"I've got some good news and some bad news," Vince tells me, returning from the back room. "Which do you want first?"
"The bad news," I cringe.
"We're all out of Tanqueray, Bombay, Beefeater's, and Gordon's. They just plain didn't bring any this week."
"How could they not bring any gin?! We serve fourteen billion martinis a month here! This bar is single-handedly keeping the juniper berry off the endangered species list!"
"Well, I told you it was bad news."
"What's the good news?"
"It's not my fault?" he shrugs, and I fight the urge to take a swing at him. "Todd totally shit the bed on this one. You want me to bring up the last case of Barton's?"
I cringe again. People are serious about the brand of gin they drink, and we're going to be spending all night basically asking our customers if they mind Mad Dog 20/20 when they've ordered Opus One. "I guess you'd better." It's still early, maybe it won't be crowded for a Friday night. He saunters off, tipping his non-existent cap to Cindy as she makes her way behind the bar to check in.
The next thing I hear is an enormous crash-boom, as if a Mack truck has plowed through the building across the street. What I see when I turn and look through The Bar's front picture window is a tsunami, or at least what I figure a tsunami would look like if it came barreling up a Manhattan cross-street. The sky was a funny shade of green on my way over here an hour ago, but I managed to get here before the storm actually started. Now there's a curtain of water coming down over the city. "I heard there are tornado warnings in effect," Cindy says. "I've never seen a tornado, and I'm pretty sure I don't want to."
"I'm sure it's nothing," I smile. Then I tell her about the gin situation, and no, I assure her, I'm really not kidding.
"So we're going to be serving flat ginger ale whenever someone orders Dom Perignon?" She draws herself a pint of Diet Coke from the fountain gun.
"Basically, yes, but we'll be asking permission first."
"They're going to love us, Debra."
"Nobody's going to be here tonight, Cindy - look at it outside!"
As if on cue, the door slams open and a large group of people pours in, absolutely soaked and dripping everywhere. There are probably twenty of them. One of them, a big, round guy with a baby face, exclaims, "Hey, they're not busy, this is great!" Half of them take up residence on stools at the bar, while the others grab tables along the wall or just mill about. Either way, Cindy and I spend the next five minutes solid hustling drinks and praying nobody wants anything with gin in it, and it's barely five-thirty.
The crowd has thickened by six o'clock, when Bill usually shows up to start working the door. There's no accounting for it; people just don't go out to drink when the weather is this shitty, but something about Friday afternoon and getting caught off-guard by the suddenness of the storm has driven them to our door tonight. And wouldn't you know it, we have to start explaining that there's no gin in the house that we'd serve to anyone we care about, and the customers aren't thrilled. Even if they didn't feel perfectly free to express it verbally (which they do), it shows in their tips, and I silently remind myself to whack Todd on the knees with a baseball bat. How do you suddenly forget about gin?!
As I'm mixing what I'm sure will be a horrendously noxious Barton's dirty martini, I hear another crash. This time when I turn around, Vince is rushing toward the door, where Bill has apparently fallen down. "Oh, man - didn't anybody think to mop up these fucking puddles?! OW," he shouts from where he lies, prostrate. Vince checks him out for a minute, then flashes me his "Call 911" signal.
"Shit," I say to Cindy as she passes behind me with a couple more pitchers of beer for Baby Face and his friends, and I dial quickly. While we're waiting for the EMTs to show up, I go to the back room to find Todd, and I tell him what's happened. "You've got to work the door, Todd - Cindy and I are already having trouble keeping up, we can't be checking IDs on a Friday night.
"What? I have no idea how to work that new card-reader thingy, and I don't have a New York state security license! I can't work the door!" He looks even more panicked than I feel, which I have to admit is comforting.
"Well, you have to do something. Give Vince the door, do his barbacking." He starts to open his mouth to say something - probably that it's beneath him to be hauling kegs and dirty glasses around at this stage of his career - but he thinks better of it, and we head out to the front.
"Debra, call Diego, and get him in here. Tell him we need his help."
"Can't do that, boss, Diego took his daughter to Mexico to visit family."
"Fuck. When does Jocelyn get here?"
"She'd better," he grumbles, then moves off to talk to Vince and check on Bill. A few minutes later, a couple of damp paramedics roll Bill into a neck and back brace, then load him onto a gurney and take him away. Vince takes up post at the door, and Todd starts collecting glasses, mumbling to himself the entire time.
We make it through the next couple of hours relatively okay, but as the rain lightens up, the crowd actually thickens, and it starts to look more like a normal Friday night crowd, including couples stopping in for a drink before a nice dinner out, Yankees fans still exercising faith that the season might not yet be lost, and the "TGIF" office crowd cutting loose while they wait for Metro-North delays to clear up. Plus, unfortunately, a good portion of the crowd that's usually in the Hamptons by this time seems to have decided to wait until Saturday morning to drive out due to the awful weather.
I breathe a sigh of relief when Jocelyn gets there right on time, and joins us in the fray. As soon as she has a moment to pause, I watch her fix herself a large, strong Bacardi & Coke, and she keeps herself going on that for a while. Todd seems to be doing okay at his barbacking duties, even taking some pleasure in creating the tallest possible stacks of glasses as he collects the dirties. Miraculously, he hasn't broken anything.
"Debra?" yells Cindy from the POS terminal a little after 9:30. "There's something wrong here!" I finish serving the certainly disgusting Barton's & tonic I've just been mixing, and head over. "Listen, I know math isn't my strong suit, but I keep trying to input three Sam Adams, and it keeps telling me I'm supposed to charge a hundred eighty dollars. Watch." I watch, and she's right. Just what we needed.
"I'll reboot it, it should be fine," I say, and then I do. "It'll be up in a couple of minutes. In the meantime, is he paying cash?" She nods. "Just give him change out of your tips and keep track of what needs to go on the register later." I go to tell Jocelyn, and she shakes her head and drains the rest of her rum & Coke. Sure enough, she pours herself another, and I smile.
A short time later, Todd stops behind the bar for a minute to let us know that Bill called Vince's cell phone from the hospital. They're pretty sure he didn't break anything, and he can move everything, but his back hurts enough that they're keeping him overnight. It's a relief, and it lightens our moods a bit. That is, until Cindy tells me her stomach is starting to hurt and she's feeling dizzy.
"You can't be serious. Cindy, don't crap out on me now!"
"I'm not serious - I mean, I'm not crapping out! I just feel... I don't know, wobbly."
I would be more skeptical, except for two things; Cindy has never blown off work, and I've had a bad spell or two myself
over the last five years. "Okay, do you want to go lie down for a few minutes and see if it goes away?"
"What the fuck?" Jocelyn shouts from behind Cindy. "What is this, Diet Coke?!" She's holding a pint glass that she clearly thought was her rum & Coke, and... shit. How did I not see that coming?
"Cindy, you drank Jocelyn's rum & Coke."
"I did? It was a little extra bitey, but I thought it was just, y'know, a must have been, well, new syrup cannister or some whatever."
Jocelyn closes the few yards still between us. "Hey, Debra, relax! It's no big deal - I'm not pissed, I'll just mix myself another."
"No, you don't get it, Jocelyn - Cindy doesn't drink
Cindy laughs. "This is what it's like to be drunk? I'm beginning to see why people drinkle - I mean I'm beginning to - oh, fuck." And that's when she leans forward and throws up onto our high-tech rubber anti-fatigue barmat with the holes to allow for spillage.
Jocelyn and I just
manage to get our feet out of the way in time. Jocelyn grabs hold of Cindy and tries to steady her, and I sigh. "Jocelyn, get her to the back room and lie her down on the couch - on her side
- with the garbage can near her head. And tell Todd he's got a mop-up job to do back here."
"Oh, he's really not going to be happy about that," she says as she walks Cindy away.
"I don't give a flying fuck," I say to nobody in particular. We're down two bodies, he needs to pitch in like everyone else. For the few minutes before Jocelyn returns, I manage to take almost all the drink orders that come up. Naturally that includes the first Tom Collins I've had to serve in a few months, and no, the gentleman ordering it is not at all thrilled that he has to drink it with Barton's instead of Beefeater. It's drowned in sour mix anyway, pal,
I think to myself, so what difference is it really going to make?
He tips me a dollar on the three drinks he ordered for his group, and I bite my tongue.
Jocelyn gets back, and reports that Cindy is more upset about letting us down than she is about being sick. Something tells me she won't feel the same way in the morning. I take a deep breath, and we dive back in, just hoping to get through the next few hours.
Somehow, we do pretty well. Things start lightening up around two in the morning, when I should have been leaving anyway. Cindy has long since taken herself home, though, so I'm sticking around until I really feel like it's safe to leave Jocelyn on her own. It's still Friday night, and you just never know.
Sure enough, at 2:30 a small group comes in dressed as if they've been in a club downtown, though God knows what they'd be doing up here after that. They sashay up to the bar, pick out a few stools, and ask me for three martinis - vodka martinis, please. The night's almost over. I grin, and prepare their drinks happily. When I ring them up, the POS terminal tells me to charge them thirty thousand dollars. I laugh out loud, and shake my head.