The Sad Bartender

Saw the following posted on a FB site titled The Angry Bartender and it brought up something that I too have experienced and wrestled with over the course of my 15 years running Buzzy’s.

Let me just start by saying that a baseline truth here is that losing anyone who is a part of your life is always a challenge. The closer that person is to you, the bigger the challenge. No matter how much you try to move on from that loss, there is always a little hole in your heart that hurts.

Having said that however, I kinda know what the bartender quote above is getting at when having to witness your barroom friends meet up with their ultimate closing time. The bartender/patron relationship is a rather unique and hard-to-define interaction. I’ll take a shot at explaining it here, but warn you, unless you have had experience in this field, it may come off sounding a little airy fairy and kinda sappy but here goes.

Anybody you see and interact with on a daily basis you develop a nice, unspoken but very real relationship with. It may be the security guard who checks your badge as you enter into your workplace or the donut dude who serves you up your morning coffee and sugar fix. You get to know, like and appreciate these fixtures in your daily routine.

In a barroom though, the customer/clerk relationship gets blurred very quickly as the patrons become your close friends and people you care about very much. You see them every day. You know their back and front stories. You share in and live their life victories and defeats. They become not only your friends, but also more than that, they become “Like family” with all the best things about being family and few of, if any, of the worst. By that I mean, family members are good for support and friendship, but on the other hand, we all know how tricky family stuff can and does get.

Barroom friends do not bring all that familial baggage nor obligations with them to the gimme-a-drink-and-an-ear relationship. As a barkeep, you develop a gentle rapport and a rhythm of life with your patrons that is easy, warm and comfortable. The old stereotype of the bartender being a substitute shrink who listens to, agrees and emphasizes with, but doesn’t judge his/her clientele, has some credence in this dynamic. A good bartender’s job is to serve you up a drink, listen to your stories, and ultimately make you relax and feel comfortable while you spend some time there. Bottom line then – a good bar is like a home away from home.

But back to the Angry Bartender observation above about losing folks you come to like. Many of the folks who have passed on my watch at Buzzy’s were not only my Buzzy friends but also good and close personal friends whom I had known for a very long time. I am talking here about folks such as Bart Mettam, Mike and John Wayne Raley, Jerry and Gary Norris, Vic Carbone, Lou Gentry, Cheryl Krumpke, Joe Tom Wright, Pat John and Ben Forrest. These passings would have affected and sadden me whether or not I had bought Buzzy’s in 2007.

However, there have been the passings of folks whom I got to know and like once I took over Buzzy’s. Folks such as Ricky Yeatman, Craig Adkins, Ricky Bean, Dave Jerrell, Rich Brewer, Steve O’Neil and most recently Marshall Ping come to mind. I had gotten to know and like these guys through my running the Store. When they passed, it was just as much a loss to me as it was with the ones that I’d known much longer.

Then there is another group of folks whom I did not know too well but was still sad to hear about them passing. I met them when they re-visited Buzzy’s with their adult sons and daughters to reminisce and laugh about camping as a family many years ago at Pt. Lookout. It was a nice visit and everyone enjoyed the moment. Mom and Dad told Buzzy stories about how the kids got ice cream and they got beers. Everyone agreed that those were good memories.

Occasionally however, several months later, the younger family members will re-visit Buzzy’s and proceed to tell me that Mom or Dad had passed away. When they tell me this, it is all I can do to refrain from crying and saying how sad that makes me feel. Here I barely knew these folks; but having met them and laughed along with their memories and stories I felt like I knew them more than I did. Hearing about their passing made me very sad.

All things must pass I guess. To leave you on an up note, check out this video featuring Paul, Ringo, Eric and company including George’s son Dhani. There are also three drummers, eight guitarists, a couple keyboardists and a full orchestra for this great cover of one of George’s best tunes. I always think of his line “it’s not always gonna be this gray” when things around me look a little bleak.

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