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

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Ice Storm

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The view from my window

Weather has been wintry nationwide this week, and locally we've been enduring an ice storm. It's eerily beautiful. Listening to branches creak and snap in the darkness is soothing and somehow melodic, and driving to work today, the sun hitting the icicles made the entire city seem magical, like a fairytale winter palace. It's the kind of gorgeous danger you want to reach out and touch.

Inclement weather often drives customers into the bar from their neighboring hotels. Just as the ice started falling from the sky, a gentleman walked in and immediately spread his papers all over the bar. He ordered a glass of Chardonnay, and let me know he'd be dining.

I gave him about ten minutes. He didn't once look up from his work, and I didn't want to distract him. When I finally approached, I asked, simply, "Have you decided?"

"No. The weather's bad, and there's nowhere to go. I'm going to be here for awhile. I'm in no rush whatsoever."

I can't fault him, because instead of giving me every piece of information I was seeking from him through guesswork and body language, he told me what he was expecting in a concise, verbal sentence.

I was irritated by him. Business was slow, the dining room had cleared out, bad weather was on its way, and he was the only obstacle between me and my drive home. Servers were bugging out left and right, and I was certain the manager was on the brink of cutting my shift short. We were all trying to get on the road and outrun the weather.

Still, he just flipped through those papers. He studied them as if they contained the secrets of lost cities. I had to admire the man's work ethic. It made me examine my own.

When he at last seemed satisfied with his work, he ordered his dinner and a second glass of wine. It didn't take long for him to stretch, loosen up, and finally engage me in conversation as I polished the glassware. When we started talking, my irritability melted away, and he became rather delightful.

The lone remaining server leaned against the bar and talked with Paul (we all got on a first name basis quickly) too, as he dipped his bread in his sauce, chugged sparkling water and talked about his life on the road as a traveling businessman. He talked about how he missed his family; we all exchanged pictures, and soon Chef was out front, sipping wine and chatting with Paul. When he finally left, we locked up, and we all were a little taken aback by the generosity of his tip.

He hopes to get back to Chicago in the morning, so here's to Paul, and here's hoping he encounters no difficulties returning his rental car, that his trip to the airport is swift, that the lines through security are short, that his flight is not delayed, and that he reaches his home and his family safely.

Here's a toast to road warriors, and to the ice storms that afford them the opportunity to share their amusing tales with bartenders. Cheers!

We've all got wheels to take ourselves away
We've got telephones to say what we can't say
We've all got higher and higher every day
Come on wheels take this boy away
We're not afraid to ride
We're not afraid to die
So come on wheels take me home today

- Flying Burrito Brothers, "Wheels"

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