After last weekend, I’m seriously considering enforcing the use of shock collars for certain clientele. It’s not the first time that a man sitting alone at my bar has decided that once the bartenders get busy it’s his job to be a facilitator by acting as some sort of middleman who calls us over insistently to inform us that someone next to him or behind him needs a drink. Not the first time, and it won’t be the last.
On Saturday night this particular man had been sitting quietly drinking beers for the past two hours and now that the place had filled up, I could sense his anxiousness, as I had seen it before. Being alone and friendless, he was rushing to adopt an identity in order to gain some sort of relevance at the bar and avoid being labeled the creepy guy with the chloroform in his pocket. He already had a little of that working against him considering he had the delicately small hands of a seamstress and one of those disturbing smirks that mimes get on their faces while trying to engage you from their invisible box.
Like I said, I’ve seen this dozens of times before, and in all fairness, men who are alone like this are right to seek some sort of role. Without an identity you become the loser at the bar, so in order to avoid the humiliation, some attempt to play the role of the funny guy while others devote their efforts to playing Mr. Generous and buying rounds of drinks for those around them.
Eventually this man chose to be “the guy who can get you things”, like Morgan Freeman in the Shawshank Redemption, except he didn’t have a super-cool friend like Andy Dufresne who could carve chess pieces out of prison rock and say awesome things like, “Get busy living or get busy dying.”
It’s bad enough to have someone get your attention to help someone else perfectly capable of ordering their own drink, but this guy decided to launch into his new role by snapping his fingers at me while yelling, “Hey! Hey, bartender! (snap, snap, snap) Hey, a little help over here!”
After finishing up the drinks I was making, I eventually moved down to see what he wanted. ”Yes?” I asked.
“She needs to order,” he said, pointing to the girl next to him.
I sighed and looked at the girl.
“What can I do for you,” I asked her.
“She needs a drink,” the man interrupted.
“Yes, I surmised,” I said, looking at him.
“It means ‘I get it’. That’s why I’m here.”
Yeah, well…she’s been waiting awhile.”
I patiently made the girl her drink, and when I handed it to her, she laid a hand on the guy’s arm and thanked him, not me. Apparently I was nothing more than the servant who had obeyed his master’s orders. Nevertheless, the effect of her touch and appreciation was instantaneous, like Popeye after he squirts a can of spinach into his mouth. His chest puffed out and I saw the far away look of a man who suddenly knows his purpose in life.
From then on, his chivalry knew no bounds. The more people he spoke up for and helped, and the more praise he received, the bolder he became, like a super-villain morphing grotesquely out of control, until eventually he sat back in his bar stool with his arms folded over his chest bellowing out orders like an Eskimo mushing his Siberian sled dogs: ”Jack and Coke over here…Ketel Soda…Merlot for this one, on the double. Hey! Hey now!! Over here!”
He was having so much fun that he hadn’t ordered a drink for himself in over an hour. The look in his eyes was one of pure joy, yet I knew it wasn’t the joy people receive simply from helping others, it was the joy of having people notice that he was helping others.
Unfortunately for him, I got too busy to cater to his long line of customers which meant he was forced to turn his attention to my partner. Despite my joy of messing with dickheads in my bar from time to time, I am actually fairly tolerant towards people. My co-worker, we’ll call her Janice, is quite a different story altogether. To put it nicely, dealing with her during peak hours is like dealing with a cornered and badly wounded wolverine. That you just woke up. With a cattle prod.
When our hero realized that it was going to be awhile before I could reach him and his constituents, he decided to employ his finger snapping technique towards Janice. Snap, snap, snap!
I could see her literally biting her tongue, or more like chewing on it, until she finally whipped around from the register and yelled, “WHAT?”
“Ummm, this girl wants to order a drink.”
“Really? She wants a drink? In a bar? And here I thought she was waiting in line to get vaccinated for gonorrhea. How is it that we’ve all been blessed to be in the presence of someone as clever and insightful as yourself?”
The man looked like he’d been slapped in the face with a crescent wrench. It was at this moment that I had the idea about the shock collar, mostly because I was thinking how much more humane it would have been.
The people around him were stunned to silence too as they stood there, mouths agape, like how you look at someone who has been challenged to a duel with pistols at ten paces.
“I was just trying to help,” he stammered.
“Yeah, no shit. Stop fucking doing it. If you want to help, go stand in the bathroom and hand out towels and mints. Worry about your own goddamn drink from now on.”
And that was the end of that. The man slithered down in his seat and placed both his small, girlish hands around his Corona and didn’t say another word for the next hour until he finally asked for his bill in a meek, defeated voice.
As he walked out, I couldn’t help but wonder if he practiced these needless gestures of magnanimity in other areas of his life. Did he inform the checker at Safeway that the person behind him needed to buy groceries? Did he stand in front of ladies dressing rooms and tell men not to go in because women were dressing? Perhaps even now he was outside waving down a cab for a couple who didn’t even need a ride.
And then I turned around to the crowd of anxious, thirsty customers and started taking orders again without the use of my middle man. And life was good again.
Cheers, until next time.