Tag Archives: bar fight

Trauma is a Bitch

1 Jun

I feel as though I have been harping on this. As if it has occupied some unreasonable amount of space in my brain and my body. As if I have to apologize for referencing it, for talking about it, for allowing it to impact the way I do my job and live my life. I would say this is the last time I will bring it up here but I cannot say that for certain because I don’t know when, and if, it might come back to haunt my mind again. Trauma, as it turns out, is a strange and unpredictable thing. It winds its way into and throughout your body, it occupies the smallest crevices in your brain. It shows its face at the strangest times and leaves you standing on the street, silent tears streaming down your face, breathing through your racing heart, wondering why all the jokes you make about it can’t just force it to live in the past where it belongs. It makes you doubt your strength and your ability to will yourself to just move forward and leave that experience in the dust, a small annotation in a long life.

A few weeks ago I was informed by my coworker that the guy who physically assaulted me at work had come into the bar. Entirely unrelatedly, and by no intention of my own, I had spoken with him previously, and extremely briefly, over the phone. He told me he hoped we could move forward and become friends. I chuckled and told him not to be crazy, to take care of himself. I got off the phone and I felt good, in control, strong. I worked a shift behind the very bar where the incident occurred and then the next day I wrote him a letter. I knew he wasn’t going to read it, although I would be pleased if he did. It was just a means for me to tell him what I wanted him to know and to take back a little bit of my own power. The goal was to feel a little less helpless and it seemed like it worked. But then the news. I don’t know exactly how to put into words the feeling I got when I was told he had been in the bar the previous week. My hand immediately shot just above my left eye where there is still a pebble-sized calcification just below the skin that I find myself touching when I get nervous or uncomfortable. I looked at my friend in disbelief. My stomach dropped through the floor. I started sweating. I got the chills. So much for power and control. So much for thinking that a guy with a sizeable rap sheet who would throw a glass at the face of a girl who is half his size and two-thirds his age has even an ounce of self-control, has the capability of making reasonable decisions, gives a shit about his own future and his freedom. Joke’s on me, I guess. Seeing the best in a person is simply not possible when there is nothing good there. But beyond that I realized that I had been operating under the incorrect assumption that I was safe and that I was trusting the word of a man who I honestly believe to be a monster. He told his family he would stay away from the bar and me. He didn’t. And according to security he has tried to come into the bar when I’ve been there. Apparently booze tastes better when you get it from a place where you are unwelcome.

And then there was last night. I met up with a good friend of mine to just, I don’t know, catch-up, unload, destress. We went to our local spot which was oddly busy and, just as we decided to go somewhere better suited to our mood I heard it:  violent flesh-on-flesh contact. I grabbed my friend’s arm and just kept saying “oh god, oh god, oh god” until he headed into the mass of people trying to get the man who had struck the bartender out of the room. All of a sudden they were moving towards me. An angry, loud, testosterone-full group of people forcing the guy through the bar and out onto the street. I wedged myself between the bar and a stranger sitting on a barstool. A stranger whose sweatshirt hood I grabbed as I had visions of myself somehow being slammed into the bar or taking an errant elbow to the face. It wasn’t about me, had nothing to do with me, was likely not going to effect me and yet I couldn’t see how something like this couldn’t somehow drag me in. When I knew the coast was clear I fled through the door and leaned against the building, I concentrated on my breathing and willed my heart to just slow the fuck down. I felt weak and powerless. But even more acutely I felt like a self-indulgent asshole as I stood there having a panic attack over someone else’s experience and my proximity to it. Crazy, right?

I guess it’s just a weird thing to realize that sometimes being well-adjusted, self-reflective and emotionally even-keeled is simply not enough. And it’s infuriating to me to acknowledge that another person, a person who I actually don’t even really know and am afraid I might not recognize, has the ability to throw me into a complete and total tailspin in an entirely different neighborhood and in completely different circumstances without even doing anything. His actions didn’t change his psychology but they certainly altered mine. And then it gets me thinking about the trauma that other people deal with on the day-to-day. In the grand scheme of things, what I experienced was small potatoes. People live through wars, through violent attacks of all kinds, through fires, through abuse, through horrific accidents. I imagine those experiences creep up on them, too. Sometimes even randomly, on a Sunday night, in their own backyard. But that’s life, I guess. All we can hope to do is keep pushing forward, realize our feelings and emotions are important and worthwhile, take care of ourselves as best we can and when we can’t, reach out to others to take the pressure off. That’s what friends and family are for and I am eternally grateful for mine.

Here’s to hoping that this is the last post about this bullshit.

Tip #5 on Being a Good Bar Customer

18 Feb

And so here is the next installment of my beloved bar customer series…unless of course you are one of the people described in one of the posts in which case I imagine the series is not very beloved by you at all.  Hopefully, those people don’t know I have a blog.  Or maybe don’t take themselves very seriously.  And also don’t have access to a firearm.  Right.  So, you can read the earlier tips here:  Tip #1, Tip #2, Tip #3, and Tip #4.

So my tip for today is actually more like a 3-pronged tip because this woman was doing all kinds of things that one shouldn’t do as a bar customer.  The real take home message of this one is don’t throw things at your bartender, but I will talk about a few other infractions along the way.  Alrighty, here we go.

So on Saturday morning at about 12:30 or so, in walks a very diminutive woman.  She sat down, asked about the credit card minimum and asked me for a Brooklyn Lager.  She then mentioned a pleasant past experience she had in the bar and told me what the bartender looked like so I could tell her his name?  So I would know she wasn’t lying?  Who knows.  Anyway, she seemed nice enough to me so I served her her drink and we got into a conversation.  She started asking me all kinds of questions about myself, my job, my family, what I did in my spare time, and, once I told her I was in the middle of writing my master’s thesis, she asked me about my master’s thesis.  She then said to me what was, up until that point, one of the stranger things that a customer has ever said to me.

“You are the first normal person I have ever met.”

I still am unclear as to what that was supposed to mean but I took it in stride while also thinking to myself that this lady was obviously a little bit of a whack-a-doo.  She then asked me a question which was both insulting and also sort of confusing, partially because I think she was using big words to prove how smart she was but maybe didn’t actually know what those words meant and maybe lacked a full working knowledge of proper grammar.  I am going to paraphrase the question here because it was weird.  She basically asked me if I am so driven that I am incapable of taking other people into consideration and also incapable of understanding the ways in which my upbringing and other things have allowed me to do the things I do.  Um.  What the fuck?  So, for those of you who know me the idea of me being “so driven” is kind of absurd considering it has unnecessarily taken me going on 4 years to finish my master’s.  (I will be done this May, damnit!)  Also, that I am so oblivious as to not know that coming from a very stable, both emotionally and financially, family has had a hand in making me a balanced person is a little insulting.  Whatever.  I tried to brush it off and I said,

“Um, that’s a really weird thing to say.”

And then I walked away.  It was at this point that she attached herself to the first set of people that she subsequently scared out of the bar.  They were two women — both working in nonprofit, both super nice and interesting — who had come into the bar because they thought my outside board was really funny.*  They ordered a round, she started talking to them about weird things probably rivaling the weird things she said to me, they finished their drinks and asked for their check, giving a slight nod and a “that woman is cuckoo” eye roll on their way out.  Damnit.  Then she leeched onto two guys who sometimes come in after their run and scared them away, but not after they sort of mocked her a little bit without her realizing because she was not terribly self-aware and I did feel a little bad about that but not bad enough to step in since she was chasing everyone out.  Then this dude came in to collect money for an AIDS walk he was doing and, in the middle of me talking to this man, she says

Um, sir? Yea, you can wait. (And she looks at me.) I would like a refill on my beer.

To which I said

No, you can wait.  I am in the middle of a conversation with this gentleman.

I may or may not have then stretched the conversation out a little longer than it would have otherwise gone to try and piss her off.  At this point she leeched onto, and scared away, a third set of customers.  It was a husband and wife pair who had more than one drink (I think because during their first round she was otherwise occupied harassing the running dudes).  The husband was okay entertaining her but the wife was less than impressed to the point that, when crazy lady had her back to me, I actually mouthed an apology to the lady.  See, the thing is that this lady had been walking the line of inappropriate for a long time but had never actually crossed it.  She would say something insulting, like the question, and immediately follow it with some sort of a statement like “oh, I hope I didn’t insult you.  Sometimes I just get a little too direct.  I just have this need to know things.”  She thought she had this special talent in bringing people out of their shells.  I thought she had a special talent in being a manipulative bitch.  Anyway, back to the story.

Once the third group left the following conversation happened between me and the lady:

You are ignoring me.

I’m not.  If I were ignoring you you wouldn’t have any beer. I’m busy.

You’re ignoring me.

Listen, I have customers other than you.  I cannot stand here and entertain you.  This is the way I do my job.  If you have a problem with the way I do my job, then that’s a whole other issue and you are free to get a beer somewhere where someone does their job better.

I thought this would be it.  I thought this would be the thing I would say that would get her to ask for her check and leave in a huff.  But no.  She said

Not at all.  I was actually about to compliment you.

See?  Manipulative bitch.  But then she adds

If I had a philosophical (this word was very jumbled) problem with the fact that I have been here drinking all day, I would be home.

Um…okay?

And then she asked for her bill.  Okay.  So I decided that since she was sort of a nightmare, since she had made the first 5 hours of my shift sort of hellish, and since she had chased out 6 of my good customers, I would not buy her back at all.  Her bill came to $56.  She had drank a lot of beer.  I gave the bill to her under the taps, she looked at it, started scribbling illegibly on it, then crumpled up the receipt and threw it at me, following in close order by the pen.  Oh, you have got to be kidding me.  At this point I had just about had it.  And this is what happened next:

Me:  Are you serious?  This is how you are going to behave right now?  How old are you?

Lady: How old are YOU? $56?!

Me:  That’s how much you drank.  That is not my problem.  If you have a problem with the bill then maybe you should rethink your drinking habits.

At this point she stands up on that tiny little ledge under the bar where you’re supposed to put your feet because she was really small and this made her feel more intimidating.  She gets as in my face as she can possibly manage considering the width of the bar and also the fact that I was standing a little bit back from it and she says

Lady:  Are you challenging me?  Let’s go!

Me:  Okay, go ahead.  You want to hit me over the bar? Hit me. Go for it.

Lady: You’re challenging me!  Come on!

Me:  Honey, you are so drunk that if I tapped you you would probably fall over and crack your head open.

Now, in hindsight, this last bit seems a little like a threat but I didn’t actually mean it that way.  I really did mean that if I were to touch her she would get so unbalanced that she would fall over because she was that drunk but probably I should have just not said anything at all.  Anyway, this went on for a little while longer and ended with me telling her I felt bad for her son (really mean, I feel bad about that) and threatening to call the police if she didn’t leave and her stumbling out in a huff, barely missing walking into the door on her way out.  I then ran through the math on her bill about 20 million times.  Did I do something wrong?  I thought back about all the little tick marks on the post-it (because that is how we keep our tabs, very professional) and I realized that I had accidentally overcharged her by about $6, which I do feel badly about.  But it wouldn’t have changed anything.  She would still have gotten mad about her big bill and would still have thrown her crumpled up receipt and pen at me and would still be 86ed from the bar.  And the thing about it, is that if she had not thrown her pen at me and had instead said calmly, ‘I think my bill is too big’ I would have gone back over the bill and noticed my mistake and maybe, because of the inconvenience to her, I would have taken one drink off the bill and everyone would be happy.  But no.  She threw a pen at me and that was a mistake.  So, yea, don’t be that bitch.

*For those of you who don’t know, on the weekends I tend to use my sandwich board outside the bar to make oftentimes humorous observations.  This Saturday the board said “Hugo Chavez is apparently doing well after his cancer surgery.  That’s good new for democracy!” and “And another of this generation’s sports idols falls.  Good work, Pistorius.” Okay, that second one is more sad than funny but you get the idea.