I was bartending one afternoon when a man came in who had just come from putting down his old dog. He told me about all their great years together, choking back tears a few times. While tending to another customer I glanced over to see him deeply inhaling the scent of the dog off of its collar he'd saved, tears rolling down his cheeks.
Last month during a rainy graduation day, a family, mostly adults, came to celebrate a few hours before graduation ceremony. While waiting, the daughter of the family kept calling her boyfriend who did not answer. After placing their food order the daughter got a call back. While driving toward the civic center, the boyfriend hydroplaned into a telephone pole. Died on the way to the hospital.
I didn't know these people but even my heart dropped hearing this sudden news. Everyone was in shock. They cancelled their food order. The daughter and her mother left to go to the hospital. The dad and a few other family members stayed to have a few more drinks which my manager later comped. I didn't know what to say other than to nod as they walked out.
I have a very sweet regular who used to order food to go and have a glass of wine and a smoke in his car while waiting for it. One night he unexpectedly comes in and sits down at the bar to get dinner. It's a bit of a slow night so we get to chatting, I ask him how he's doing and he looks me in the eye with this peculiar smile and says, "You know my wife, that gorgeous blonde I used to come in with? She died of cancer last week."
He goes on to tell me about how perfect their life was up until the diagnoses, and how our to go food was sometimes the only thing that sounded good to her during chemo. This all happened on the 15th anniversary of my father's death from melanoma. We both got teary, I bought his meal. After he left had to spend a few minutes in the back trying to get my stuff together.
Couple weeks ago he brought in his first date since his wife passed. Glad to say they had a wonderful time. It was nice to see him laughing.
I had a regular who would come see me three times a week. He would always arrive at 2:00 in the afternoon, and leave three hours later on the dot. He was very pleasant, always tipped well, but would usually ignore any of the other bartenders or servers who tried to engage him in conversation. He wasn't a jerk about it, but you could just tell that he was dismissive with everybody.
This went on for about three months, then he abruptly stopped coming. Now, I would hardly call us 'friends', but we did engage in lengthy discussions over a wide variety of topics, and I found him to be incredibly interesting and insightful.
Anyway, fast forward about a month after he ended his weekly visits. It was about 8:00 PM on a Wednesday night, and my bar manager informs me that there's a woman at the other end of the bar who asked for me by name. I'm doing the service well shift (we all had to volunteer for it twice per week), so I finish making cocktails for the servers and walk to the front of the bar and talk to her.
"Are you Bamont?" she asks. "Yes," I replied.
She takes a deep breath and says, "My husband used to come see you a few times per week. Do you remember him?" His name was common, but she describes him to a 'T' and I nodded. "Well, I'm his wife - and I wanted to come say thank you." I was a bit puzzled, "Thank you for what?"
She explained, "We lost our son in Afghanistan in 2003. He never really got over it, and he told me that he came in here a few times and you reminded him a lot of our son." She fumbled around in her purse for about ten seconds and produced a photograph of a young man in an Army uniform. His resemblance to me was pretty uncanny, except for our eye color.
I was a bit confounded, and had no idea what to say to her. I stammered out an awkward, "Thank you," followed by a long silence. "Anyway," she continued, "I just wanted to let you know that your conversations with my husband helped him get over the loss of our son." I smiled, thanked her again, she shook my hand - and then she left.
I once had a guy tell me that his fiance had just died the previous night. She had a heart attack or something sleeping next to him, and he woke up to find her gone. They were supposed to get married in a few months. He kept saying how he might have been able to help her if he had woken up. He had been at work all day, because he owned his own store and couldn't afford to close. It was heartbreaking. I let him drink for free.
Just the other night I had a guy in who was on a vacation solo because his wife filed for divorce right before they were supposed to leave. Yesterday he got a call that his father died. Our planned entertainment for the evening happened to be a 20-something guy who played nothing but acoustic love songs for the first part of his set. Poor guy just started sobbing. Thankfully, the musician altered his set list and a couple of guys also solo at the bar bought the guy a drink and hung out with him, and at one point they even had him laughing. Really restored my faith in people.
I had a guy come in once and sit at the bar and he just sat staring at the bar top. After a few beers he finally looked up and we started chatting. He had just been walking through downtown Portland and a man had jumped off the 30th story of a building and landed at his feet. He still had blood on him. I gave him a free beer because WHAT THE!
I used to work at a dive bar for 2+ years and had the same customers every day. I enjoyed the company of the old men, but when you really thought about it, it was really sad how they all were spending their lives. Most of them would be shaking when they would hand me cash for their first drink and I had to set my morals aside for every shift.
I had this one regular who would come in before we would open and I served him for over a year before I realized how sad his life was. He was always so happy but secretly depressed. One night after everyone left he pretty much spilled the beans on his life. At one point he had worked his whole life being a pilot and finally got engaged and was living in the south, extremely happy. Then the economy tanked, he lost his job, fiance in return broke off the engagement, and he was forced to move back to Iowa and work for his loser brother's construction company and do manual labor at 50 something. After he moved back he had to live with his mother because she became ill. This all happened within a matter of months and now he spends 3 pm- 11 pm every day wasted at the same bar and walks home to his moms house and walks back to his truck in the morning for work. It makes me sad every time I think about him.
Some guy once came into the bar where I worked looking pretty upset. He asked if he could use the bathroom before buying any drinks. I let him and he came back looking a lot more composed. Sat down and ordered a drink. Drank it quietly, then had another in the same fashion.
After a couple of hours, he asked if we could call him a cab as his cell phone wasn't working. I did so, but was told it would be an hour as the cab company was busy. I offered him a coffee to sober him up a little. He got chatting after that and told me that he'd managed to trace his birth Mother, and had been to meet her earlier that day.
Turns out that she had given him up as he was the result of her Dad forcing himself on her. She'd thought about keeping him, but discovered her Brother interfering with him while she had left him to baby sit, which was what prompted her to give him up. When he'd seen his Mum, she was a mess and actually looked more haggard than his adoptive grandmother due to a life on substances and alcohol dependence. Utterly awful stuff.
I used to tend bar at a gay bar once in a while. On a very crowded Friday night an older woman came in, sat at the bar and ordered a drink. She then started small chit-chat, and I was being the usual bartender of answering, smiling and making drinks at the same time.
After maybe 10 minutes she starts talking to me about how her teenage son just came out, and she and her husband kicked him out, and basically distanced themselves from him. She apparently came in to just get a feel for gay culture and talk to someone. Apparently she knows she probably did wrong but she was really religious, and her husband was too. This whole time I'm trying to bartend and make drinks, but I can't just turn this woman away. So she had no idea where her son was anymore and I eventually just yelled "Go find him! Why are you in here wasting time?!!?"
She left, but I always wonder what happened to her and her family.
A guy used to come into the Jamaican restaurant/bar I was working at. So I ask him how things are and he tells me that the third of his 4 kids had just died of some type of cancer. The gene responsible for the susceptibility to this cancer is passed on from the fathers side, so his wife was leaving him.
I've bartended in the same town for many, many years and see the same people at every bar I work at -- my very favorite regular is a Vietnam vet with severe PTSD, early onset dementia and a serious drinking problem. Very few people are kind to him and he's been 86'd from nearly every bar in town (including the ones I work at now, but I've been known to let him sit down and talk to me for a few minutes every now and then, especially if it's cold outside) because he looks, to the casual observer, like a worthless drunk. However, having heard just a fraction of his story and knowing the stuff he's been through, I find it hard not to show him kindness and respect.
Well, a few years back, he was on his first and only drink of the night at my bar. He was pretty blitzed and I couldn't rightly serve more than that since I knew he was walking home. Anyway, a young man stumbled in and sat down and showed me his military ID. Ordered a drink, sat at the opposite end of the bar from the older regular customer. He told me he had just finished his second tour in Iraq. His best friend had died from injuries sustained in a roadside bombing, and he was pretty torn up about it. Got home and realized his girlfriend had been getting with another one of his best friends while he was overseas. He had joined the military right out of high school, mostly due to pressure by his father.
It hit me all at once that the two men at my bar were exactly alike, save 25-30 years in age. Before I could process how parallel their lives were and how this young man may very well end up exactly like the older man, my regular got up from his bar stool and walked over to the young man at the opposite side. He shook the young man's hand, leaned in and said, "Trust me, brother, I know. You're a good guy."
It was such a poignant moment. To anyone else, it may have looked like a random drunken "I love you, man!" type moment, but it was so much more and so simply stated that it brought me to tears.
There was a shy old man who would come in a couple of times a week. He would sit at the end of the bar and drink screwdrivers, never speaking to us except to order his drink. It was slow one day so I pulled a book out of my purse to do a little reading. He perked up immediately. He began to talk to me about all the books he's read, I've read, etc. The next time he came in he brought his copy of "The Five People you Meet in Heaven", and asked if I'd like to borrow it.
Since then every time he came in he'd bring a new book in and tell me about his life. Nothing extraordinary, just grown kids who he never sees anymore and his old job working in a factory. He stopped coming in, and I seemed to be the only one concerned with it. Later I found out he died. "Oh, that old drunk? He was at another bar, drank himself into one of his stupors and fell off the bar stool, cracking his head open." Nobody understood why that bothered me so much.
During the Super Bowl a few years back, a woman sat alone at one of my lounge tables. I stepped from behind the bar to take her order and she was simply staring at the television, crying. After I brought her her single order of egg rolls (chain restaurant appetizer), she looked at me with this desperate sadness. I finally asked her if she was ok, completely uncomfortable and concerned, when she said: "My husband of fifteen years is at this game. He said with coworkers, but someone called me weeks ago saying he was really going with his girlfriend. I never expected he was cheating. I hired a detective, and it's true. He's cheating. My lawyer had him served with divorce papers just before he left for the game. He hasn't called me."
Then she went back to watching the game, crying. I imagined she was waiting to spot him in some off chance miracle. I tried to buy her drinks and meal but she refused, saying her dinner was on her husband. She left while I was in the kitchen and left a huge tip.
I had a regular that used to come in everyday, drink his beer and cry. I always just kind of ignored it until I found out that he was crying because he went home one day and his wife had just packed up all of her belongings and left him. I finally sat down and talked to him about it and he mentioned that he never used to drink and that her leaving made him want to. He has actually become a good friend of mine and is sitting at the bar as I type with a new girlfriend.
I have an old Mexican man who comes in about 5 days a week. Very well dressed, very polite and friends with everybody. He doesn't have a mean bone in his body. He always buys people drinks and tips well. One day he was drinking whiskey alone and opened up. His wife died of a long fought cancer and this was her favorite place. Whenever he thinks of her he comes here and hangs out.
This crippled Vietnam vet used to come in every karaoke night and sing the same song. Unchained melody by righteous brothers. That super sad song about love. Turns out his wife died of cancer a while back and now this is how he remembers her.
I was serving someone and being my chipper self when they responded to my question of "How's your day going?" They said, "My house burned down today." Oh my god?! At least you are ok!! "My cat died." I had no idea what to say and just served.
When I was working in my local, a young man came in and told me about his friend who suffered from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and had committed suicide 2 years before. To me this seemed strange considering it had happened 2 years ago but then, in tears, he went on. After the suicide he began a small charity to try and promote the disorder, and get support for those struggling with it. The charity began to struggle so this guy pumps a load of his own time and money in to it, leaving him severely in debt.
He invests so much time in to this struggling charity, he loses his job from just not turning up. In a depressing domino-style effect his wife and kids leave him and move away, he loses his house, his car, everything. Eventually the stress caused him to have a full on mental breakdown. So this guy moves in with his friend (who lives in my village) and the previous day was diagnosed as being in the early stages of testicular cancer. He started chemo the following day. It was particularly sad as he seemed like the nicest guy you could meet.
I worked at a pretty rough bar when I was young, the sort frequented by bikes and other social outcasts where there's more tattoos on display than clean skin. One of the regulars was a guy of about 50 who had brain damage. He had done time in prison and the inmates had put him in a commercial spin-dryer which damaged him irreparably. He couldn't articulate words very well and pretty much kept to himself, but was always courteous and friendly when spoken to.
One day the police arrived and took him away. Turned out he had killed his mother (with whom he lived) with a kitchen knife about a week earlier, and had continued going about his daily routine as normal because he didn't grasp the significance of what he had done. It affected me for a long time because of the overwhelming sadness of it all.
A guy came in obviously intoxicated. Proceeded to tell me his wife was leaving him for his business partner and that that partner was forcing him out of their business together. He was losing his kids, business, pretty much everything he cared about. Then he asked me to call the police because he was afraid to be alone because he might kill himself.
About 10 minutes later the police showed up, took the man outside and asked him a few questions then came back in and asked me what his deal was. I said he wasn't bothering anybody and that it seemed like he was having a rough go of it. The couple at the bar felt so bad they paid his tab (when the cop showed up they just went right outside). I've never looked up the definition of dejected, but this guy would have had his picture next to it for sure.
I was a bartender at Applebee's, part of one of the many jobs I had before I became an engineer, and what looked like a middle aged 40 year old man walked in. Midway through his drink he looked at me and said, "I used to own a multi-million dollar business before I was contracted with a terminal illness from the medication I took." This caught my ear and I started to talk to him. "What happened?"
He said, "My doctor recommended medication to me and apparently it has something which made me terminally ill from taking it." I was a bit dumbfounded that stuff like this happen in this day and age. He said, "I had to leave my business, the company that makes the medication offered me millions in compensation if I don't go to court and try to get it pulled." I thought he probably took the millions, which is why he's here and trying to make the most of the rest of his life. He told me, "I didn't take it, I'm still fighting the courts about it." 2 weeks later, he passed away. And yes, the medication did get taken off the shelf.
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