I admit I’m a pushover. Soft-hearted and easily led. I feel it at closing time, when I’m working behind the bar.
How many times have you stood in a bar or club and heard a bartender yell out “last call”? Dozens, even hundreds? An aural cue to get ready to get ready to go. (Unless you’re a musician who just finished playing – then it’s a signal to a) think about starting to pack up; b) remember to get paid or c) carry right on having a heated conversation or hearing how wonderful you are)
At work, I find it impossible to screech, bellow or bark “Last call!” Those feel like the only options, so when I open my mouth near closing time – nothing comes out. It’s not really the style of this bookstore/bar anyway, one so civilized that Walt Whitman and Nabokov rub shoulders with the drinkers. A quiet word to customers would they like one more as we’re closing up should do it.
Except they’re busy talking, or look at me in disbelief, or start begging. So it’s back to opening my mouth to shout “Last Call!” and a strangled cry that no one heeds and so it’s back to a quiet word with the individual customers, who can’t believe what I’m telling them and on and on.
But yesterday was going to be different. I talked to my co-worker Nate and told him we were going to be tough and firm and get out of the place on time for once.
We did great! One girl looked as if I’d slapped her and said “You’re closing – ALREADY?” I nodded and her friend pointed out the early closing time on Sunday and I started relishing my new role – the tough commandant (I was going to say bossy bitch but we don’t use those words anymore).
So all closed up at a reasonable time for once and cleaning the bar when a guy comes through the door. Damn we should’ve locked it but were too busy congratulating ourselves for closing so well.
“Hey, you guys,” he says.
“Sorry, we’re closed.”
“Yeah, I see that. I was just wondering, you know it’s St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow – anything going on here?”
“No.” I’d noticed an instrument case on his back when he walked in but tried not to engage with it.
“You see, my gig last night got cancelled – I’m a fiddle player – and I was wondering if you’d want to do something tomorrow night?”
“No, that’s okay.”
“Really, it’s St. Patrick’s Day and everything and – you have music here right?”
“Yeah, but there’s a show on Thursday and later this week too…” It’s at this point that I should have said a cheery NO THANKS! NOT INTERESTED! HAVE A GREAT NIGHT!” But instead he keeps trying to wear me down. They can always spot a pushover.
We try suggesting some other places in town he could try, ones that would be more… fiddle-friendly?
“Isn’t there someone else you could ask? Because, you know – it’s St. Patrick’s Day! And music – for people”…Inside I’m screaming that this will be a safe haven from fiddle music and faux-Irishness and that his fiddle-scraping would actually drive people away from the bar but I keep discussing it with him and time is ticking by. Poor guy, he’s been let down by some bastard promoter and here he is with that heavy case on his back…Maybe the whole place would be cheering him and jigging in minutes time, Dan who does the meters and Earl the painter arm in arm and everyone would remember this St. Patrick’s Day as the best time they ever had. He’s gotten me where I’m almost agreeing to leave it to the owner, or the person who works tomorrow evening.
Then I remember Eve. She works Mondays. She listens to Robert Wyatt, Can. She would hate it. I picture her look of horror – there’s this guy and he’s going to be playing Irish fiddle music, here – tonight!
I pull myself together. Say a cheery NO THANKS! NOT INTERESTED! HAVE A GREAT NIGHT!” Nate nods supportively. I even throw in a “Good luck” as the guy and his fiddle case retreat out the door.