The Steep Price of a Cocktail

Just when your friendly bartender thinks he has seen and heard it all… every tort and retort that could possibly run through Bar-land… someone comes along to broaden that body of bullshit. Like this guy whom I’ll call Evan in the following story.

A week ago Friday, on a night I happened to take off, my replacement was handling my shift in yeoman fashion. He told me a nice crowd had filtered in, they all were getting along, and especially the aforementioned Evan when this woman walked by. This woman was young (Evan is not), she was beautiful (Evan is not) and she was on her way to the ladies room which clearly he wasn’t. But when she returned and passed by the bar again Evan had succeeded in getting her to come say “hello”. Evan is equipped with a thick Irish brogue and a job in which he sells men’s clothing, both of which have gifted the man with a line of charming Blarney from here to Galway. Or at least enough to buy some woman a drink.

“Marty, me Lad,” he shouted, to Marty my valiant replacement, “would you make this fine young woman a Cosmopolitan? And put it on my tab if you would, my good man.” He was beaming (I’m told) as he said this, for he’d gotten his foot in the door of Sales 101.

“Yes, Miss?” Marty questioned, nodding his head towards the woman, making sure she’d accepted Evan’s offer. “Would you like a Cosmopolitan on our friend Evan here?”

“Sure,” she said, “why not?” So Marty made the drink and the two of them toasted. But then, after a few more minutes had passed and Evan had managed to get through Step Two of Sales 101… The Presentation… this sweet young lady broke through the pitch and cut off Step number Three which of course is The Closing. And she had every right to.

“Well, thank you for the drink,” she said, “and it was very nice to have met you but I’ve got to get back to my friends who are down there waiting for me.” Then she pointed to the two guys and gal at the other end of the bar. And if one breaks down that gender ratio which Evan immediately did, it seemed that this woman was the fourth in what appeared to be two couples. And that’s when the bullshit hit the proverbial fan.

“Marty!” Evan barked, “get over here, Lad, will ya’? Did you know this  girl come in with some fookin’ guy?”

“No,” Marty replied, trying to diffuse what he could see now rumbling down the highway. “And I still don’t know that she did. I just know she’s here with three other people. Why?”

“Why? Fookin’ why yer’ askin’? The goddam girl played me for a fookin’ drink, that’s why. So take the drink off my tab and put it on theirs. Fook that!!!”

“Are you nuts? She didn’t play you, you played yourself. You ordered the drink, she drank the drink, it’s on your tab, it’s yours, case fucking closed!”

“Aww no, nothin’s fookin’ closed, Lad, unless you want me to close out me tab for good.”

“And what is that supposed to mean?”

“It means I’m never comin’ back, that’s what it means!”

All right, now this is what we call in Bar-land a situation. A real situation. Because Evan is a regular customer of ours, a good one for quite a few years, and an otherwise really nice guy until this moment. This was totally out of character for him and so why on this night of nights… on this one fookin’ night for whatever of fookin reasons… had it seemed that a stranger had shown up in Evan’s suit?

So what should one do, dear reader, or better put what would you do? And because this was an isolated incident… not the normal Evan fare… one might want to give slack and try to appease. But you know what?  Not me. Not in this silly case. Not when someone is this far out of line. So Marty, in true “replacement” fashion, thought like your friendly bartender… he closed out the tab and sent our man Evan on his way. And when I heard of Marty’s decision I immediately thought of the immortal words spoken by Marlon Brando in One-Eyed Jacks…. after he’d killed a persistent antagonist who’d flat-out asked for it… he said, “He gave me no selection.” Yes and since Evan gave no selection Marty did right.

I mean what did Quagmire expect out of this for the mere ten bucks of a Cosmo? Did he expect “this fine young woman” to spend the night? Was the next step after the drink to pick out a silver pattern? C’mon, man!

Yes Marty did the exact right thing by not bowing down to this nonsense, regular customer (otherwise good guy) or not. And when all is said and done, our fine little bar will do just fine without our man Evan’s business, but I’ll bet our man Evan won’t be fine without us. We’ve been too much a part his act for too many years. And, hey, if Evan ever does come back… if he places his tail between his legs and reduces his bark to a tiny Pekingese “yip”, we’ll welcome him back with semi-opened arms and hopefully he’ll be the wiser for his trip into folly. Everyone has a bad night and this was Evan’s.

There are no guarantees or givens, you guys, when you spring for the price of a cocktail, and no one owes you anything when you do so. Else it’s prostitution. Case closed, indeed!

PS: Before I sign off, dear reader, I’d like to take a moment here to say a couple of words about the great Budd Schulberg. He passed away this week at the age of ninety five. This legendary writer was a longtime customer of ours and his passing marks truly the end of an era. I didn’t know him well but thankfully I knew him. The first time I met him we spent an hour and a half after closing time talking about and dissecting his movie, On The Waterfront. I’ll never forget it. That night was magical. And to bring it back to the present (if I might) he’s also the subject of one of my posts, this one, if you care to go back and read it because it’s not only about Budd Schulberg but it’s the subject of one of the most amazing coincidences ever. At least to me.

Yeah, Mr. Schulberg was a great man who lived a truly amazing life… so God, this Budd’s for you.

Over and out from Bar-land… see ya’ next week-end!

33 Responses to “The Steep Price of a Cocktail”

  1. 1 Comrade PhysioProf August 8, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Everyone has a bad night and this was Evan’s.

    If this was really out of character for Evan, and a singular aberration, then wouldn’t it have been wiser for Marty to have just told Evan that the drink was on the house, and taken it off his tab? Of course, if Evan really was the type that thinks if he buys a woman a drink, it means she owes him something, then fuck him.

  2. 2 Anonymoustache August 8, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    Good for Marty for showing ol’ Ev the fookin door. Although, in his place I’d have probably made Evan this proposition—“Hey Ev, tell ya what. I’ll take off her drink and yours from the tab. Now according to your logic, you oughta blow me.”

    And too bad about Budd Schulberg dying. Man, though in the 95 years he lived he must have seen the world change like few did, huh? I gotta pick up some of his writings. Also, I need to rent On the Waterfront soon and watch it again.

    Great post, as always, Scrib50.

  3. 3 scribbler50 August 8, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    Prof: No, I disagree. He came at this filled with attitude as if the bartender was somehow complicit. And maybe that’s because my replacement was just that… a replacement… someone he thought he could bully in my absence. And hey, we didn’t bar him, this was his decision to bar himself. For us to have eaten that drink would’ve shown he was right. Let him learn from this.

  4. 4 scribbler50 August 8, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    Anonymoustache: Glad you agree, this whole thing was nuts from beginning to end.

    And DO check out the movie On The Waterfront again. It’s my all time favorite. And Google Budd’s life while you’re at it if you care to, it’s fascinating. Back in his screen writing days he actually shared a bungalow with F. Scott Fitzgerald. How’s that for starters?
    Thanks for checking in, Stache, as always.

  5. 5 jc August 9, 2009 at 8:15 am

    WOOOOO Scrib! Way to throw down some shoe-pukin’ for the tool.

    I hope you have something on the menu or on the wall in honor of Budd, a way for n00bs to tap stories and memories out of those who knew him. Sorry about the loss of your friend.

  6. 6 Stephanie Z August 9, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    Just one more story that shows why the bartender is often a woman’s best friend in the bar. Thanks, Scribbler.

  7. 7 scribbler50 August 9, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    JC: At present we don’t have anything on the wall in honor of Budd. We’ll have to rectify that. And I should add, JC, I didn’t have the privilege of being a “friend” of Budd’s (wish I had) I merely knew him from coming in and having some chats. Thanks for your comment.

    Stephanie Z: Hey, welcome back, long time no hear.
    And as to your comment… you’re quite welcome, it’s our pleasure!

  8. 8 Stephanie Z August 9, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Never gone away, Scribbler. I promise. Just not a lot of time to comment recently.

  9. 9 Donna B. August 9, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    Poor Evan was way out of line, and the replacement emulated the original well.

    I can say “poor Evan” because you are such a nice guy and great writer. By another pen, he’d have portrayed as a classic jerk, but you managed to describe a moment of complete jerkiness and leave the guy some humanity.


  10. 10 scribbler50 August 9, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    Donna B: Thank you, friend, and the “humanity” was accorded simply because he deserves it. This was a complete night out of nowhere for him as I said. I’ll be curious though to see if he really stays away. And hey… if he does, if he pouts his way into history, that might say more about the man than what he did that night.
    Ahhh, the dramas in Bar-land!

  11. 11 blue girl August 10, 2009 at 8:29 am

    lol @ what did Quagmire expect out of this

    I gotta say, though…I don’t think it was right for that woman to accept that drink since she was there with another guy. But! The guy may not have been *her* guy — which in that case — then it *was* ok.

    Accepting drinks has always felt like a very tricky thing to me.

    Anyway. Great post! You’ve given me a lot to think about! And I agree, your replacement did the right thing.

  12. 12 scribbler50 August 10, 2009 at 9:52 am

    blue girl: You’re right, if she was indeed with another guy she never should have accepted that drink, that’s just opening a can of worms. So the mere fact that she did accept tells me she probably wasn’t. The bartender didn’t know… to him it was just a party of four…. Evan made the assumption when this woman had “the nerve” to not stay put. Thanks for your input, BG, glad you stopped by.

    PS: Also glad you enjoyed the Quagmire reference!

  13. 13 Isis the Scientist August 10, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    If this was really out of character for Evan, and a singular aberration, then wouldn’t it have been wiser for Marty to have just told Evan that the drink was on the house, and taken it off his tab? Of course, if Evan really was the type that thinks if he buys a woman a drink, it means she owes him something, then fuck him.

    I say fuck him. Asshat.

  14. 14 d-a-p August 10, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    totally correct..”out the door”
    the evening with mr.schulberg must have been amazing…those experiences are simply meant to be….
    from an airport somewhere out west…

  15. 15 robe August 10, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    I disagree whole heartedly with how the bartender handled the “situation”. This guy Evan has been a kind , loyal regular for years and the first night his armor cracks you’re going to throw him to the lions. I bartended for many years and I would never treat a regular like that unless he was a constant asshole.This man is not an asshole at all from how you’ve decribed him.. He had a bad moment for Christ’s sake. It could be many things. Maybe recently he’s been feeling ignored. There”s a recession and ten bucks is ten bucks . He had a bad day. Whatever. With bartenders like you who needs enemies. And excuse me, but why is this young woman saying yes to a drink if she’s with another guy except to grab a free one . Boy, I hope you and Marty never get sold down the river in your regular hangouts. Simply based on a bad moment.

  16. 16 scribbler50 August 10, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    Relax and hold on to your hat there. Two things.

    First: Nobody threw him to the lions. He demanded the drink be taken off the tab or else. Well guess what? As far as I’m concerned you don’t demand something like that and so given his “or else” he threw himself to the lions. He sold himself “down the river”! Hey, we’ve all tried from time to time to buy a woman a drink (whatever the motivation) and sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t but you don’t turn on the house on those times that it doesn’t. Like we did something wrong. He acted like a jerk by making a big show of the problem and trying to make the bartender look bad. And believe me, it was his pride more than the dough that set him off. The man was not thrown out he was handed the appropriate tab and he stormed out!

    Second: It was never established this woman was with another guy, Evan surmised that, she was simply with three other people and he blew.

    I think in time he’ll realize he made a mistake, wander back in, and his “one bad moment” will be forgotten. In the meantime, thanks for your comment and I was going to say I’ll keep you posted but I doubt you’ll ever be back so… don’t let the door, etc.

  17. 17 robe August 10, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    In all due respect,you say he acted like a jerk. True, he acted out of line, but he did that ONCE. It would have never escalated to the point where Evan made his do or die exit if Marty would have said – Hey, relax my friend, we’ll take it off your tab and the drink will be on the house but next time you buy a drink for a woman make sure she’s old enough to remember Johnny Carson-bla,bla,bla,ha.ha,ha. The drink doesn’t kill the house, the guy gets the point and you keep a regular in the place and we’re all friends. A regular who is by your account a good guy…”regular customer of ours,a good one for quite a few years…this was totally out of character for him” . Okay, maybe the woman was with a group. Point taken.Still if this is not a habit of this Evan, you guys treated a regular badly. One mistake. Wow.That’s a harsh way to treat a good guy. By the way I like your blog and I’m writing this in a very calm mood . No need to tell me to hang on to my hat. You certainly don’t when you make a point. That’s what I like about you. I in my heart of hearts think you would have , in the moment handled it differently. If not, you’re wrong. Plain and simple. Hey, sometimes even the bartender is wrong.Hardly ever but sometimes it happens.

  18. 18 scribbler50 August 10, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    Okay, Robe, touche’. I’m not going to beat this to death. I don’t claim to be a seminar in diplomacy so perhaps better words could’ve been used but if you’ve ever done this stuff (tend bar I mean, which you claim you have), you know what it’s like when someone gets in your face. Everything changes. And again, this was his choice, he set the ultimatum… the either / or. Hey, things can always be handled better and I’ll agree this is no exception, but as far as taking the drink off the tab we’ll just have to ultimately agree to disagree. To my way of thinking this was his adventure and he should pay for it. He gets his share of free drinks just by being a regular. But I’ve seen over the years people pull stunts like this… blow up and storm out in some fit of pride… and when you kiss their ass to come back they do so like they’ve just become a partner in the place. Like they own you. It just sets a bad precedent and customers don’t set the rules.

    I do appreciate your thoughtful response though and sorry about that “hold onto your hat” line. You sounded steamed, that’s all.
    Later, man.

  19. 19 Katherine August 10, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    If there’s anything I’ve learned from reading stories about retail workers it’s that your replacement Marty did the right thing. Let him walk all over you once and he’ll do it without a thought the next time. If he’d been the type to really need the money, he shouldn’t have spent it at all.

    If he’d perhaps realised that he had been foolish at the start, not blamed Marty but got him on his side, I’ve no doubt that he would have been able to get his next drink or drinks discounted (I am well aware of what happens when you are good friends with the bartender). But he didn’t, he snapped and treated someone that should be a friend as a traitor and DEMANDED an undeserved refund. I’m afraid if even one of my good friends acted like that I wouldn’t be cutting them some slack. I’d be telling them that they can leave until they have calmed down.

    People shouldn’t DESERVE to be cut slack on regular common sense and politeness just because they entered into a commercial transaction with you. This is the attitude that seems to be fairly common in the US (according to my internet sources). Give the customer whatever they want, an undeserved refund, a discount just because they kicked up a fuss, an exchange on a 6-year-old pair of soiled underpants that they don’t have a receipt for and that they didn’t buy at your store. Don’t let anyone get away with it or soon they all will be, and how good will that be for your bottom line?

  20. 20 Katherine August 10, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    Addendum: diplomacy is for when they are pointing nukes at you. Did I mention I ❤ America? 😉

  21. 21 scribbler50 August 11, 2009 at 1:26 am

    Wow! That sure lays it out, Katherine, thanks for that. And hey, when all is said and done I hope the guy comes back, I really do, not because we need his business but because I don’t like bad feelings out there. Ours is a friendly place and this doesn’t fit the M.O. in any way. But as you said, if I may paraphrase, we can’t let the lunatics run the asylum!

    Thank you again for wading in, nukes and all!!!! And not to worry, I never doubted your love of America for a second. Cheers! (I’d wink back but I don’t have those little Smiley’s on my system.)

  22. 22 terrifiedtabetic August 11, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    “I’m leaving and never coming back”


    He’ll be back.

  23. 23 Isis the Scientist August 11, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    He’ll be back.

    The ones who say they’ll never come back always do.

  24. 24 Comrade PhysioProf August 11, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    You’re right, if she was indeed with another guy she never should have accepted that drink[.]

    That’s total fucking bullshit. Buying someone a drink isn’t a quid pro quo. When you offer to buy someone a drink, you’re taking your chances.

  25. 25 scribbler50 August 12, 2009 at 12:21 am

    Physioprof: C’mon, man, if a woman is with a guy she doesn’t accept a drink from someone else. Some stranger no less. Forget the guy who’s buying the drink (who, yes, is taking his chances) it’s disrespectful to her boyfriend for crying out loud. Think about it. Maybe I’m old school but that’s how I see it. She simply says, “Thank you, but I’m with someone.”

  26. 26 Katherine August 16, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    Scrib, if you put a ; and a ) next to each other it automatically turns into a wink. I think I remember someone telling you about : ) being 🙂 in an earlier post. Also : ( is :(. Hope that helps 🙂 And I’m glad what I said above helped as well.

  27. 27 scribbler50 August 16, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    Thanks again, Katherine. 🙂

  28. 28 scribbler50 August 16, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    Hey, it worked!!!!! Let me change that to thank you VERY much. 🙂

  29. 29 Jennifer August 16, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    Another wonderful post.

    And I’d agree, I don’t think the woman should have accepted the drink, but did Evan seriously think she owed him something if she did??

  30. 30 scribbler50 August 16, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    Jennifer: First of all, glad you enjoyed the post and thank you for the compliment. As to what Evan expected, who the hell knows? His whole gripe was that she accepted the drink under false pretenses. That she wasn’t “available” whether he expected anything or not. But again, I don’t think she was with anyone, just a trio that included two guys. Crazy!
    (And welcome back.)

  31. 31 Katherine August 26, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    Scrib, I’m surprised no-one mentioned how to make smileys before! :O Glad to help.

  32. 32 Pieter B September 3, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    Hey, Scrib — catching up after a few weeks snowed under. Excellent post; Marty played it as it should have been played. Speaking of “played,” when Evan said

    The goddam girl played me for a fookin’ drink, that’s why.

    he wasn’t saying she accepted a drink under false pretenses, he was accusing her of soliciting a drink under false pretenses — at least as I understand the meaning of “played.” And that, my friend, is way out of line, especially if Evan was speaking loudly enough for everyone to hear. He was demeaning both the young woman and Marty to all within earshot.

    My philosophy when I’m behind the stick is “I have what you want. Be nice to me.”

  33. 33 scribbler50 September 3, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    Peter B: Glad you see it my way… welcome back!

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