There was a news story on the internet this week about a man who called 9-1-1 because the prostitute he was in bed with tried to charge him extra money.
In the bar business we also have our share of crazy 9 -1 -1 incidents. This might be one of the strangest I know.
It happened when I first moved to Boston and began bartending in Harvard Square. I wasn’t behind the taps that night, but we all heard about it the next day when everyone showed up for work.
According to the prior night’s bartender (“Jeff,” I’ll call him) — it was a typical shift at the beginning. He only had a handful of customers, and then someone new plopped down on a stool.
Jeff didn’t recognize him, but apparently the guy had been here before because he immediately asked for the bartender who’d been fired the week earlier.
“Where is _____ ???” the guy demanded.
“He’s moved on,” Jeff said, “Doesn’t work here anymore.”
‘What’daya mean he doesn’t work here anymore!!”
“I mean he doesn’t work here,” Jeff shrugged, “He’s moved on.” The guy had a snooty air as he snapped off his questions, but Jeff was trying to extend a little courtesy.
As Jeff set his drink down, the guy complained — “This dump will never be the same without him!”
“This drink sucks!!” the guy said after he’d taken one sip, sitting there with his lips pursed. (I’m sure the dismissed bartender must have been seriously over-pouring.)
From that point on, everything went downhill.
For this guy, nothing was right about the place now. The drinks sucked, the service was horrible, . . . . and no one would be able to replace his beloved former barman.
After listening to the guy rant on for two drinks, Jeff decided to shut him off.
“What’daya mean I’m shut off!!!” Now the guy stood up. He was so livid that his hands were trembling on the bar. “You can‘t shut me off!!
“ _____ would never shut me off!!!”
“Well I’m not _____,” Jeff said calmly, “And that’s it for tonight, pal. Time to leave.”
This guy was a nut, a real weirdo. Personally, I don’t care who you are or what you do . . . but if you look like a fruitcake, and act like a fruitcake . . . you’re probably not going to be the bartender’s favorite customer.
He just wouldn’t leave. By now all the customers at the bar were looking his way, but he didn’t care. He stood there bitching. “You’re violating my civil rights!” he said, “You can’t shut me off!”
“Just leave,” Jeff said, with patience that would almost deserve sainthood — “It’s time to go.” Then he turned to make some drinks for the waitress.
In the middle of those drinks, Jeff heard a loud crash.
The guy had swept his arm along the bar rail and wiped out the set-up sitting there — the sugar container, the salt and pepper shakers, the drink menu tent, along with his own empty glass with it’s ice, squeezed lime and sip stick. With a sweep of his arm he sent them all bouncing and flying across the bar, with the salt and pepper shakers spilling behind the bar on the floor mats.
“GET THE FUCK OUTA HERE!!!” Jeff turned back to him, “GET OUT THE FUCK OUTA HERE NOW!”
“I’m not leaving!!!” the guy yelled back, “You can’t throw me out!!”
Yup, that’s right . . . . exactly what you just read.
It was the guy who’d been shut off who was threatening to call the cops.
“Yes sir, I’m calling the cops!” he said with an exaggerated air, and with an exaggerated motion he took out his cell phone.
Jeff stood there looking at him, dumbfounded.
The guy swung up the lid cover on his phone.
“I’m calling them.” He was glaring at Jeff. “ . . . I’m calling them now.”
Jeff was speechless.
“I’m not kidding!” the guy said, his finger poised over the number pad. “I’m not kidding . . . I’m calling them!”
“Get out the fuck outa here, YOU FLAKE!” Jeff yelled.
“I really mean it,” the guy said as his fingers tapped in the numbers, 9 -1 -1. “I’m calling them!”
Someone must have answered immediately, and the guy quickly hung up.
He was about to say something more to Jeff, but then his cell phone started ringing. Apparently when someone calls 9 -1 -1 and hangs up, the police are required to immediately call back, in case it’s an emergency.
“Yes, I just called,” the guy said into the phone with that same snooty air. “I’m at _____ (the bar’s name), “And the bartender just shut me off!”
The 9 -1 -1 operator must have said something, and the guy responded. “No, I’m not drunk!” he snapped at the emergency operator. “He’s shutting me off for no good reason!”
“What do I want?” the guy said over the phone, “I want you to come down here and arrest him!!”
“Here,” he said to Jeff after listening to the phone again, “They want to speak with you!” He held the phone out to Jeff.
“I’m not talking with them!” Jeff said, “You called, you talk with them . . . but do it on the way out!”
“See what I mean!” the guy said, speaking again to the 9 -1 -1 dispatcher, “See what I mean!”
“GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!” Jeff yelled, but now the guy was listening again to the dispatcher. Whatever was said this time, the guy quickly hung up.
“You’ll be hearing from my lawyer!” the guy announced haughtily as he turned toward the front door.
“Don’t think you’re gonna get away with this!” he shouted on his way out.
He stepped out the door, but then stuck his head back in to have the last word. “YOU’LL BE HEARING FROM MY LAWYER!!” he shouted, his head leaning around the door frame.
I don’t imagine the guy expected the cops to show up so quickly.
Apparently there was a police cruiser already nearby. The guy had only taken a couple of steps down the sidewalk when the cruiser pulled up.
Jeff ran out and waved his hand. “That’s the guy!” he yelled to the cops in the cruiser, “That’s the guy who called you!”
“I just wished they’d arrested him,” Jeff recalled the next day. Now I was tending bar, and Jeff was on other side having a couple of beers. “I stood there watching,” he told me, “And all I wanted was for them to slap the cuffs on him. Damn I wanted to see that.”
As it turned out, the police only lectured the guy and sent him on his way, telling him not to come back to this bar for a while.
Anyway, that’s still one of my favorite stories – the guy who essentially called the cops on himself.
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For a related story, click here to read about a man who stole the bartender’s credit card . . . then tried to use it to pay his own bar tab. The bartender called 9 -1 -1 on him.
Back next Saturday with a few thoughts on “TIPS, and THE FILTHY RICH.”