Last Call Means Last Call

It never fails. It’s 2:30 but that doesn’t stop the drunks from asking.

“Just one more! Please!”

Nope.

“What if I tip you real good?”

Ooooh like maybe double your last one? You know, the quarter you left on the bar three beers ago?

“C’mon I didn’t even hear last call, you gotta give me one more.”

Here’s the thing buddy, I don’t have to give you ANYTHING. Not only that, but it would be illegal for me to now. And, contrary to what you think you know about my job, I don’t even have to say last call. So kiss my . . .

“Hey beautiful, let me get one more.”

You’ve got to be kidding me.

He tosses a few crumpled dollars on the bar. A couple of quarters. One of them rolls and ends up on the floor.

It could be worse. Every once in awhile some bitch will throw a fit: scream and yell, throw the ice at the bottom of her glass across the bar, make a total ass out of herself. This city is known for its bad behavior and faked bipolar excuses after all. The whole damn state is actually. What Oregonian hasn’t found their flight by the obnoxious passengers that litter the concourse?

Which must be why the Powell’s employee approached me with kid gloves last Saturday. “Did you already get your book signed?”

“No. I just got back.”

She apologized. Profusely. “He’s done signing.”

Now I’m not a crier or anything but I admit, tears started to well up in my eyes. “I called. They said it was still going. I drove up from Salem . . . ” I don’t know why I told her that. It just came out. Better words than tears. I had already driven to Portland earlier in the day for the signing, waited hours but had to leave for work before my group was called to line up. As it happened the bar was overstaffed for the night and they didn’t even need me. So I raced back to the Pearl District and fought for parking a second time.015

I probably sounded like one of those asses trying to circumvent last call because she responded, “I’m sorry, that might have been the case then, but the line is closed now.”

So close. Yet so far. I strained to at least catch a glimpse of the Fight Club author but I couldn’t see over the crowd.

Her words were soft, coddling―well practiced in handling the temperamental, entitled Oregonian consumer. “He’s been here since one and his hands are starting to tremble.

Chuck Palahniuk. The best storyteller of our time. Sacrificing his hands to sign books. I told her I understood, told her not to apologize, blinked back my tears yet again, and did not even think of throwing a fit.

But you go right ahead and scream and throw shit because you want another shot of Fireball. I dare you.

 

 

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77 Cents on Your Dollar

I’m about to knock my glass off the table to get the bartender’s attention. Cameltoe Joe walked by once already. No he raced by. My beer was already skimming the bottom, little more than foam, but he didn’t notice, didn’t offer me a fresh one. Didn’t even make eye contact. He grabbed the empty off the table and sped away, his eyes locked on the television over the bar. It was on a commercial break but that could change at any moment. I tried to swallow enough of the salad in my mouth to order another beer before he got away but he was too fast.

“You’re still waiting?” Julia yells, loud enough you would think she’d get his attention, as she slides back into the booth.

“Yup.”

“I smoked a whole Newport and fixed my mascara.” She agrees that I should have shoved the pounder to it’s demise on the stained floor. “I bet he makes more than you in tips too,” she jeers.

My blood boils. It’s true. When I started bartending I was naive enough to believe that I had found the magical profession where I would be immune to wage discrimination. If anything my hot young body would get me a few extra dollars, right? Wrong. For every extra percent a customer might give me for my looks, another stiffed me altogether for being a chick.

A touchdown is scored. There are cheers and high fives. “I’m just going to go up to the bar.”

Julia slurps her bloody mary. “Order me another too.”

I would if I could.

There are instant replays and more cheers and high fives and I’m standing there waiting and waiting and he’s staring at the TV with this huge smile on his face. I’m getting thirsty but there’s no way I can get his attention without looking like a total bitch. So I wait and stew on my friend’s words. I know she’s right. I’ve seen it in action. Whole groups of women won’t tip other women. All sorts of people take their racism out on their servers, not just in how they treat them, but financially too. Of course old white men can be the worst. They respect someone that looks like them behind the bar. But a female? It’s not a real job when a female does it. There’s a guy that come’s into my bar. We call him Grumpy. He’s rude as shit to all the girls. Never tips, doesn’t even leave us his change no matter how good of service we give him or how much we kiss his ass. But the one male bartender, the one bartender who is just like Cameltoe Joe right here and doesn’t pay a damn bit of attention to customers, Grumpy leaves him twenty percent and plenty of compliments.

“Wow you must have wowed him,” I said to Geoff one day after retrieving Grumpy’s Visa receipt.

“I guess,” he snorted. “I haven’t moved from this spot since he got here.” It was true. Geoff never gave table service. Just watched ESPN from his corner behind the bar. Customers came to him or they didn’t get anything to drink.

So I’m remembering all of this, really freaking out about it, wanting nothing more than to let my rage erupt in a riot, when Cameltoe finally turns around and looks me right in my beet red face.

So This is What Pissy Drunk Means

shots shots shotsThings were different the first time around. I was younger, more patient, and better practiced in the ways of alcoholism. The bar on campus where I earned tuition closed early and we were always out of there by one and at the bar down the street by ten after; an hour and twenty minutes to take as many shots and chug as many beers as we could swallow. Even on weekdays when I closed by myself, I’d find someone to party with. If they were hot I might stumble home with them. Even if they weren’t . . . well sometimes tequila makes it easier to overlook a butterface or way too much gut. The next morning I would crawl out of bed, sometimes mine, sometimes someone else’s, drag myself to class, then work, and do it all over again. It was awesome. Probably one of the best times of my life! But it’s over now.

No, that’s not true. It’s been over for a while. I haven’t drank like that in years but sometimes I still forget and think that I can party like old times.

Big mistake.

One shot. Two shots. Three shots. Four. God knows how many more.

It was a slow night. Really slow. Painfully slow. So slow that somehow I found myself down the street spending more than I made on the opposite side of the bar as Cameltoe Joe. I can’t stand Cameltoe Joe. I didn’t want to give him any of my money but tip karma is a bitch so I threw him down a couple extra dollars for every shot.

That’s the last thing I remember. Until now: stumbling out of bed in the dark (not my bed, not my dark) and down an unfamiliar hallway in search of a wash room. The first door is just a closet. The second opens to snores better suited to a hibernating bear than a human. The third one’s a charm.

I drop my pants and plop down on the toilet. Drunk piss is always such a relief. But something doesn’t feel quite right. I frown, wobble on the seat a bit as I try to stand, and bend over to pull my pants back up.

FUCK!

I blink. Hard. My vision is blurry. Standing still takes effort and I sway on my feet as I stare in disbelief at my pelvis.

I forgot I was wearing underwear.

I forgot I was wearing underwear and I just pissed right through it. Fuck fuck fuck fuck! My head swirls and my thoughts race. My heart pounds. What the fuck do I do?

What can I do? I trip out of my pants and yank the wet drawers down, wishing I could just leave. But I am way too drunk to drive. So I’ll just throw them out right? Except . . . where is the waste basket? A frantic search of the room─behind the toilet, under the sink, even in the shower─reveals nothing; no trash can, no plastic grocery bag substitute, nothing. That’s how I find myself retracing my steps back down the hallway, pissy panties in hand, when a door creek open and a sliver of light starts in front of me.