The five businessmen in suits were wrestling on the ground in the parking lot. One had his tie around his head like a headband, his wrestling companion’s jacket was split down the middle and the other three were barking like dogs for some unknown reason. You haven’t lived until you watch a local “captain of industry” act like a 13-year-old.
And, that is the way they arrived. Needless to say they never entered the building and after a long talk with a man in blue, they took cabs to somewhere else.
IN THE MIDST of the seething mass of humanity that is the holiday rush I stood still for a second — a second that went unnoticed by anyone else, but during which I reminisced on all the decisions of my life that had led me to that moment.
Dozens and dozens of people shouting at you nonstop for several hours and you might reconsider some of your decisions, too. The sweat dripped down the raised hairs on my back. Stress can make you feel alive all over, literally tingling with a combination of adrenaline and excitement. But, then again, stress can kill you, too.
IT WILL HAPPEN something like this:
“Do you have any reservations for this Tuesday night?” a would-be diner will say.
“Tuesday?” the hostess will ask. “You mean Christmas Eve?”
“Oh, is that Christmas Eve?”
‘I’VE BEEN DRINKING all day,” said the guy in the Santa hat who appeared — as if in the wink of an eye — at the bar.
He looked like something out of the Christmas poem “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” specifically, “His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!”
Except that in this context, he was full of a different type of Christmas cheer.
I don’t know where he came from, but I knew where he was headed.
THE YOUNG MAN was acting peculiarly from the moment he walked into the bar. There was no slurring of speech, no stumbling or falling or any of the many “obvious signs of intoxication” that the state liquor board recognizes. He was just peculiar.
“You’re so judgmental,” some people may say.
And they are right. Bartenders have to be judgmental; it is part of the job. Every time we serve someone an alcoholic drink we have two decisions to make about that person.
• Are they of legal age to drink alcohol?
• Are they obviously intoxicated?
If we make one mistake, we will not only lose our job, but we also might face criminal prosecution. It can be difficult sometimes.
‘EXCUSE ME, but I was here before those ladies,” said the tall man with the thick black hair, gesturing behind me.
I looked down the bar and saw two women sitting. Their large purses were already on the bar, and they both had half full glasses of chardonnay.
“Can you go tell them that I was here first?” he asked.
I looked at the women, and then I looked at him.
“Let me see if I understand you. You want me to go down there and tell those two ladies to get out of those two seats so that you can it down.”
‘HEY JEFF,” said a person I didn’t recognize.
In lieu of responding I just looked up.
“What are you doing for Thanksgiving?” he asked.
“Not much, I’m working.”
“On Thanksgiving?” he asked. “That sucks.”
Fall is an odd time in Northern California. Looking out the window — a skateboarder shoots by in boardshorts and flip-flops nearly running over a young woman sporting a late-summer tan amply displayed in a bright pink tank top — it’s hard to believe it is actually autumn.
One source of confusion is citrus fruit.
‘MOWEEY,” SHE SAID, flipping the back of her hand at me as if she were shooing away a fly.
“I’m sorry,” I said, not because I truly felt sorry, but because I did not understand what she meant.
“The Moweey, the Moweey,” she said, clearly exasperated.
“I am really sorry, but I really don’t understand what you are saying.”
A heavy sigh and an eye roll indicated her distress. She picked up a wine list and pointed at the Moët and Chandon champagne we had by the glass.
THE COUPLE SAT at the end of the bar, making a point of being distanced from any of the other patrons. We see all types — those who go to bars for companionship and those who go there to avoid it. A bartender’s place is not to judge, but to simply do. We leave the judging to the priests and poets.
“How big are your sides of mashed potatoes?” said the woman in the paisley summer dress.
“Can we get extra?”
After I walked away the couple giggled conspiratorially.