From Dito Sevilla. Email him at dito[AT]borderstan.com, follow him on Twitter @DitoDC.
In the near 10 years I have spent underground, mixing and listening, advising and shaking, pouring and un-popping I have seen and heard a lifetime of celebration and sadness, mind numbing plotting, relationship building and ending, the excitement of newly minted, fresh faced, non-profit workers alongside their jaded counterparts and results of three presidential elections.
After 10 Holiday Seasons, 10 High-Heel Races, 10 Gay Pride Parades and thousands of guests, I thought I had seen it all. Then came Tuesday, February 26, 2013.
It was a nasty, windy, cold and rainy night. My little bar was blessed with its usual mélange of friends, regulars and neighborhood newbies, each angling for a seat at the subterranean watering hole at which I have chosen to leave my mark on the world of service. The evening began normal enough: wine, lasagna, two Grey Goose martinis, some gays, some girls, a man on a date, a couple in the window and umbrellas strewn about.
Around closing time though the door walked a woman, a young woman with that look on her face. That look which says, “Oh, you’re still open…” I wasn’t, but why should that stop her. Morphing my disdain into a smile, I offered her a seat, affording her ample opportunity to ignore every subconscious signal I sent pleading with her to get out.
I guess my smile was convincing; she quickly made herself at home, ordered some wine and did her best to ignore me ignoring her. As there were few conversations in which she could insert herself, I took it upon myself to do the part of my job I either love or hate depending on who I have to do it with.
I asked, “So who the hell are you, where are you from, what are you doing here, etc.?”
I used nicer words; she unburdened herself. I re-filled her glass, and then my own.
After a few minutes, her story went from boring to depressing. She is, or was, an attorney. She was just laid off, and has come to DC for a temp job reviewing documents, blah, blah, blah. I can now assure you: the only thing more boring than reviewing documents is listening to a story about reviewing documents.
Anyhow, while I knew that the past 30 minutes were a half-hour I’d never get back, I forced myself to be pleased I had done a kind thing, not letting this stranger-turned-new-friend go thirsty. All was right in our little world. No sooner had I sighed, “Okay, well… goodnight…” the door opened again.
Really, now what?
Audibly exhaling, I turned to make eye contact with a very wet, yet extremely distinguished gentleman. I would like to say it was kindness which edited my internal monologue from “And who the hell are you?” to “Good evening, sir. How are you this evening? A little wet I see. Well have a seat.”
But no, it was curiosity.
I love people, especially when people look like they’re somebody, and he did. I thought to myself, his bearing is dignified. His overcoat is tailored. He looked like the kind of man who thrives in all climates. Wind, rain, perfect! This man was born with the understanding that what makes a man great is his ability to adapt, to succeed in the face of opposition, and prosper, not in spite of it, but because of it. Then again I had made all this up in my head. He sat, ordered a beer. I began my paperwork. I’d be home in 20 minutes. No, of course I wouldn’t.
They began talking. And talking. There was a connection, a spark. Conversation flowed; I eavesdropped. He’s a lawyer too. She’s always thought older men remind her of her father (daddy issues). He has two daughters. She wants to relocate. He’s a partner in a firm. He’s going to Greece next week.
She spent a summer in Athens. She loves Dogs. He did pro-bono work for PETA. She just bought a new watch. He collects them… and on, and on, and on. After two hours of agreement, I could take no more. They exchanged numbers, he asked her to join him in Greece. She said, yes. When they returned, he said, there might be room for new talent at his firm.
Just as I was thinking how magical my job was, that my patience somehow allowed these two to make such a meaningful and powerful connection right there, all before my very eyes… the phone rang. No, no. Not my phone, hers.
It was her “boyfriend.” WHO?
I raised my eyebrows, rolling my eyes back so far I could see my own ass. I turned, daring not to look at the gentleman. I heard the sound of my teeth grinding as she indicated she’d be home, “in a few.” Oh dear.
The room became cold. Goodbyes were exchanged. Calls and emails were promised. His dignity impressed me. No sooner had she returned my goodbye nod she was out the door, across the patio, and onto the sidewalk. Luckily, I didn’t have to say a word. With a last glance at her name and a flip of his wrist, her card fell to the cold, wet, concrete floor. He asked, speaking to me with the same bearing with which he entered “I’d sooner hire my ex-wife to litigate. Can you believe that simple bitch.” It wasn’t a question. I didn’t answer.
So, while there is probably a lesson here, something about opportunity, timing, the motives of man, I still haven’t figured it out. But people, when you’re in a restaurant, silence your phones, because the next time your “man” calls, you might be in Greece, with your new boss. Next Tuesday, I’m closing at 11.