What a difference it is in Barland right now (at least in that cozy little corner of the world where your friendly bartender pours), as everyone seems to be joined in the spirit of Christmas. Already! And what makes it even more of a lift besides the yuletide decorations (lights, red ribbons, white branches, et al), what brings each patron together in one common voice, are the songs our piano guys play to bring home that feeling. Oh they still do Nat King Cole, of course, Sinatra, Bennett and doo-wop, or any other genre your little old heart desires, but the overriding theme for requests these days is Christmas carols.
How odd this tableaux might seem to some if they saw and heard these proceedings… revelers holding their cocktails aloft (“the devils brew” they might say), crooning, “Hark, the herald angels singing,” or a Christ child born in a manger one “Silent Night”… but that’s what the chorus is singing and all seems right. As it should be. And when Bing Crosby’s classic “White Christmas” tees up or “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”, conjuring images of Bob Hope’s audience of soldiers singing along on one of his road shows, the mood can move you to tears with its heart-tugging melancholy.
Is this a saloon or is it a church? I think, as I watch these moments unfold, then, “Bartender, I’ll have another!” soon snaps me back. But I love every minute of it.
Now before you reach for the phone, dear reader, to schedule a dental appointment due to all this sweetness I’m pouring, let me now toss some sours mix into this cocktail. Because fate just threw me a great big lemon of a customer.
This guy stopped into the bar the other night, a guy I’ve seen around Barland for years who aside from the lofty opinion he holds of who and what he is, is really not a bad guy and has never been trouble. At least not with me. So he ordered a Bacardi and coke, gave me a goofy smile, then turned to face the piano to do a little sing-along. That is, he tried to. Because somehow the words he was mouthing didn’t match the lyrics. But, hey, that’s okay, I thought, celebrities blow the national anthem every other game. No, observing this customer’s progress from there it wasn’t this lyrical brain freeze that tweaked my antennae, it was the swaying I started to notice that didn’t match up. For you don’t slowly move from side to side in a tick-tock, metronomic arc, when the song you’re swaying along to is jaunty “Jingle Bells”. Or “It’s lovely weather for a sleigh ride to gether with you“. Something’s not right there.
But fortunately after his second drink he seemed to realize this fact, as he scribbled his hand through the air meaning, “I’ll take my check.” Which I gave him. And as I watched him fill out his credit card dupe that took him at least ten minutes (no exaggeration), squinting and swaying and trying to add with more intense deliberation than a kid taking finals (God knows how many drinks he had had before he got there), I said to myself, Thank God he’s calling it a night! He’s saving me the task of cutting him off, never an easy endeavor, and heading off maybe any danger to himself in the bargain. Nice end to story.
Ah, but ten minutes later (you think this is easy?) he called me down and ordered another Bacardi. Like nothing ever happened.
“I can’t serve you any more, David, I think you’ve had enough,” I said holding firm.
“What?” he barked incredulously. “You’re kidding me, right?”
“I’m not kidding at all, you’ve got to trust me on this.”
Then he summoned the maitre’d to his side, someone he knows quite well, and started to plead his case as if that would matter. Which it wouldn’t. It’s my call and mine alone and the maitre’d knows this.
So when I shared that call with my human metronome, my palm tree swaying in the breeze, he did what “cut-offs” sometimes do, he got indignant. “Then give me my goddam check,” he shouted, both knuckles down on the bar in Orangutan threat mode. To which I smiled. ‘Cause he’d already paid his check so I knew I had him.
“David,” I began politely, “you’ve already paid your check and that proves my my point. Because you don’t remember doing it. And it took you at least ten minutes to fill out your receipt.”
“Bullshit!” he shouted. “Let me see that receipt!” So I pulled his check from the stack and showed him the proof. And if he had been sober at all when he stared at the slip, a condition he stoutly claimed, his scrawl alone would’ve told him that wasn’t the case. It looked hieroglyphic. But that wasn’t the point, the fact that he’d paid this bill was my smoking gun. So with nothing left to pursue in his case, save for further humiliation, he turned, tripped over his feet and stumbled out the door. Real end of story!
But I don’t tell this tale to dance on his grave or to show how I won this encounter, I tell this story as a cautionary tale for you. Meaning… ’tis the season to party, to eat, drink (more) and be merry, and that’s the reason to make sure you do it with caution. Even more so! And if your friendly bartender, whoever he is (or she is, if that’s the case), tells you you’ve had enough please go along with it. It’s for your own good. For we don’t do this stuff to embarrass or scold we do this stuff to save you, from yourself, so switch to a hot cup of coffee and you’ll thank us in the morning. Because you’ll be there in the morning!
With that I’ll see you next week-end and “cheers” through the week!