“I do love the customers,” I told Eric the other day, after a busy night at the bookstore/bar. “I know I complain about working, and I really miss performing and can’t wait to start playing gigs again, but the customers are just great – I love helping people!”
But there’s something about Fridays.
First there was the guy with the ears. I’d seen him in there once or twice before, big gauges in his lobes. He looks too young to drink and is for sure a little off, but he’d been carded so I knew he could have a beer. As I passed him a pint, I noticed the gauges were out – huge loops of skin hung down almost to his shoulders. I had to look away.
The store is empty. A few minutes later he comes up with the Kama Sutra in his hand.
“I’ve never seen this book before. Is it good?” he asks.
“Yup,” I carry on with putting books in inventory and nod. “A classic.” He starts flipping the pages and I bustle over to the other end of the bar – don’t want to give him the opportunity to ask “and these people, in these drawings, what are they doing to each other?”
“So, are any of these books here for sale?” he asks.
I want to scream, but I smile and nod. “Yes, they are all for sale – this is a bookstore.”
“What does GB stand for?” Every ten minutes he comes up and asks a pointless question.
“How do you pronounce ‘docile’?” Don’t look at the lobes, don’t look at the lobes.
Thankfully my co-worker comes in. Emily is sweet and always nice to people. Before I have a chance to signal to her that Loopy has been in a while, is on his third pint and should not be encouraged, he comes up with more inane questions.
“I really wanted to write a book one time,” he drones. “Is it hard to write a book?” I try to pinch Emily. “Is there any book here that can tell me how to write one?” Emily mercifully tells him there are classes people take to teach them how to write.
My mood is sour now, I’m hungry and I hate people. A couple come in and sit at the bar. They’re jovial and fun. Emily and I have been playing Townes Van Zandt but it’s moving into Friday happy hour – Emily says “I think I’ll put on some Queen.”
I grit my teeth.
“Queen!” the lady of the couple crows. “I love Queen! You may have to stop me from jumping up and dancing on the bar. It could get real Coyote Ugly in here!”
“I may have to join you!” says Emily. “Who doesn’t love Queen!” She’s just about to push the play arrow.
“I’m sorry,” I say, feeling like a jerk. “I just don’t like Queen.” Their mouths all open. Their faces look so sad. But I’m afraid Queen will put me over the edge. “I acknowledge the brilliance of Freddy Mercury. Brian May too! But their music irritates me.” I feel like I’ve gone too far. A person behind the bar should not be a buzz killer.
But now I can’t stop myself. What flips the switch, from loving to help people to wanting to wipe the silly Queen-loving grins off their faces?
“It’s like Bowie,” I say, hating myself but unable to stop. I don’t even know or care what I’m saying anymore, but I’m lobe guy, here to fuck up your Friday. The bearded male half of the couple nods in excitement. I can see his eyes glowing, thinking he’s found a Bowie buddy. His coming to love Bowie has been a huge step in his development not just as a man, but as a human being. It feels so good to mow him down. “I know he’s wonderful, creative, brilliant, an artistic genius. But I’m just not a fan.”
“Them’s fighting words!” the guy shouts gruffly. He’s kind of joking but kind of not. He looks like he’s about to leap over the bar and throttle me. I see a customer down by the taps and leave Emily to console the couple. I hear Townes start up again through the speakers.
Shaneeka says “It’s my birthday today! I’m old.” She puts her head down, long lashes against round baby cheeks. “Twenty six.” She shakes her head.
The guy next to her says “Oh don’t worry, you got fifteen good years left,” and goes back to talking to his friend. I do the math, she’s twenty-six, plus fifteen that’s…that’s forty-one. Forty-one and then out to pasture.
I pass Shaneeka a birthday pint. “You’ve got way more good years than that!” I say, but I’ve disappeared behind the mists of time, of behind the bar; visible when I don’t want to be, invisible when I have something important to say.
I can’t wait to get back up on stage.
Amy Rigby solo residency – May 7, 14, 21 & 28 – HiFi Bar – New York, NY