Roadhouse Reality: Tales from the bouncers chair by Alex Bates

Most people prefer to keep their interaction with the bouncer as brief as possible. I’ll say hello, check their ID, take the money for the cover charge if there is one, wave them inside, and that’s the end of it.  It’s maybe 45 seconds of contact per person, less if they’ve got their ID and cash ready, and keeping it brief and efficient seems to please everyone involved.

However, there is the occasional guy (it’s almost always a guy) who is really excited to talk to me about some inane topic. Their favorite sports team, some pet political cause, hunting, cars, whatever – the subject is usually a “manly” one that I, as a bouncer, am assumed to be an expert on. I’ve encountered people who actually became angry and offended when I protested that I didn’t know anything about sports – there was nothing I could say to convince them that I wasn’t mocking them by faking ignorance!

So, I try to avoid getting cornered by these generally earnest and well-meaning fellows. It’s usually simple enough to make an excuse and walk away long enough for them to lose interest.

I say “usually”, because from time to time it doesn’t work. A few weeks ago, one slight young guy with a big septum ring latched on to me.

There was a band playing that night, so I was stuck at the door, voiding my standard “Pardon me, I need to go clean tables/pick up some trash/walk around the room for a minute” excuses. When there’s a cover charge, I have to stick pretty close to my post. This guy cornered me, and I couldn’t get away. He was friendly enough, but he was so conversationally pushy that it felt like I was being interrogated.

He wasn’t rude so much as I think he was just socially awkward or unaware, and he wanted to inflict upon me all of his vast knowledge of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts).  He wanted to know many fights I’d been in, how badly I’d ever hurt anyone or how badly I’d ever been hurt and to talk all about arm bars and choke holds and broken bones.

Of course, I have absolutely no interest in talking about that stuff with a tiny drunk stranger, but no matter what I did, I COULD NOT SHAKE HIM! I started out polite and friendly, but as he droned on and on I became increasingly abrupt, my replies eventually degenerating into nods and grunts.

He continued talking while I checked ID’s, he walked behind me when I stepped away from the door to clear a table, and when I asked our cocktail server to watch the door for a minute so I could use the restroom, the guy FOLLOWED ME. Waiting patiently outside the restroom & then resuming his endless stream of verbal nonsense as soon as I exited the room.

A big part of my job is to stand back and watch the crowd. It might not look like I’m doing much, but just observing is something that I need to be able to do, and when I’ve got a little sidekick talking at me it’s difficult to pay attention to anything else. I suppose I could have shut him down at any time and told him to bugger off, but he was so sincere and friendly and eager that I just didn’t have the heart.

He finished his drink and gestured towards the bar.

“Hey, man, I need to get another beer…”

I exhaled in momentary relief, but he continued, “I’ll be right back!” My heart sank.

He raised his arms and moved in to give me a one-armed bro hug/handshake combo, and I was struck with inspiration. His right hand was up, expecting me to clasp it, but instead I juked to the left and enfolded him in a full on bear hug, trapping his right arm between us. And then I held him. And held him. And held him. Firmly, but tenderly. After a couple of seconds of awkward shock, he tried to pull away, but I wouldn’t have it. Being about a foot taller and outweighing him by about 100 pounds, I just squeezed him in closer. I nuzzled my head down towards his ear and softly said, “It’s really been great talking to you tonight. Thank you.”  Then I let him go, slowly, maintaining eye contact the entire time.

His entire body was clenched in horror.  “Uhm… uh… yeah, um, you too…” He walked to the bar quickly, almost tripping over his own feet in haste.

He didn’t bother me again all night.