Hopefully you’ve read last week’s article, which was merely a set-up to this one. If not, here’s the cliff notes version…I described the “old guy in the bar”. There’s one in every bar room in America. He’s the aging regular who arrives and departs at the same time every day without fail. Always sitting in the same stool, drinking the same drinks–he is a wise man of very few words, but what he does say is worth a listen, and I’ve spent the past quarter century doing just that.
Each of the following stories is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge and recollection. I learned in the first two weeks of writing this column where the proverbial “line in the sand” is drawn by the editing department whom I affectionately refer to as, my handlers. Therefore I will have to alter the vocabulary in some of these stories for the purposes of decorum. I’ll make a parenthetical notation each time I’ve deviated from verbatim, but I’m pretty sure you’ll have already figured it out. I’ve also excluded the names and locations for obvious reasons. Here is a small collection of short stories involving “the old guys in the bar”. Hope you enjoy.
OLD GUY STORY #1
Several years ago I was working a day shift in a local bar surrounded by all the usual cast of characters including, “the old guy in the bar”. It was a particularly weather unfriendly summer. Mother Nature’s wrath had doused us with rain on approximately 25 of the last 30 days. All of my regulars were either retirees, or blue collar guys who required favorable weather conditions to make their living. Needless to say, they were all bitching profusely about the conditions outdoors.
Being the consummate optimist that I am, and trying to lighten the mood, I made a comment I had hoped would put things in perspective. In the midst of a bitter discussion regarding the foul weather, I said, “I try to make it a rule to not worry about things I can’t control, and the weather falls into that category.”
I then heard a rare response from one of my religiously daily attendees, perched in his designated stool at the northeast corner of the bar. The freakishly wise, yet usually silent gent of nearly eighty looked briefly up from his Miller Lite and responded thusly.
“That’s a great rule to live by. I live by the same rule myself. Right now, the only two things that I can control are my bladder and my bowels. And neither are going to last much longer so I’m enjoying it while I can.”
He immediately diverted back to his world of silent introspection while I laughed audibly to the point at which I COULD NOT control my bladder any longer and had to briefly and rapidly vacate my post behind the bar. Thank you sir, for that memorable day.
OLD GUY STORY #2
It was an absolutely gorgeous Sunday afternoon in the early 90’s, during a point in my life when I viewed standing behind one of the hottest bars in town as an honor and a privilege, rather than a grossly unwise choice at the fork in the vocational road. I was not only working an enjoyable day shift on a beautiful summer day, but I was doing it along side my best friend in the world. Neither of us had slept much and we were feeling the effects of the very thin line between Saturday night and Sunday morning. I was in my early 20’s, and though I already knew EVERYTHING, I still possessed a thirst for knowledge and wisdom.
That’s when they walked in—a couple who’s combined age was flirting with 170. Their combined height was a shade under nine feet. They were dressed in their Sunday best, clearly having gotten their “church on,” even while vacationing. They slowly approached the bar. She, a rosy-cheeked slightly portly woman of about 4 foot 9, adorned in a cute little dress that she may or may not have made herself. She looked exactly as you would imagine Mrs. Claus to appear, were you to visit the North Pole in summer. And the aging gentleman, not much taller, occupying a light blue and white seersucker suit, red bow tie, white patent leather shoes, and bowler hat. The kind of hat you expect to see only worn by a member of a barber shop quartet. He looked like a perfect mix between Colonel Sanders, and Richard Attenborough (the old guy from Jurassic Park), who had been washed on hot and then dried too long.
Due to their equally diminutive stature, both had to literally climb onto their barstools. The gent first assisted his bride of forever onto her perch, then shimmied his own way up to the bar. Once they were settled in, I approached them with a smile, greeted them and requested their drink order. She ordered first, a bourbon old fashion on the rocks, “not too sweet”. He then ordered a VERY dry, Beefeater martini up with “only one” olive. I immediately sensed the two had recited this order more times than I have used the “F” word in my life. Suffice to say it wasn’t their first time. I completed and presented them with their drinks, and before taking the first sip, they clinked glasses, leaned in and kissed each other. Again, something they had no doubt done countless times before. This couple was so damned cute I wanted to cryogenically freeze them and put them on my mantle.
Over the next hour or so I engaged in idle chit chat with these nice folks, all the while desperately searching for something we had in common to banter about. I noticed he had finished his second martini while she was only about half way through hers. I asked him if he would like another. The next few minutes of my life would be deeply, and permanently embedded in my memory as if they happened only yesterday. The old man slightly lowered one eyebrow, and cocked his head somewhat to the side, like a dog hearing a fart for the first time. His words began….
“Son, let me tell you something…”
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that whenever a man nearly six decades your senior starts with THOSE words, a true gem is about to follow. He had my full attention. At this time, Mrs. Clause uttered,
“Oh Lord, here it comes.”
The Colonel continued, “martinis are like boobs (word change), one ain’t enough, and three is too many.”
At this time, my partner and myself doubled over with laughter for the next several minutes. Once I could compose myself, I told the gentleman that if he decided to deviate from his ‘rule’, that the next one was on me because that was the greatest thing I had ever heard. His wife, now shaking her head said,
“Don’t encourage him, he’s been using that line for fifty-eight years.”
The pair finished up, paid their check, tipped very generously, and slowly departed. I never saw them again after that day. As the diminutive duo rounded the end of the bar en route to the front door, he paused and looked back over his shoulder at me. He tipped his cap and winked as if he instinctively knew he had just provided me with a story that I would be telling twenty years in the future.
I’ve subsequently heard that phrase used by other people, myself included, but never as poignantly as that day. I even performed an experiment to test the old man’s two versus three-martini theory. The unequivocal result of my findings is that the old man was spot on. Three is in fact too many. I woke up face down and naked on my couch completely unaware of how I had gotten there and with a full marching band playing inside of my skull.
True to form, my overly verbose writing style has landed me well beyond my allotted space. I have a few of these stories left to tell, and trust me when I say that I’ve saved the best of these “old guy” stories for last. We’re going to have to pick up from here next week as I continue to regale you with stories of “the old guys in the bar” imparting their pearls of wisdom upon me, and now upon you. So keep an eye out for Syd’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen- Part 3…next week.
Until then, thanks for playing along and I hope you enjoyed.