Lieutenant Dan Has Left The Building.
Thank you, and good night.
Good ol' Lieutenant Dan came in at his usual time, I handed him his predictable Bud bottle, and we proceeded to speak to each other in rudimentary German. It's just this thing we do. He was stationed in Germany, and I get a kick out of practicing my German.
Despite our past differences, Dan has grown on me over the months; he's grown on the entire staff. Stu, our floor manager, looks at his watch every night, at the same time, and exclaims "Lieutenant Dan!" as he walks in. Yes, oh yes, the stuff of sitcoms.
So it hurts me when Lt. Dan tells me he's leaving for El Paso in the morning. His last night in our presence. He says it so casually that I ignore him at first, kind of the way I usually do, and then the words hit me, but only as an echo.
Stu looks as though he's been punched when I finally get it, and power-whisper to him, "It's Lt. Dan's last night!!!"
I whip back around and demand that I buy Dan a drink. His ruddy face blushes over. He's strictly a Bud guy, but I insist on hard stuff. Good, expensive, hard stuff. Two of 'em, damn it. Hell, Lt. Dan, as many as you want. It's your Farewell Party!
He settles on a dirty Sapphire martini, rocks. He sheepishly asks for bleu cheese stuffed olives, and I cheerfully assemble them, where I'd refuse/complain to most anyone else. I announce to every server passing by that Lt. Dan is leaving, and they all stop to high-five and hug him.
Finally, Lt. Dan looks at me and says, "Auf Wiedersehen." He shows his toothy smile for the first time since I've known him.
"Bis zum nächsten mal!" I reply (bad accent), and run around the bar to hug him, and wish him good travels, and ask that when he speaks of me, he speaks well. He agrees, and I tell him I'll do the same. I feel guilty about the whole blog thing, for a second or two.
A few of us are misty-eyed when he walks out the door. Strange, and wonderful, the way you get attached to people you barely know or understand.
It's good to be their barkeep, if only for a short time.
Cheers, Lieutenant Dan. Godspeed.
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got till it's gone
They paved paradise
And they put up a parking lot
- Joni Mitchell, "Big Yellow Taxi"