People eventually show their true colors

I knew he was trouble the first time that I saw him. Maybe it was his extremely wrinkled collared dress shirt. Or maybe it was the combat boots. Or perhaps it was his swimming trunks. Let’s just say it was a lot to unpack, especially on a Friday night at the nicest restaurant in town. But the lack of a dress code allows for a lot of things. Perhaps that is why you see so many people wearing pajamas and slippers out in public these days. So, in retrospect, I guess swimming trunks weren’t so bad after all. But I digress.

“What can I get you?” I asked, fully expecting that it would be just water.

It wasn’t. He ordered a beer. A big beer. An expensive beer.

I have heard the saying, “Never judge a book by its cover,” but let me give you a little bit of bartender wisdom that I have learned in my 35-year career as a bartender. People will tell you who they are, you just have to listen.

“I need a credit card to run a tab,” I said, stating company policy.

“Don’t you trust me?”

The only people I don’t trust are people who say exactly that.

“Company policy,” I said.

“I don’t have one,” he said.

He then pulled out a wad of cash from his faded blue trunks the size of my fist. The drawstrings from his trunks became entangled in it so that instead of staying in that wad form, it dispersed onto the bar in a cloud of bills: $100s, $50s and $20s, plus some cotton bits, a parking permit and some miscellaneous fuzz. It was easily over $1,000.

“Will that work?”

Sometimes things seem clearer in retrospect than they were in the moment. And this was one of those times.

He had a total of three beers, stayed for about two hours and left us $100 in cash as a tip. You might forget the boots, the shirt or the trunks, but you won’t forget that.

“I don’t know about that guy,” I said to the other bartender.

But he was too busy counting the tip to notice.

Mr. Trunks started coming in every week. And it was always the same: the same outfit, the same three beers and the same $100 tip.

Sadly, he also started driving people away. Turns out that people out to dinner at a nice restaurant don’t always like talking to an odd person in odd attire. It may seem judgy, but I wonder how you might feel in that same situation? We were not in the Caribbean, south of France or the South Pacific. The closest open water to this restaurant was 20 miles away and the closest pool was in the next town over. But I ask you, if a guy dressed like that knocked on your front door, would you answer it? I suspect not.

After several weeks of this, I then started to notice something else. His tab didn’t always have three beers on it. Sometimes it had two, and sometimes it only had one — the one I had served him. Two hours and one beer? It seemed unlikely.

Not only that, but now the cocktail server was trying to take his order while he stood at the bar.

“I am sorry,” she said. “He ordered from me.”

Which wasn’t true because I saw her walk over to him and ask him if he wanted a drink.

People were soon falling over themselves to take his order. And then the tip started to change. Sometimes it was $80, sometimes it was $50 and sometimes even $20. It was hard to tell because it depended on whom he gave the tip to.

Pretty soon it wasn’t hard to tell, because it all depended on whom he gave the tip to.

Then, one day I noticed that his one beer — that I had wrung up — had not been closed out when he left. I asked the other bartender about it, and he just shrugged.

“Did he leave a tip?” I asked, expecting to take payment out of that.

“No,” said the other bartender.

“He didn’t leave anything?” I asked.


And he seemed strangely unconcerned about it.

After which two things happened:

• The management decided they did not want Mr. Trunk’s business anymore.

• Management also decided to let that other bartender go.

Which left me with these thoughts:

• People always do tell you who they really are — sometimes immediately and sometimes eventually.

• Money is a corrupting influence. Always.

• “There’s no amount of money,” says Patrick Swayze’s character in 1989’s “Road House” in response to a bribe. The “Road House” reboot starring Jake Gyllenhaal just came out; we will see if his character holds true.

• Everyone might have their price, but for some, that price is you.