July Fourth or Independence Day? The choice is up to you.

Certain holidays remind me of certain events. It’s funny how I can’t easily remember what I did on my last birthday, but I can remember something that happened on the 4th of July, twenty years ago.

The tiny crowd had gathered at the bar. The 4th of July might rank in the top 5 of almost every drinking day poll ever listed, yet ironically most of that drinking doesn’t occur in bars. Picnics, fairs, BBQ’s, and outdoor fireworks all contribute to this fact. And although the 4th of July is certainly a toastable affair, nobody ever seems to raise a toast. Which is something I’ve always found quite odd.

“To us!” said the guitar player from a band who’s name I’ve long since forgotten.

“I don’t really like shots,” said his date, before she drank it, nonetheless.

“Two more!” he said, either not hearing, or not caring.

I had gotten to know these two over the previous couple of months. She had come to the little nightclub where I worked in order “to get away” from her ex. Often when relationships end, people will do some soul searching, some introspection, and just as often, they just do some searching. And that guitar player was who she found. Doubly ironic, because the ex she was trying to get away from was also a guitar player. So often in life, people think to change their circumstances before they think to change themselves.

The new couples dance of courtship always had the same steps; drinks, argument, more drinks, more argument, and then a big dramatic scene, followed by a big exit, followed by her chasing him out the door trying to apologize. Every single time, just like clockwork. One could only wonder what happened when they left.

Relationship gurus tell us that we sometimes settle for what we think we deserve. Or that change only really happens when we hit rock bottom, or that happiness is only a stated goal, our real goal is to create a pattern we’re comfortable with, even if that pattern is self-destructive.

But what do I know? I’m just a bartender.

“Two more!” said the guitar player, realizing that fact.

It was now my turn to pretend that I didn’t hear. I walked the other way down the bar. I am often asked how I handle people who have been overserved. The trick is easy, don’t overserve them in the first place. One way of doing that is to pretend you didn’t hear. And in loud busy bars that is pretty easy to do. In quieter slower bars it is more difficult. And the way to handle that is simply not to be there. Sometimes that affects your tips, but if your only goal while dispensing alcohol is tips, you probably shouldn’t be doing it anyhow.

They had now had one argument and two rounds of drinks; it was just about time for…

“You always make decisions for me!” she yelled at him. “You never listen!”

Which was true, he didn’t, but neither did her ex-boyfriend.

“You need to calm down,” he said. Which, while often said in the heat of a relationship fight, never ever calms anyone down. In fact, it usually has the exact opposite effect.

“I’m tired of this!” she yelled in response, not indicating exactly which part she was tired of; the drinking, the not listening, the fighting, or all of it.

“Me too!” he said.

Cue their exit, I told the other bartender.

Some glasses were knocked over, some harsh words were exchanged with the club’s security, a fight over the bill commenced and the guitar player headed for the door pulling on his leather jacket and flipping his long hair out of its collar.

“We’re done,” he said, draining the last of his drink before heading out to his waiting taxicab.

This time was different because this time she didn’t follow.

“I’m outta here,” he said, pausing by the door.

“Go,” she said.

It took a while, but he finally went. And she stayed.

“I’ve got to stop dating guitar players,” she said.

I shrugged, because I’ve learned that saying something about someone’s ex, can often come back to haunt you when that ex isn’t an ex anymore.

“Happy Fourth of July?” I posited, raising my sparkling water in toast.

“No,” she said pausing. “Happy Independence Day.”

Which left me with these thoughts:

-She never did date another guitar player, but she did marry a drummer, go figure.

-If you always find yourself in unfavorable circumstances, maybe it’s not the circumstances that need to change.

– “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice,” from the song “Freewill” from Rush’s 1980 album, Permanent Waves.

-Independence and independent, are two entirely different things.