From the regrets department.
This was over a year ago but I’ll still stop and do a double-take, a quick 180 in stride, whenever I see who I think is this person in question. That’s how burned in my brain is this person’s appearance. About thirty eight years old. Five foot nine. Thin build. Thick horn-rimmed glasses. Crooked smile. Greasy, dark brown hair tussled in the current calculated chaos. A sorry, on-purpose, five o’clock shadow so sparse the damn thing froze at twenty to three. In short, a young Gen-Xer clad in Gap crap.
And though points should’ve been awarded this guy for his elaborateness and sheer cunning, not to mention an Obie or Tony for his fine performance, it sure doesn’t mean your friendly bartender wouldn”t want to add a shiner to this list of accolade. Or a fat lip. Or (if only I hadn’t sold those fringed tights, you know, the red ones with the gold piping) a slam to the mat with a full on triple-suplex!!! And here’s why…
I had just come on duty that night and the day man was giving me the usual change of shift run-down… matching the faces with the tabs that were still ongoing… and the very last person he got to was the aforementioned Moby Dick to my Captain Ahab. Mr. Gen-Xer. “By the way,” said my partner, “say hello to Neil here, it’s his first time in the joint. Nice fellow. He’s got a burger coming and there’s his Amex card over by his tab.” So I shook the Neil’s hand. “Any questions before I leave?” added my partner.
“None that I can think of,” I said, “thanks, man, have yourself a good night.”
“You do the same,” he said, “I am outta’ here!” And off he went. I then went along the bar to see if anything else needed tending, and since it didn’t I returned for a chat with new guy Neil. To make him feel welcome.
“So, first time here,” I said, “how did you find us?”
“Simple,” he said. “I was just walking by and looked in the window. That’s all. It looked like my kind of place so I walked right in. You know, the real deal kind of place.”
“Well, we’re definitely the real deal,” I said, “we’ve been here since the 1920’s as a speakeasy.”
“You’re kidding! Wow, how cool is that?”
He seemed to be genuinely impressed by that and I did have some time at that moment, so I decided to give him a brief history of our establishment. A quick crash course. Which is something I usually do by the way, again when I have the time, for it’s not only something I enjoy doing as the history really is amazing, but it happens to be an ideal way to welcome someone. The aim is to try to be nice at first if I have the time to engage, then how it goes after that is up to the customer. And I’m not just talking tips but the pain-in-the-ass factor. Then I can be just as un-nice as I can be nice! But this guy seemed okay so I gave him the spiel.
“Would you like another vodka, my friend?” I asked when his burger arrived and after my spiel.
“Oh definitely, man, definitely, I love this place. Hit me again.” So I mixed him another drink while young Moby got on his cell phone and called up a friend. Eating as he did so! “Yo, Jay, yeah, it’s me, Neil. Hey, man, you should see this bar that I just found. It’s fucking awesome! It’s like this real cool, old time speakeasy with all kinds pictures of sports and stuff on the walls. Huh? Yeah. It’s in midtown and it’s called (our bar on such and such street). Hell yeah, I can wait. But finish up what you’re doing and get your ass over here. You’ll fuckin’ love it. Later, man!”
(As I said, and as you shall see, a Tony worthy performance!)
So I go about my business now taking care of the rest of the bar, while Moby anxiously awaits the arrival of his friend. And demolishes his burger. Then, after he’s finished with said burger and after I’ve bused the bar of it’s plate and loose fries, I figure I’ll do something nice for this first time patron. I’ll buy him a drink.
“How about we give you one on the house as a welcome drink there, Neil?”
“You’re kidding, Sir, really?’
“Why not?” And why not indeed. This will have been his fourth drink anyway plus he had a friend on the way to spend more… a friend who knew more friends and on it goes. It’s a good investment.
“Hey, man, if you’re buyin’, then pour away. Thanks a lot!” he said. And I did.
So now the place starts getting busy with everyone but Neil’s friend, as I kick into third gear to address the new crowd. With a group of five, a group of three, a solo and God knows what else coming down the stairs, before you know it I’m elbow deep in the ice. And then more walk in. But while I’m handling this steady flow which takes me quite a while, I notice that something is missing at the end of the bar. It’s Neil. And I realize I haven’t seen him since the crowd wandered in. Which is now twenty minutes.
Oh well, not to worry, I thought, I’m sure he didn’t do a walk out. And I have his credit card just in case. But after five more minutes I sense something’s wrong. So I quickly run outside to see if he’s out there having a smoke, hoping he’s having a smoke, or talking again to his friend away from the bar noise. But, just as I sensed and feared, our man wasn’t there. Fucking gonola! So now I run back in to check out his credit card.
Well, being certainly smarter than me, dear reader, I’m sure you’ve guessed the outcome… “DECLINED” the read-out screamed when I ran the card through. The card was a dud. And I’m surprised the machine didn’t add, “YOU FUCKING IDIOT!” Because that’s how I felt. I mean talk about being sucked in, for God sakes, here was a vacuum cleaner and I was the dust. Between the phone call he made right in front of me, to obviously no one at all, to eating a burger while I gave him the grand old history tour, not to mention him staying in character in front of two bartenders, this was something right out of The Actor’s Studio. Like I said, Tony worthy. For usually shit like this happens after one or two drinks and a fake, “I’m going for a smoke.” Or a chug and run. But this prick pitched a tent and fucking camped out. For two hours!!! And he got a buy back from your most friendly bartender. How bad is that? That had to have broadened his smile just a tad as he raced up the street and down the stairs to the subway. High-fiving himself as he slid through the doors of the train. “I not only got a buy back I got a whole tab back!” Which pisses me off even now as I sit here and type this. Because it’s never about the money with this stuff, it’s always about the ego, the fact that you were made to look like a sap. And boy was I ever!
So in conclusion, dearest reader, anyone having any information leading to the capture and arrest of…
Aw, never mind, I’m off to find me a nice game of Three Card Monte! See ya’ next week-end.