My boss read this column when it appeared some five years ago and asked what was so hard about credit cards, to which I said, “If you have to ask, you'll never know.”
The clock on the wall says 10 p.m.
The club is packed to the hinges and my body has fused with the wet bar to form a single, massive, smoking, drink-making machine: hands and feet churning like pistons; fluids gushing from bottles, guns and spigots; cash registers singing 1812 Overture in a chorus of beeps, clangs and clunks; and my brand new New Balance bar shoes, soaked to the socks from standing in the middle of the disgusting oil slick that has formed below my well.
And then, suddenly, the engine seizes as I find myself smack in the middle of a Credit Card Hell situation.
The clock on the wall says midnight, and I am hunkered over a forest of plastic on the back bar-trying to find the credit card of one Susan Delillo, who is closing her mammoth tab of one virgin piña colada extra whipped cream.
Time stands still when you are in Credit Card Hell. You can feel the crowd thirsting behind you, glaring angrily at the back of your head as you search for the missing credit card.
“Delillo, Delillo-dammit, where is Delillo?”
Bullets of sweat form on my face and neck, and somebody is tapping an empty beer bottle on the bartop, another is shouting, “Hey, bartender, I need a drink,” and the impatient Susan Delillo has taken to yelping and kicking the bottom of the bar in such a way that she resembles a jackal screwing a beehive.
Susan Delillo has no credit-card ethics. And that is not good.
For starters, credit-card ethics mandate, simply, that you learn how to use the card. So I don't have to keep explaining-to your wobbling, stewing, sopped, bastard asses-where you should sign, who gets the white slip and that the word “total” is not Latin for “scribble illegibly here.”
Credit-card ethics mandate that you never open a tab for one drink on a packed Friday night-certainly not a virgin piña colada extra whipped cream.
Credit-card recklessness rusts the machine. If the machine stalls, you can't get a drink. And when you can't get a drink, well, I shudder to think.
I find Susan's card under a bottle of Bailey's. Relieved, I print the ticket in the amount of $3.50 and place it before her. She draws a fat zero with a grumpy-face on the gratuity line and scowls as she walks off.
My heart sinks. I was counting on that 50-cent tip to replace the ruined shoelaces on my new New Balance bar shoes. A pox on you and yours, oh cruel Ms. Delillo!
I scoop up the slip, toss it behind me and look up at the crowd to assess the situation. It's not good. The mob is larger and angrier than before Credit Card Hell began-an enormous machine in its own right-smoking and clanking and about to explode through the manifold.
“All right, people,” I shout, “everyone shut up and listen for a minute.”
“As I see it, we have three problems. No. 1: I need to re-lube.”
With that, I open a Fosters Oil Can, hold it toward the crowd and toast. They lift their empty glasses or fists and toast me back.
I guzzle half the can.
“No. 2: I have no idea which of you is next. And No. 3: there are just too damn many of you.”
With that, I run and grab two cases of Budweiser from the walk-in fridge.
“So here's the solution: For the next 15 minutes, I will be serving Budweiser bottles only. Not Heineken nor Corona. Not screwdrivers nor chip shots nor greeny-green grasshoppers garnished with a mint leaf. Not flash-blended, not flaming, not chilled, shaken nor stirred. Just Budweiser: the lowest common denominator of every bar in America. Good old red and white Budweiser. Just raise your hands, tell me how many bottles and have your cash ready. If you attempt to use a credit card, I will copy your account number and fly to Costa Rica on your dime.
“All right, people, ready? Then raise your hands in the air. Wave them like you just don't care.”
To my surprise, the hands do go up. Bottles of Bud are flying over the bar. I knock out the majority of the line in 10 minutes.
Then I swig the rest of the Oil Can, take a round of drink orders, return to the well and fire the pistons fast and furious-the way I like it-until the clock on the wall says 2 a.m. Last call, for alcohol.
For more nonsense like this, visit www.edwindecker.com. E-mail ed@edwindeck er.com. Apologies to John Lee Hooker.