Deciding to not serve someone can either be easy or hard, depending of course on the person and reason for refusal. But one thing you can count on, regardless of the reason, you’re going to offend that person no matter what. It just a fact. Cause you’re either saying they’ve had too much and can’t have any more, which in essence is telling them they can’t hold their liquor, or you’re telling them they have to leave because they’re being a pain… too loud, too argumentative or too aggressive. Either way, as I said, a situation.
But there’s another reason I’ve had to refuse and this one’s definitely not easy, it has to do with dealing with an incoming street person. In other words a homeless guy. And it’s not that I don’t have empathy for someone on the outside looking in, ostracized from the city of which they’re a part, it’s just that the situation is open for problems. Big problems. Because some might have a mental disorder and a glass of booze might take them over the edge, while others (and believe me I hate to say this) might just be too dirty and smelly for patronage. Their very proximity is going to offend who’s already there. And on those very rare occasions when these people do wander in, my powers of tact and diplomacy get stretched to the limit. It’s anything from, “Geez, we have a dress code, my friend,” when the person walks in the door, to “This ain’t your kinda’ place, my man, too many stuffed shirts, you might want to try that Blarney Stone just up the road. It’s much friendlier.” And even though I’m sure they see clearly through that second example, and know what I’m really saying under that bullshit, for the most part they understand, they nod and move on. Which brings me now to the title, “Second Hand Rose”.
If you remember the lyrics from that Streisand song, “Second Hand Rose” from Funny Girl, about a gal whose entire life was receiving hand-me-downs, you’ll know that her Rose hailed from Second Avenue. “Everyone knows that I’m just Second Hand Rose, from Second Av-a-nuuuuu!” Remember? Well I myself once worked in a bar in midtown on Second Avenue, and I had my very own Rose just like in that song. But a much sadder one. Rose wasn’t really her name of course but because of where we were and how she dressed, which was shabbily and in appearance pure second hand, I decided to call her Second Hand Rose in my mind. Not to be disrespectful but just ’cause it fit.
Rose only showed up every other week about three in the afternoon when the place was empty, and all she’d ever have was one glass of wine. One Chardonnay which I assume was all she could afford. She’d nurse that drink for almost two hours til the Happy Hour crowd wandered in, pay the four dollar cost before they surrounded her, and always leave a one dollar tip by her glass. Which was sometimes in quarters and dimes and which broke my heart. Well I started to notice a trend with this Rose, and one, I regret, not pretty, in fact it was something quite sad which kept getting worse. See it happened on each of her subsequent visits over a period of two or three months, her physical appearance declined in both dress and hygiene. She now for all the wold looked like a homeless person. But she always had those four damn dollars which somehow she’d scraped together, and still always left her appropriate one dollar tip. Which I found to be amazing. Until things soon got to the point where I had a dilemma to face.
Would I eventually have to say something, I worried, if her downward spiral continued into “dirty and smelly”? (Please, dear God, don’t make me!) And even if I did, what the hell could I say? I mean I couldn’t bring up the dress code thing, she was wearing the same kind of clothes she had always worn. Just dirtier. And I couldn’t just out of nowhere say, “This ain’t your kind of place,” it had been her quiet oasis for over three months. Like I said, a dilemma. Fuck! And yet the spiral continued. Until one day it actually hit the limit of acceptance. Her hands were grimy, her clothes were filthy and sadly she did give off a terrible odor. It was worse case scenario. And she knew it was worst case scenario too as everything in her body language screamed apprehension. And I thought to myself as she stared at the mirror… stared deeply as if she were hiding inside that mirror… This is a life in ruins, man, how can you tell her she no longer qualifies to drink here? Maybe she’s seeing reflected in that mirror the person she used to be, perhaps when she was attractive and even popular. The life of the party. How can you shatter that mirror, her last refuge?
Which I couldn’t so I served her.
And fortunately for me she did something then she’d never done before, she downed her drink and headed straight to the ladies room. Where she stayed quite a while. Well of course it finally dawned on me, thick-headed as I am, especially when I saw her walk out looking much cleaner, the whole purpose of her visit was to do this toilette. To use soap and water. But she had enough class to buy a drink to pay for that singular privilege, her usual five dollar leave which had to be huge. I was just sorry at that point I’d rung up the sale before she’d gone in there, if ever a buy back was in order it was then. But I didn’t, that was that, and out she walked.
And what was her state of affairs two weeks later? I’ll never know. That was the last time I saw my Second Hand Rose.
God bless you, Rose, wherever the hell you are now.
Over and out from Barland, see ya’ next week-end.
PS: If you’ve never heard that song before, all you youngin’s out there, Google Streisand with “Second Hand Rose” and watch her sing it on You Tube, the lyrics are not only worth it they’ll give you a lift!