I’m not really sure why the hell this happened (or why the heaven this happened which better describes it), but something quite strange was afoot as sure as I’m typing this. And not in some church, mosque, or synagogue where God seems to be in charge of the “good and mysterious”, but right in the middle of Bar-land where revelry reigns. Was it coincidence? Synchronicity? Cause and Effect bringing instant karma to bear? You be the judge…
Now the first thing that wasn’t a part of the norm as far as this incident is concerned, is the fact that it happened on a Saturday when I don’t normally work. (That’s the first thing that tells me… “meant to be”.) I was filling in for a colleague that night, and grudgingly so, I admit, for it not only screwed up my week-end plans but it put me in charge of a whole new cast of “characters”. A lot of tourists, different regulars, and people just walking by who liked the look of the place. And don’t get me wrong, I enjoy these people, it’s just that I’d rather act in the play I know.
So somewhere around eight thirty, in addition to the people I just described, in walked a woman I knew and hadn’t seen in years. She was a lovely person, generous to a fault, and someone with whom I hadn’t been generous in return. And now I had egg on my face. See, this woman had done me a favor once… a clerical thing involving research and typing… and at the time of the work she waived her hundred dollar fee. “I’m happy to help,” she’d said at the time, “whenever you’re back in the bucks you can do what you can. But not now!” Well needless to say I wasn’t in the bucks (and I won’t go into just why), so I gladly accepted her offer and let things ride. But then ride they did til this night when she walked in the bar. And I felt like hell.
She didn’t know I was working that night (or even working in this bar) so her shock at seeing me was just as stunning. I could see it in her expression… brown eyes widened like saucers, eyebrows arched high above them, and a mouth that formed just one big circle of “What?”
So when she broke from her girlfriends (who were taking a table) to approach me and say hello, riddled with guilt that I was, my tongue became lodged somewhere down in my voice box. “B-b-b… by the way,” I started to say after hugging her, “remember that hundred…”
She stopped me in my tracks. “Don’t,” she said with force, “that’s ancient history. I said at the time, ‘my pleasure‘, and so it was. So forget about it!” Then after we exchanged some catch-up pleasantries she left to rejoin her friends, while I rejoined some tourists who needed some directions.
But this bothered me. So I reached into my pocket, pulled out all of my paper, and counted a total of just over one hundred dollars. It was a hundred and three to be exact, but then my Libra brain started doing that damn back and forth thing. Think Scottish Laird versus St. Francis of Assisi…
Laird: She said it was a wee favor, no? So accept it, Laddie!
Frank: ‘Tis better to give than receive…
Laird: Well then give her fifty for now and the rest later. You don’t want to stand there with three measly pounds in your kilt!
Frank: Cast your bread upon the waters…
Well you get the picture. And I’m ashamed of myself that any kind of argument took place. So I walked over to her table, introduced myself to her friends, and as subtly as I could when I made my exit I leaned in and kissed my friend and palmed off the hundred. And when this woman looked up with her million dollar smile, accepting this gesture in quietude, I felt like a million bucks for doing the right thing. Take that, Laird!
Okay, now cut to a half hour later when a friend comes in with a date and a Catholic priest of all things. (The plot, she thickens!) This priest was their friend from a parish up north and a first time visitor to our bar as far as I knew. So after pouring the drinks for my friend and his date… Absolut rocks for him and a chardonnay for her… the priest with no deliberation ordered a red wine. I couldn’t resist. “You know this isn’t blessed, Father.” I said as I poured his Cab.
“Don’t worry,” he said with aplomb, “I can do that.” Then all three laughed and clinked their glasses in toast.
So about an hour later after lots of good cheer the priest politely excused himself from the proceedings. “I’ve got an early mass in the morning,” he said, “so I best say goodnight for now and be on my way.” Then he shook the hand of his friend, kissed the cheek of the girlfriend of his friend, then made it a point to come over and shake my hand too. But he did something else you wouldn’t expect from a priest. He palmed off a bill.
Now laity of course will do such a thing when they’re guests and not allowed to pay… slip you a five or a ten to show their appreciation… but a priest? Not likely. And a priest you don’t even know? Perhaps never! But I thanked this guy with a wink and a nod and without looking down at the number I pocketed the bill. But a few minutes later I couldn’t resist and since the priest was now long gone I decided to look.
Well, you guessed it, dear reader, if you saw where this was going, for the money he’d place in my hand was a hundred dollar bill. The exact amount of bread I’d “cast upon the waters”. WHAT. ARE. THE. ODDS? And for this to come from a priest? There are no odds!
But here’s where I wanted to cue the theme from The Twilight Zone. The priest hadn’t left the building at all, he’d stopped in the men’s room first, and now here he was standing in the doorway staring at me. For some kind of acknowledgment, but what? Acknowledgment now that I knew the amount he had given me? Or (which of course seems impossible) acknowledgment now that he knew of the hundred dollar switch? And while it’s easy to say, “that just couldn’t be,” you wouldn’t know it by the look and the thumbs up he gave me. It was a knowing look that said, “See what can happen?” Then he walked out the door never to be seen again. And I still can’t believe it.
So what’s the lesson to be learned by your friendly bartender? It’s this. The universe works in very strange ways so be open to any and all that come your way. Because you just never know.
And never listen to stingy old Laird, it’s Frankie Baby for sure when it comes to the money!
Over and out from Bar-land, see ya’ next week-end.
PS: Got a terrific surprise from (this) tonight. Thank you, James the Great!