Luckily I haven't come in contact with too many shady characters while working behind the bar. But there was this one guy. He was big and bulky and sat at the bar with a manuscript and ball point pen. He usually outstayed his welcome. Fortunately he sat at an unpopular corner bar stool, so although it was busy, he didn't hog any prime real estate.
From the beginning he sat down I knew there was definitely something odd about the guy. I just couldn't put my finger on it.
Those of you who have bartended know that it's hard to remember someone's name unless the person comes in regularly or does something bizarre. This customer, whom I shall refer to as 'Dave,' was extremely high-maintenance. He requested our most expensive chardonnay and needed it to be immersed in ice. The wine cooler or a regular ice bucket wasn't good enough so my wonderful barbacks brought me a huge kitchen bucket filled with ice for Dave's bottle of white. If I knew what I was dealing with, I may not have been so nice.
My first mistake was remembering Dave's name. He'd made enough fuss about the wine to make an impression, and then editing a stack of papers at 9:30 p.m. on a Thursday wasn't exactly normal. I'll add that he was super grumpy but left a generous tip. Memorable.
Then he came in the next night. And the night after that. And the next night too. Each time his needs got more and more demanding. Requesting a steak without a lot of fat and then sending it back half-eaten since it wasn't up to par. Asking for five different sauces to dip his fries in. And there was that specially chilled bottle of wine. But the worst part was when he decided to sit in the center of the bar, and start to ask waaaaaay too many questions.
"Where are you from? Where do you live? What does your husband do? Why are you a bartender? What else are you going to do with your life? This isn't a very respectable job. If you were smart you'd start thinking about a way out."
I've handled my share of drunken fools. But there was something sinister about this guy. His comments became more mean spirited and he started staring at me the entire time with an evil eye. It was making me really uncomfortable. If he hadn't been dressed in a suit and tie each time he may have been easier to throw out. But I'll admit that I was intimidated and scared.
I tried many different strategies to get him out: giving him the bill early, providing terrible service, making him wait forever for a barstool by refilling the drinks of my other customers and being a bitch. None of it worked.
Luckily we had a bartender who was a professional fisherman, who worked once a week just for the fun of it. Men his size who have stared death in the eye during many horrendous ocean storms can handle anything. And handle it he did.
I let Mike know what was going on with Mr. Creep-o, then we traded shifts. Dave came in for his ninth straight night and met Mike. Mike knew just how to get under Dave's skin fast. Dave was denied every single special request and basically hung out to dry. When Dave started getting loud and making demands, Mike got louder.
Then Dave pulled out a knife.
The bar got really quiet. Mike, about a foot taller and 50 ounds heavier, calmly walked around the bar and got right in Dave's face. He told Dave he had a few seconds to put the knife away, to turn around, and to never, ever come back.
If took me several months for the tingling in my knees to stop when someone who looked similar to Dave would walk in. But I never saw him again after that. Now, I tell every new bartender I meet, "Trust. Your. Instincts." It might save your life.