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The 'state of York Co.' means hard work for real people - if you can get it

On Main Street in downtown Rock Hill Wednesday morning, the movers and shakers and politicians who spend your tax money and make so many decisions about your life talked about the state of York County.

The business community's lobbying arm was the sponsor. Anybody could look in the big plate glass window of the downtown City Club at 7:30 a.m. and see suits and ties eating a breakfast that cost $18 a plate. There were smiles all around.

A BMW roadster was parked across the street, with a Lexus and a Mercedes nearby.

The subject was all that has been done in the past year, by politicians working on such important projects vital to the quality of life for real people as who sits on a museum board.

Just down Main Street there was breakfast Wednesday morning, too, at Red's Grill, as there has been each day since 1948.

Parked outside: four pickups, an Oldsmobile, an old Chevy, a Pontiac with rusty fenders and two other cars so old you could barely tell they were Toyotas.

Every person in the place pays the taxes that pay for museums, the Pennies for Progress road improvements that politicians love to brag about, whatever.

Breakfast at Red's - for two or three, maybe four if they eat just a sandwich and coffee - might cost $18, including tip.

"If I was invited, which I was not, I would have asked how eggs cost $18," said Mike Truesdale, 56, who has worked as an auto mechanic for 40 years.

As Truesdale has seven kids and 13 grandchildren, he will not stop working as a mechanic, likely, until cars become extinct, like dinosaurs. Truesdale sat at a big table - two tables together, really - with a bunch of guys, including two Vietnam combat veterans, one nicknamed "Mutt."

The table was asked if any had property taxes go up in the past year in York County, after revaluation. Every hand went up.

All were asked if their incomes went up. Hands dropped like the stock market.

Truesdale knows the economy and the state of York County without any politician or bureaucrat or business leader complaining about Obama's taxes telling him.

People's cars break down, they have no money to pay for repairs, and Truesdale says to the person, "I gotta eat, too."

"The state of York County is hard work - if you can find it," Truesdale said. "How can they know what it is really like if they are downtown having breakfast, talking to each other?

"I like President Obama's health care plan. I will tell you why. Because people need it. I'm willing to pay for it. I bet every person opposed to it has some nice cozy health insurance already."

Yes, even politicians acknowledge an unemployment rate of about 13 percent. For blacks, unemployment is double that, at least, by anybody's measure. Anybody out of work, without health care, is "in a state."

Waitress Whitney Sturgis, 25, was working the second of a double shift Wednesday morning. The single mother is putting herself through dental hygienist school after a four-year stretch in the Army. She is working as a waitress until she can find a job in her field.

Sturgis patted a plastic jar that for a waitress is more important than the Holy Grail. More important than a tax coffer filled with millions to a politician who wants another museum, or to fix up an old building, or any other public project that spends tax money of people just like her.

The tip jar.

"If it wasn't for tips in this jar, my daughter would have no Christmas," Sturgis said. "The state of York County? Work."

Sturgis and the other waitresses and workers hustled around the busy Red's. Every day is a State of York County at Red's because, as Deanie Arnold, the cook, said as she cracked eggs, "People are always in a state around here."

At the counter sat Steve Bell, 63, four decades installing carpet. He ate eggs that cost a lot less than $18. Which is good, because the $20 he had has to last for days.

"Everybody I know is behind on everything," Bell said. "I took a part-time job to go with my job. I didn't get an invite to any state of York County eggs, but they don't want to hear from people like me.

"They want pats on the back, people telling them and each other how great they are."

Red's at the breakfast rush has the niceties of a mine collapse. Orders are yelled in, Brian Steward at the counter hustles to cut sandwiches and butter toast and ladle on grits, Arnold cooks with both hands flying, and the waitresses rush around like figure skaters.

In a corner booth sat Barbara Funderburke, who has a job selling computer software to trucking companies.

"And I sure am happy to have it," Funderburke said. "My sister works. My mother, she's 73, she still works. A widow, my daddy died. She works as a waitress at the Shoney's. She can't afford not to work. 73 and on her feet for tips.

"The state of York County? We have bills, that's the state we are in."

Into Red's between 7:30 and 9:30 a.m., the time of the downtown breakfast, walked retirees, a chiropractor, mechanics and body men, a wrecker driver, Bell the carpet man and so many others.

Down two seats from Bell sat a guy nicknamed "Sarge." Sarge is 83 years old, Special Forces in a 30-year career in the Army.

"Politicians only listen with the ear that tells them what they do is good," said Sarge. "The other ear is tone-deaf."

The men and women worked those tables and counters at Red's Wednesday as the big shots ate and discussed how great they are less than a mile away. Of the dozens of customers, every single working man and woman tipped.

It is money offered for a service, not tax money by coercion of penalty or jail, to be spent on such things as a $32 million garage for Rock Hill city trucks. Tips pay for kids to eat.

"I am thankful for today's state in York County," said Sturgis. "Because if there wasn't any tips, I would be in a state."