“Would you guys like another beer?” I asked, of the two young suits sitting at the end of the bar. It was somewhere around eleven o’clock, they’d only just had the one, so surely a second beer would be in the offing. They apparently just got off work because they looked no worse for the wear, meaning all was well and good in the sobriety department, so these are the people you like to serve at this hour. We get this type a lot in our place, guys on a different work schedule, finance people dealing with overseas time zones. We also get the other types too, those who’d been bouncing in bar zones, who often require a babysitter rather than a pourer. But these guys were absolute aces as you shall see.
“Ah, no, one will do it,” said the one drinking Stella. “It’s late, Sir, and I gotta’ get home to the wife.”
Gotta get home to the wife? Did I just hear that? How quaint, I thought, how refreshing, and I smiled because I hadn’t heard that in years. And probably the last time I heard it was in a movie. So I said so.
“Ya’ know something?” I said, “what you just said is right out of an old movie or something. I like that.”
“Whaddaya’ mean?” said the guy, smiling but confused, with a hint of pride like I’d actually put him in a movie.
“Well, just what I said. You’d often hear that line in an old movie, ‘Gotta get home to the wife,’ and it takes me back. And the reason I mention it here is, you seem to be way too young to take me back there. That’s all.”
They were both in their mid to late thirties, these guys, good guys both you could tell, if from no other clue than the open expressions on their faces. They were wide-eyed, eager, and happy to carry this further.
Which is why the guy drinking Heineken asked this question. “So, bartender, give us some other bar lines you’ve heard in old movies?”
“Well, one I always got a kick out of,” I said, “which could never in a million years happen in real life is, “Give me a damn scotch and leave the bottle!”
“Yeah, right,” said Heineken. “I’ve seen that. I mean first off, how in the hell would you pay for something like that?”
“That you could figure out,” I said, “but I know how the bartender would pay, he’d pay with a headache. Or a fat lip. I mean this customer’s obviously pissed in the first place or depressed beyond all reason, so unless you’re a glutton for punishment here why would you willingly hand this guy a bottle of fuel to pour on either of those fires? But hey, that’s the movies for you.”
“Anything else?” asked Stella, “as far as movie lines?”
“Well, as far as lines like what you said, ‘Gotta’ get home to the wife’… you know, exit lines… I can’t name any of the movies of course and these aren’t exact quotes, but you often heard stuff like this when a guy left a bar… “The little woman’s holding dinner so it’s straight home for me, Joe.’ Or, ‘No more for me, Joe, the ball and chain’s got me on a short leash tonight.’ Or how about this little beauty, ‘The Mrs. is on the warpath so I better get myself home if I want to keep my scalp, Joe.’ (They laughed.) Yeah, that’s how guys often left the bar when they couldn’t have one more drink, and the wife always bore the brunt of those hackneyed exchanges.”
“You know what?” declared Stella, the guy going home to the wife, “let us have another one, what the hell.”
“Okay,” I said, “but if you get in trouble don’t go and blame it on me.”
“Of course I will,” laughed Stella, “because we’re enjoying you.”
“That’s right,” added Heineken, “so tell us some more.”
I felt like an Irish rabbi holding class for a couple of Rabbinical students, but in this case the rabbi’s name was fucking O’Methuselah! I felt ancient.
“More about what?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” said Heineken, “just stuff. Bar stuff.”
“Okay,” I said, looking down at the cell phone resting on the hardwood, “I got one for ya’. Thanks to that little gadget there bartenders don’t have to lie to your wives any more.”
“What do you mean?” asked Heineken.
“I’ll tell you what I mean. Remember in those old movies when you’d see a bartender take a call, then cover the receiver with his hand and whisper, ‘Are you here, Moe? It’s your wife.’ Well, those days are long gone and thank God they are. Wives don’t call the bar anymore, and neither do office secretaries, they call your cell phones instead and we’re off the hook. No pun intended.”
“Has that ever happened?” asked Stella.
“Well yes, I just told you,” I said.
“No, I mean did you ever personally have to do that?”
“Sadly I did and I have to say I was bad at it. Really bad. In fact, if those phone calls had been auditions, speaking again of the movies, I never would’ve worked a day in my life in films. I was a lousy actor. Actual proof of that is the fact that a wife or two over the years, after hearing my sorry performance, marched in the door and pounced on the guy that I lied for. Some cover, right?”
They liked that.
Then we wandered into a conversation about drinking habits. And how it’s changing out there. How young people seem to be ordering drinks they never ordered in the past… Old Fashioned’s, Tom Collins’, Manhattan’s, Martini’s, Rob Roy’s and Rusty Nail’s… all kinds of drinks that aren’t your lemon drop shooters. And just as I was about to orate on how the TV show Mad Men has been instrumental in that, Stella’s cell phone rang out loudly from the bar top.
“The wife?” I asked, watching him check out the caller.
“No,” he said with a wink, “the ball and chain!”
(See ya’ next Saturday, dear reader, enjoy your week!