There are nights in the bar business that leave tired employees scratching their heads, murmuring “what the f**k,” and longing for the warmth and comfort of home, with that old worn-in couch and a stiff drink in hand.
The kicker is, these feelings of frustration and bewilderment often come at the end of an otherwise uneventful night, when tables are being wiped down, stools upended on the bar and tips counted and sorted. You begin to realize that it was actually a good night, with no fights and no troublemakers, and you glance at the clock, slowly understanding that you’ve made it through the night relatively unscathed.
And then you hear the slurrings of the last patron in the bar begin to rise in volume and intensity, and those little warning hairs on the back of your neck stand up to inform you that your peace is about to be shattered.
She is a regular. She is a good tipper. She is also a known stalker of past employees, a mean drunk and certifiably psychotic. There are times when she will simply drink and dance, causing few problems, and there are times when her dark side punches through her brittle exterior, and hell is unleashed on anyone unfortunate enough to make eye contact. And, God help me, in my scanning of the room for empty glasses and out-of-place chairs, my eyes move past her, only to find that she is staring directly at me through rum-soaked, red-rimmed eyes that burn with unknown hatred. Contact made.
As she stares at me with pure venom under those heavy, half-closed eyelids, she demands one more drink from Frank, the bartender. Frank knows her, and has shown patience above and beyond the call of duty tonight. He refuses, saying it’s time to go, that everyone else has left and we are closing.
“You son of a bitch, I need a drink and you’re gonna make one for me ‘cuz you know who I am and I come in here all the time and I need to figure things out and I want a drink right f**king now and you’re gonna give it to me, dammit.” She goes on and on like this for ten minutes, the anger rising with every meaningless, mangled message that somehow makes it out of her mouth. “I need to figure things out, you bastards.” She has broken her eye contact with me and is now glaring at Frank, who refuses to look at her while he wipes down the bar.
This is the truly twisted mentality of the drunk – the idea that even after countless insults and screams, by far surpassing simple abusive behavior, the bartender may actually still serve more alcohol.
“No, you’ve had too much already and it’s time to go,” Frank says. “It’s time to go right now. No more f**king around.”
“You rat bastard, you know I need a drink and I’m not going anywhere until I get one,” she yells at us both, while she is attempting to stand. Her movements are sickening to watch, as if she is moving through thick molasses and her limbs can’t decide which direction to move. She makes it to her feet long enough to slam her fist down on Frank’s hand that was wiping the bar, causing him to curse and her to fall to the floor. She begins crying.
I try to help her to her feet, only to have her scream, “Take your damn hands off me, you twisted asshole.” Frank is making his way around the bar, calling her the worst name he can think of, and she is more than deserving of all four letters. He takes her by the arm, turns her toward the door and begins to tell her that he will never serve her again, and she need not bother to ever come back. She falls to her knees, still crying and screaming and flailing about. I take hold of her other arm and Frank and I somehow get her down the stairs, her falling only twice.
We get her outside and lock the door on her irate, screaming, cursing face that is flush and quivering with anger. Her curses and threats fade as we make our way back up the stairs. She is gone when we leave 20 minutes later.
I would like to say this is the last time we will see her, but we will not be that lucky. Tonight Frank and I work again, and she will show up, expecting to be served and all to be forgiven and forgotten. She will be sorely disappointed.
She will be turned away, set adrift to ponder the fact that her favorite bar, the place she has enjoyed for years, will no longer allow her in.
She will feel that a great injustice has been done. A great play will unfold in her mind, in which vicious, flesh-eating illnesses befall Frank and I, and she will arise like the Phoenix out of the ashes of inequity and ignorance, and vindication will be hers.
And in the meantime, while her inner passion play fails to make it to the production phase, we will revel in the fact that finally she crossed the line that gave us a reason to 86 her forever.
No one will miss her.