Receiving disability was another gold ticket ambition of many of the men in my neighborhood. Years ago, my father had lucked into this fortune by hurting his back while working and had been able to parlay that into a ceaseless flow of disability checks. The men craved disability.
I heard one old-timer refer to this as Riding the Disability Rails. Being of out of work meant living life on their own terms. It meant a free pass from the realities of jobs that, at best, they tolerated, and at worst, despised. They no longer had to slave away at grunt jobs for money. They could go to O.T.B. or go to Aqueduct or Belmont and gamble, watch sports—at home, at a bar, take in a live game—loiter in front of bodegas or on streetcorners and breeze away the hours with small-talk. It seemed like a good life to me and I was happy for them when they were excused from reality.
These were blue-collar men who didn’t want to bust their asses day in and day out to make ends meet, but they did it because they had to, because that was life and sometimes you lucked into a disability claim or a lawsuit and reality went away for a while, but sometimes that didn’t happen and it remained a hope-fluttering flag on a distant ship that may or may not come.