Of Bars, Booze, and Bartending - Proving "Coughlin's Law" Invalid Since Feb '05

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Traveling Salesmen

What's really great about bartending is that it's never the same day, same story. I've always had to struggle with the boredom and skull-numbing drudgery of traditional careers I've tried, so I'm better suited for a job which requires weird hours, always being on your feet, tending to people and adapting to changing conditions by the hour. It's like being a nurse, when you really think about it, once you take out the crucial-to-society aspect. A fun nurse, with more attractive workplace conditions.

For example, there are regulars, your bread-and-butter, and then there are traveling salesmen. The former keeps your cable bill paid and provides constant laughs and occasional moments of genuine affection, while the latter keeps it interesting, mixes it up. Sometimes they walk in painfully shy, head down on their mobile phones, quick bite, glass of wine and out the door. Other times, they walk in like Good Time Charlie, mixing it up with the regulars, buying rounds and appetizers. Then, there are those who are on the road, a bit lonely, and entirely talkative, but not in a creepy way.

Tonight, for example, I received an unexpected and pleasant lesson on the art of the Detroit Coney Island, from the heir to one of Detroit's Coney Island palaces. He's no longer making coneys (conies?); he's a sales manager on the road for an electronics firm. He explained to me that his Greek parents came to this country and opened a diner, hoping that their children would receive a formal education and not have to ever run the restaurant. Turns out they succeeded, and here sat my customer, pouring out his guilt about abandoning the family business, their beloved chili parlor, even though, apparently, that's what his parents wished for him in the first place. His honesty was fascinating.

You just never know on any given day what you're going to get, who you're going to meet, and what stories you're going to hear. That's what's really great about bartending.

A toast to dreams, especially the ones so unexpectedly fulfilled.

Darkness creeps in like a thief, and offers no relief
Why are you shaking like a leaf?
Come on, come talk to me
Please talk to me, won't you please talk to me
We can unlock this misery
Come on, come talk to me

- Peter Gabriel, "Come Talk To Me"