How much ya wanna bet?”

“Sorry,” you say as you back away from the man. You tell him you never gamble with strangers. Then you try to change the subject. You talk about the new tours, like Tom Rush and that Lynyrd Skynyrd / Deep Purple co-headline. Finally, the guy picks up his cards and heads out the door looking for new marks.

There are a couple of toilets to unclog before you’re out of here. Then it’s off to the ticket outlet for Guided By Voices, Echo & The Bunnymen and George Thorogood & The Destroyers before you go home to your family. Ah, yes… Family. Wife, kids, stereo pumping out Nashville Pussy. Your thoughts are interrupted as another man bursts in to the restroom. “Say,” he says as he sizes you up. “Can you help a fellow American who’s down on his luck?”

You toss him the loose change in your pocket, but he misses and the coins fall to the floor. Suddenly the restroom is filled with people, each one stepping over the other in hopes of snatching the scattered coins. To you it’s just the change from this morning’s purchase of Michelle Shocked tickets. To them, it’s pennies from heaven.

You hum a Toadies song as you pack up your tools. You tell yourself that you don’t need the work, that there are other jobs for a good plumber like yourself. You don’t need these situations.

And as you walk out the door, you promise yourself that you’ll never take another plumbing job from a California power company again. Ever.