Who Needs Words?

Your friendly bartender has often found it humorous, if not enlightening, how different customers decide to call for their checks. For it’s often either high pantomime or low revelation. (The latter being the guy who reveals bad manners.) “Bartender, give me my check,” he’ll shout, regardless of what you’re doing, as if his helicopter just landed on the roof. And when you finally do hurry over with his check, having run his card through the machine… hurrying lest America be deprived of his presence… this hump won’t sign his bill for another ten minutes. He’ll talk and talk while still holding court, or worse, he’ll order another, which you’d rather pour down his pants than into his glass.

But let’s not talk about guys like that, there’s too much fun to be had, the fun of reading the gestures of Barland pantomimists…

#1: Jack the Ripper. This is the guy who waves his hand like the smartest kid in class, who when finally noticed by me in this case makes a slashing gesture neatly across his throat. “I’m cutting myself off,” he’s saying, his pantomime leaving no doubt he’s killing his evening.

#2: Miss Palmer (method). Here we have the professor type, that person who looks for all the world like she’s writing her words on a chalkboard, when in truth she’s writing her message on a slate of thin air. She’ll form her hand as if holding chalk, scrawl her invisible words, which to me clearly read in bold print, “Write up my check!” So I write up her check. And I like this sensible classroom approach, it’s clean and right to the point, unless the following happens which sometimes does. I’ll notice her doing her pantomime, I’ll tally and write up her tab, only to find that she wants to borrow a pen… to write down a song request. So I gladly oblige and hand her a pen (ever the good “student”), especially if she is as sweet as I am “dyslexic”.

#3: Billy the Bookie. This type you have to see to believe because once he has your attention, he’ll look back over each shoulder, turn up a palm creating a pad, then jot with the other hand his cryptic message. And not for nothin’… I’ve actually seen these guys wet a finger on the hand that’s doing the jotting, just like the bookmaker does when wetting a pencil point. But the good part is… “odds are” during the “payout” he’ll leave a big tip. It’s the wise guy way.

#4: Third Base Coach. First he waves both hands in the air then shakes his head “no”, then gives me enough additional signs that I feel like I’m up at the plate with a 3 and 0 count. But this guy’s usually ridiculously drunk or simply new at the game, so with him I take no chances at reading his signals. Meaning, rather than swing on a “3 and 0 count” I go down and ask him just what the fuck he is saying. “Uh, let me just have my check,” he’ll reply, which I do and then send him “home”, as if I’m now the third base coach and he’s rounding third.

#5: The Umpire. Staying with the national pastime theme, this guy should wear a blue suit and maybe a mask. Why? Because all the signals he sends me are straight from home plate. First he’ll enact the “safe” sign move, running both hands over his drink, then gesture a quick “‘yer out!” with his right hand. As if saying, “I’m outta’ here!” Try those gestures yourself, dear reader… do “safe” and then “yer’ out”… and you’ll see first hand how he’s sending himself to the showers.

And those are just a few of the mimes who mine the art of gesture, instead of just saying, “Bartender, I’ll have my check.” But if any of you have a type you know, a type you’ve observed in a bar, please feel free to add to the list up above. After all, your friendly bartender hasn’t all the answers or as Regis Philbin once wrote, “I’m only one man!” :)

See you next week-end.

18 Responses to “Who Needs Words?”


  1. 1 Comrade PhysioProf October 8, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    Give me my fucken tab, because I’m about to fucken pass out.

  2. 2 scribbler50 October 9, 2011 at 12:05 am

    Comrade: Now that makes sense!

  3. 3 jc October 9, 2011 at 1:06 am

    LOL You’re on fire! That vacay got the funny juices flowin.

    Another one for you: the BevNap waver.
    They wave around the white napkin like a little hanky as if they were about to depart on a voyage to the Caribbean seas. Could also be signaling Defeat. Either or, they are done for.

    As a waitress, I used to get the Menu Flagger. The same motions tell the cars to rev their engines at Nascar. They hold it high, then drop it when they see you about to run their asses over.

  4. 4 scribbler50 October 9, 2011 at 8:46 am

    jc: And you’ve got the juices flowin’ too. I especially like the bev nap waver, a clear sign of surrender the way I see it.

    It’s good to have you back, jc, you add that certain… “when they see you’re about to run their asses over!”

  5. 5 ken October 9, 2011 at 9:57 am

    Unless I need to book out, I wait until the bartender asks me if I want another. Then I say no, I’m done, I’ll have my check please. My favorite place usually sets the running tabs rolled up in shot glasses beside the bar patrons. Makes the exit process very easy–just toss the money on the bar and leave.

  6. 6 Autistic Lurker October 9, 2011 at 10:56 am

    At my favorite bar, they are quick to ask if I want a refill (i.e. when there’a quarter inch of beer remaining in my glass) so when I’m done, I just have to ask for my tab but sometime, I go to the counter.

    A.L.

  7. 7 Pieter B October 9, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Hey, scrib, good to see your comment over on Sid’s blog. Sorry I haven’t been in lately, life’s gotten a bit chaotic.

    I usually pay cash, but if I’m running a tab and it’s a loud, busy night, when I want to close out, if the bartender looks my way I’ll make eye contact and wiggle my right pointer finger at my extended left palm. No bookie drama, just a quick pantomime of writing. Where does that put me?

  8. 8 scribbler50 October 9, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    ken: An exchange of words with your bartender is of course the best way, as is the rolled up tab in the glass like your favorite place does. I was just having some fun here with the silent ways some people like to “mime” out. Their displays of creativity.
    Thanks.

    Lurker: Same thing… asking for your tab is always the best, or at least the most sure fire as far as nothing being left to interpretation.
    Cheers!

    Pieter B: A wiggling finger and a palm pad, eh? That puts you in the “scribbler” category (no relation!). But seriously, that’s probably the most common and easiest to understand.
    Thanks, man.

  9. 9 Anonymoustache October 10, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    Loved the post, man….the category names are super….’third base coach’, in particular, had me rolling!

  10. 10 scribbler50 October 10, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    Anonymoustache: Thanks, man, meanwhile… nice Steeler recovery, eh?

  11. 11 The Tideliar (@Tideliar) October 11, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    Oh dear.. I’m a Jack the Ripper… is that bad? I’m English…does that help? :(

  12. 12 physiobabe October 11, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    You just keep getting better, Scrib. Loooooooove the ‘Third Base Coach’!!

    Fino alla volta prossima

  13. 13 scribbler50 October 11, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    Tideliar: None of these are bad, they’re just observations, so turn that frown upside down into a smile. But thanks for coming clean, “Jack”! :)

    physiobabe: Thanks, “Babe”, I’m tryin’. And since I just looked up your closing I’ll say it back in English… “until next time.”

  14. 14 Chris October 11, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    Great posts recently Scrib, been so busy I haven’t had the time to reply. Just bought a house so its craziness, hope all is well buddy and keep the good stuff coming as always I check every Saturday.

  15. 15 scribbler50 October 12, 2011 at 12:35 am

    Chris: Thanks, man, congratulations and good luck with the new house.

  16. 16 Chris October 13, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    Thank you sir, the house is 102 years old so I have lots of work ahead of me.

  17. 17 Donna B. October 17, 2011 at 12:02 am

    This reminded me again of a bartender I ran into a few months ago — I mentally tagged him as the anti-Scribbler because he was sort of obnoxious from the get go.

    Granted… one of my friends wanted a frou-frou martini…

    After our drinks were served, he broke a glass slamming it into a metal shaker… for what reason I’m not sure… maybe you can explain? Anyway, I had taken one sip of my gin and tonic before he did this standing in front of me. I spent the next 20 minutes trying to get his attention to show him the slivers of glass on the bar in front of me and explain that I was worried there might be some in my drink also.

    I finally got his attention when my 3 friends left the bar for our table and I frantically waved a credit card around while yelling “Yoo Hoo!!” You must understand that it was no mean feat for me to get rid of these friends as one of them was my son-in-law and he was determined to pay for the drinks. The only way I got rid of him was by agreeing to wave his credit card.

    (Doesn’t that tell you something about what a wonderful mother-in-law I am that he would surrender his credit card to me without much questioning? What??? It doesn’t? ohnevermind)

    My original intention had been to discretely notify him of the glass slivers. By the time I finally got his attention, I really wanted to loudly proclaim said slivers resided in my drink and that I was going to die. But I didn’t. I was discrete.

    To his credit, he not only gave me another drink, but sent a round on the house to our table, remembering my friends’ drink orders. I told him as we left the restaurant that he should “google” scribbler 50.

    I think it is ultimately a good thing that I now compare bartenders as measuring up… or not… to you, my friend. Fortunately, most are much closer to the standard you set than this poor guy was.

  18. 18 scribbler50 October 17, 2011 at 7:49 am

    Donna B: Well at least he bailed himself out somewhat by sending over those drinks to atone for his behavior, but he sure as hell started out like an a–hole. Maybe you just caught him on a bad night, or a bad moment… the embarrassment of breaking a glass right in front of you.

    And unless a guy is extremely busy I’ve never gotten this business out there of making somewhat wait apparently on purpose. Like he’s sending you a message. Now I have done that myself on occasion to a jerk-off who screams my way when I’m in the middle of something, like the world is supposed to stop because he wants something, but only then.

    And as far as why he banged the glass, unless he was trying to separate a tumbler from the metal glass attached after shaking a martini, I have no idea. I’d need more information. See those receptacles do stick together sometimes and a gentle tap on the bar usually separates them. But if he “banged” instead of “tapped” because he was pissed about making a foo foo cocktail, then it serves him right.

    Thanks, Donna, I hope the meal made up for the experience at the bar.

    PS: I wouldn’t be so quick, my friend, to set me up as someone to be compared to… you only know me in print and not in person. I’m by far not the gold standard, be-LIEVE me! But thanks anyway. :)


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