Welcoming the new year, one misstep at a time

Hindsight is so 2022

If you are reading this, then it has already happened. Ironically, as I am writing it, it hasn’t happened yet. 30 years of bartending means 30 years of New Year’s Eves. And being what they are – busy – that means of those 30, I have probably worked at least 26 of them.

It’s called Amateur Night, but that is not quite correct. Because most of the people who work it are professionals. The holiday season starts out with the thanks that is Thanksgiving, then rounds into form around Christmas, and then goes off the rails on New Year’s Eve.

It’s always been the same, barring a pandemic year or two. Here is a little preview of for me what is still yet to come, but for you, has already just happened. Like recollections, we shall go at it backwards, starting with early Sunday morning.

7:30 a.m., January 1

The lawnmower (or leaf blower, or chainsaw), will spit, and sputter, as its airy gasoline mixture ignites into life. Mr. “I don’t give a damn” has decided that regardless of the day, or the hour, he is going to exercise his absolute right to begin making loud aggressive noises immediately upon the striking of the canonical hour. But don’t worry. True to form he will only do it long enough for you to be irretrievably awake. Happy New Years’ sleepy head!

3:00 a.m. January 1.

Bars in California close at 2:00 a.m. And do you know who knows that? The police know that. The logical presumption is that anyone on the road at this time is from four different groups. Those police. People who work in bars. People who go to bars. And people who drive those people home, professionally. Just an FYI those aren’t going to be Christmas lights twinkling in your rear view mirror.

2 a.m. January 1

“Can you call me a cab?” says the man in the black paper top hat.

Never mind that he had already asked that same question at least twice before.

“Are you sure you called?” says his redheaded companion wearing her glitter covered paper tiara.

Oh yes, I’m sure. There is nothing more in the world that a bartender wants on New Year’s Eve at 2 a.m. than for your ride to get there already. And a cab? What is it? 2008?

12 a.m. (midnight) New Year’s Eve

“Where’s my champagne?” asks the person who just walked in the front door of the restaurant. He just got there, hasn’t been there before, but feels entitled to a free glass of sparkling wine. And he can’t wait, because, you know, its’ New Year’s Eve. Not to worry, because once he has to start paying, he’s going to leave. In the meantime, he’s going to make it all about him. Or her.

11 p.m. December 31

“Have you seen my shoe? (it might also be a purse or a scarf)” says the erstwhile Cinderella, who went into the dining room an hour ago. She just noticed it’s missing and isn’t sure how long it’s been missing. A good place to start is the bar where you were sitting 60 minutes ago. She will root around the barstools making everyone stand awkwardly while she looks. She will eventually find it in her other hand. Apologies will not be proffered, nor would they be accepted if they were.

10 p.m.

The man who ordered shots an hour ago has now relieved himself of them, as well as most of his $85 prix fixe meal. Unfortunately, he has done so onto the floor of the men’s room. The busser isn’t happy about it and neither is his date. I guess his boast of “We’re gonna rage all night” actually only involved about 119 minutes. But that’s what happens when people drink shots. One drink an hour plus one glass of water per drink is the way to avoid a hangover. Note to self, once you start throwing up, you are probably also going to be hungover. Just saying.

8 p.m.

“We’re gonna rage all night!” says the guy in the fresh clean red velvet smoking jacket trotted out for just this occasion.

If the busser knew about his future now, he’d probably leave. But he doesn’t. Poor guy.

6 p.m.

“Have a good night!” says the last recognizable bar regular left in the building.

“You can’t leave me alone,” says the bartender looking around at the semi-formal, semi-casual group milling around like a herd of cats not knowing where the litterbox is.

“We’re not leaving you alone. We are leaving you to them.”

He might have said “with them” but hindsight makes it really feel like he said, “to them.”

4 p.m. Dec 31

The bartender’s shift starts. A double latte and two aspirin are taken. Two squirts of breath spray, and he thinks he’s ready. So does the busser. They are both wrong.

Happy New Years! And please, please, someone tell that guy with the leaf blower to knock it off.