The man in the pink striped shirt cleared his spot at the bar as if he were policing a campground. He moved the napkins, the hand sanitizer, even the little glass used to present the bar checks.
He then got up and wiggled his barstool back and forth as if he were seating it on uneven ground.
And I just stood back and watched. When someone is so obviously uncomfortable in what should be particularly comfortable environs, one quickly understands that helping them get comfortable is a losing proposition. Climate control, comfy chairs and cocktails are all comforting individually, so just imaging their level of comfort in tandem.
But comfort is in the eye of the beholder. And sometimes, in the ear.
He asked to change the channel on the TV and asked to turn the music down. All before inserting two earbuds and bobbing his head to an invisible beat, all the while looking down at the device in his lap.
Now I’ve seen people sit and stare at their phones all evening, I’ve also seen people bring chess sets, backgammon boards, and all manner of entertainment. I have never seen someone listen to music on the headphones, at least not while sitting at a busy bar.
But to each their own. In a bar, as long as you are paying, and aren’t bothering anyone, you can usually do what you want.
Kierkegaard once quipped that irony is the birth pang of the objective mind, and just as that thought registered objectively, another more subjective thought took its place. Because another man and two female friends found spots immediately adjacent to Mr. Earbuds, and that man was wearing the exact same pink shirt.
The threesome was boisterous, but roistering is to be expected, especially now, and especially in a public place. It’s like learning to do something all over again, and that can be fun.
Jokes were made and drinks were ordered. It was as if two polar opposites were right next to each other. And what physics tells us about that is, it isn’t very good. And while the liberal arts can often be wrong, the physical laws are not.
“Hey, can you keep it down!” shouted the man in the earbuds, perhaps overcompensation for the headphone volume.
Pink shirt #2 didn’t take kindly to the volume, nor the tone.
Words were exchanged. And they weren’t words of encouragement, nor of kindness. I think the term is “fighting words.”
Ironically fighting words don’t usually lead to fighting action. Bluff and display, for all our fancy civilization (and pink shirts) sometimes all we really are is hairless apes.
I have seen it a thousand times. Usually, things end with verbal combatants just moving off.
But sometimes they don’t. Sometimes things get out of hand. Or in this case it started with a finger.
Pink shirt #1 started tapping pink shirt #2 on the chest with his index finger. In a all my years behind the stick I have learned one thing for sure. Tapping someone else on the chest always leads to fight.
In the 10seconds it took me to get around the bar and in between these two guys shoves were exchanged and tensions had escalated.
“You’ve got to go,” I said to pink shirt #1.
“Why me?” he exclaimed.
“Because you made physical contact first.”
“But, but, but…”
“One more but, and I call the cops.”
That seemed to work. He re-rearranged the chair, the glass, the hand sanitizer, and the napkins, undoing all that he had done. As if any of that mattered.
He gathered up his stuff and made a few choice word selections, but a bartender, a busboy, and manager were more than enough of a deterrent. After the long goodbye, everyone began to chatter nervously. Adrenaline can come in waves, over people, and over groups.
“Good thing he left,” said pink shirt #2.
“You’ve got to go too,” I said.
“But I didn’t do anything,” he said, which wasn’t entirely true.
“Yeah, but you didn’t not do anything either,” said the manager.
Which left me with these thoughts:
-Nobody ever “wins” a bar fight, ever.
-When throwing two combatants out, it is best to do so one at a time, and hopefully out different doors.
-Never agree to “step outside” with someone, because you have just now gone from innocent bystander to active participant.
-Regardless of who threw the first punch, or shoved the first shove, both people are usually asked to leave.
-I know it’s been 14 long months, but some things have not changed.
-Ironically most bar fights start between people who have a lot in common: bar stools, pink shirts, and sometimes, spouses.