An older guy walked up to the bar last night and asked me, “What do you have for whiskey?”
I gestured to the rows of Scotches, bourbons, ryes, Irish whiskies, and sour mashes on the shelves against the brick walls behind me.
“Do you have Seagram’s 7?” he asked. I pointed to it.
“I’ll take a Seven and Seven,” he said.
I poured it, set it in front of him, and he handed me a twenty. “The change is all yours,” he said.
To air on the side of professionalism and fairness, I charged him the eight dollars for the drink and offered him his twelve dollars in change.
“Keep it,” he said.
“Thank you very much.
Second round, same result. As I stuffed the twelve bucks into the tip jar and thanked him again, he asked, “How much are these drinks, anyway?”
“Well, then, I’m getting a bargain!”
By the time he ordered his third, Happy Hour had descended upon us, and the price of his drink had plummeted to five dollars. Still, when I tried to hand him his fifteen dollars in change, he said, “That’s yours.” I poured him an extra shot in gratitude and thanked him once again.
Happy Hour in full swing, I’d removed my shirt, as is the custom in many WeHo bars especially during the busy Friday-Saturday surge.
“You better watch out,” the guy said to me. “You’ve taken off your shirt now, and I’m a dirty old man. Now, you’re stuck with me.”
Moments later, my bar back stood beside me, stacking glasses next to my well.
“I’ve been coming out in this area since before both of you were born. Well, at least before he was,” he said, gesturing towards me.
“I’m actually a lot older than him,” I said. My bar back is twenty three. I’m pushing thirty, but I’m blessed with Eastern European genes that make me look much younger.
“Well, I wouldn’t be able to tell, unless you were both naked,” said the big tipper. “Then I would be able to tell from the wrinkles.”
Looking back at this exchange I realize that, as a straight bartender working at a gay bar, “it comes with the territory,” as the saying goes. Furthermore, perhaps the generous gratuities that came with this old man’s overtures is the nightlife universe giving back to me for my honesty last weekend, when I returned a guy’s one hundred dollar bill that he unknowingly handed me as payment for a single vodka tonic.