I think I might have yawned. I know that I looked at the clock on the wall. Time can crawl or race by depending on circumstance. Sometimes working behind the bar is exciting — making lots of drinks, talking to lots of people, loud music, hustle bustle — and then sometimes it’s not.
The group of birthday-celebrating women in the corner were running out of steam, and perhaps baby-sitting time. Nothing seems more forced than a middle-aged birthday being made to seem insignificant. Trust me, that goes double for the men.
The suggestively named shots were gone, the speckled red spots of a spilled cosmopolitan were still on the table and an empty bottle of buttery chardonnay sat upside down in its bucket of melting of ice water.
“You guys still open?” asked a newly arrived lone man looking around the nearly empty late night bar.
“Sure,” I said not exhibiting much enthusiasm.
He didn’t seem to mind.
“I’ll have a bourbon,” he said taking a seat at the bar.
“What kind would you like?” I said readying my spiel.
“It doesn’t matter.”
Sometimes in the service industry you go the extra mile, and sometimes you don’t. Case in point, I poured him a shot out of the nearest bourbon bottle.
Just then two of the remaining women got up to leave. The happily married are always the first to go, male or female. It was a weeknight after all. The leaving women took a long look at the seated gentleman. Married doesn’t mean dead, happily or not.
The man took a sip of his bourbon but paid them no heed.
About half an hour later two more women got up to leave — it was pushing 10 o’clock, the witching hour for high school-aged baby-sitters on a weeknight. This left three women in the corner booth. If any of the remaining was the birthday girl, I certainly couldn’t tell. The departing twosome also took a long look at the gentleman at the bar.
Again, he took no notice.
Some people go to bars to meet people and some go to bars to be alone; a keen observer learns to tell the difference, especially when that observer’s income depends upon it.
By now the three women had also taken notice of the man sitting at the bar. They rose to leave. Years past they would have asked me to call a cab. These days there is Uber. Soon enough they would be standing out front waving at every passing car: “Uber?” “Uber?”
The last of three women followed farther behind. Many of us are familiar with the warning label on liquor that reads: “Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery,” and all of us know that drinking and driving never mix. But the label should also warn about decision making.
She plunked herself down next to the bourbon drinker and waved her friends unsteadily on.
“Hi,” she said.
It wasn’t the best of conversations or the most subtle. So soon enough I found other things to do; there is nothing more awkward than standing 3 feet away from a couple a courting.
“Hey, Jeff you almost done?” the manager asked.
“I’ve got one couple left.”
“Why don’t you take off, I’ll clean up after them.”
I turned the corner into the bar to say goodbye to the sidling couple. She was leaning over him with her hands out of sight.
“Well what do we have here?” she asked.
I didn’t wait around to find out.
Leaving me with these thoughts:
• Everyone celebrates a birthday differently.
• “When women go wrong, men go right after them,” Mae West once said.
• When you offer to clean up after someone else, you might just get more than you bargained for.
• Mae West also said something about a good man being hard to find. Or was it the other way around?
• There is a nickname for Wednesday, but for the life of me I can’t remember it.