So, about an hour after dinner with my friend Jackie – and this is on Tuesday – I staggered home, to a neighborhood watering hole, under the belief that I was drunk but not all-American, all-pro drunk – and that, once there, I could remedy The Situation.
The bar was empty save for this one woman who, clearly, was not happy about something, and probably counted a guy, talkative and on the sauce, as one of the last things she wanted to encounter that night – and, I would have honored those wishes, were it not for the fact that she was the bartender. But, obviously, my choices were limited in the matter. Plus, it’s just plain odd to sit, alone, with one person hardly a foot away and not talk to them.
Of course, I probably – and quite unintentionally – made matters worse when I decided that what we both needed was some good ol’ conversation. You see, I’m the sort of person who considers it his duty, drunk or otherwise, to make sure that everyone is having a good time. If someone is off sulking in a corner, I turn into the court jester and am willing to be the butt of my own jokes – and anybody else’s – so long as that gets a laugh. (And, to answer the logical next question: “about 50/50”).
So, I would try to make small talk with her and, on occasion, would get an actual – and, I would say, legitimate – laugh or a smile. But the change was always fleeting and she would immediately revert back to staring at the TV and watching whichever reality show was on the tube at the time.
And it was after a few minutes of this, that a guy about my age, sporting a suit jacket and thick, black-rimmed glasses, came in and sat down to enjoy a quick drink (before he met up with his girlfriend, he later told me). He didn't seem to be sad: he seemed to be fine just keeping to himself.
And, suddenly, a light bulb went on and I thought, “I know! I can rope this guy into a conversation, and then the bartender could join us in that conversation, and so strangers will meet and lives will be changed” or something to that effect – all the time figuring that what two people, who obviously wish to be left alone, want is to talk to a boisterous, obstreperous drunk. I mean, whatever the antidote to their situation was, I was the opposite: I was the quack who was recommending, “No, what this broken limb needs is a good leeching.”
So, trying, searching, mining, really, for any “In” to strike up a conversation, I casually mention to the fellow – and, it was odd but it was the only thing I could think of -- “Hey, I don’t know if you know who these guys are, but has anyone ever told you that you look like the singer of The Hold Steady?” (which, if you don’t know, is an up-and-coming band, originally from the Midwest and now residing in Brooklyn).
To which he responded: “Actually, I am the lead singer for The Hold Steady.”
And, obviously not expecting that to be the answer, I paused, and, sort of sized him up, and realized that No he wasn’t having some fun with me because Yes, he IS the lead singer of The Hold Steady. And so I remarked, “Well, I guess that’s why you two look so much alike.”
We exchanged a few more words and then he was off -- a nice guy, really.
Meanwhile, I tried in vain for a few more minutes to make the bartender smile. But she had clearly had a long night and with my B.A.C. what it was, Iraq suddenly looked winnable in comparison.
And so, I packed myself up and headed home, sad now myself: for I had learned what Ashton Kutcher fatefully did at the end of “The Butterfly Effect”: That even if you mean well, sometimes it's better for everyone involved if you left the picture entirely.
Today’s lesson: And, frankly, if I have to go home and pass out to Season 1 of Kids in the Hall, that’s not so bad, right?