THE BARTENDER KNOWS #21
Bartenders aren’t here just to get you wasted (Ok, that’s kind of a lie). We’re not just here to be your psychologist (also, kind of a fib). We’re not just here to be your 24-hour, we never close, unbelievably charming fuck machines for tourists and towns folk alike (actually, we are here just for that).
Bartenders also possess an immense amount of human knowledge. We have been listening to peoples dreams for decades. We are here for your successes. We are here for your failures. We are your shoulder to cry on. We also know which people are undercover cops when you’re looking to buy drugs. We are chalk full of anecdotes, idioms and advice. We’ve either seen or heard it all. The saltier the bartender — the better. That’s what makes the whole drinking / therapist / free comedy thing remain the second oldest profession in the world.
But with great knowledge comes great responsibility. Us bartenders can’t always be beams of bright light. Sometimes we’ve got to bring the truth — and the truth is not always so pretty. So brace yourselves, dear readers, because this is a short drunken metaphor that just may rock your world.
I call it: “THE CALCULATOR THEORY”. Ready? Buckle up, buttercup.
Call it what you want. Maybe it was just a mid-life crisis thing. But what, these days, qualifies as a mid-life crisis anyway? Who gets married anymore? Who loses their mind and buys a Corvette to help with their sex profile? What does age even mean nowadays? I’ve seen 23-year-olds act like old, scared people and 57-year-olds act like they haven’t shot a bunch of Botox into their face). When I finally had to confess this “Calculator Theory”, someone asked me: “Matthew, are you going through a mid-life crisis?” I tried to explain to them that, no, this odd philosophy just popped in my head one morning. It seemed innocent enough to start. I remembered I really liked Math when I was younger. I was cleaning out my apartment (as per season) and discovered I had one of these little things. For those youngsters out there, a calculator is like a Blackberry Phone that don’t do shit — but the buttons feel the same.
Either way, my brain went strange that morning. I looked at the small device and decided to play a game with myself. I thought (out of nowhere):
“How old do you want to be when you want to die?”
Weird question, I know (I told you I was in an odd headspace). But weird or not, it was an interesting question. I took a long and hard moment on it. A number popped up.
90. Ninety. Yes. 9–0.
Yeah, I want to live to 90 years old. I’m 45 now. So I’d like a double-double, please (in the parlance of fast food). This new revelation made me look at this odd calculator differently. (NOTE: Please, don’t do this at home, kids, it might begat troublesome results).
I entered the numbers into the petite, AAA-batteried prophecy-teller. If there’s 365 days in a year, then times that by 45. My number appeared. It equaled:
That was the number. Period point blank. I saw the number suddenly emblazoned on my wall in bizarre neon. I closed my eyes to sleep. When I woke up in the morning — there it was.
Now that number was a wish fulfillment number. But we don’t get everything we want in life — so AT BEST, I had only 16,425 days left on the planet on a GOOD day. What if it ended earlier? Eeek. The whole calculation left me cold. I didn’t want to look at life in this way — as mere arithmetic. But that damned calculator said different. Feelings are great — but numbers don’t lie. I can’t say the evening of that information went the sober way. I consulted a very large liter of Vodka to somehow deal with these terrible revelations. The next couple of days were odd. It was quite the vision. Imagine a slow motion clip of a daily calendar ripping off, page by page, by the slightest gust of wind through the window. I watched those paper days spiral slowly down to the cold floor. I threw away that damned calculator immediately. It didn’t matter. The idea was now etched into my skull.
The only question left was: what do I do NOW?
I went quickly to several people I knew personally. The responses were varied:
— “So what?” (Ok, that’s one way of looking at it).
— “I don’t really understand what you’re talking about.” (I left the conversation rather quickly after that one).
— “That is really fucked up. Why would you tell me something like that?” (RIGHT?!? I totally agree).
— “How much spare time do you have on your hands to think like that?” (Ha. Ha. I don’t think they saw the joke in their question).
— “Are you having a mid-life crisis?” (We’ve already been over that).
— “Please don’t talk like this to other customers at my bar.” (I respect that.)
The last person I told this frightening revelation to was my Mother, a natural born hero and feminist icon (although she’d never admit it).
“Well, Matthew, that’s fantastic!”
“I think that’s great.” (NOTE: Yes, she said these words with sincere joy in her voice.)
“What the heck do you mean?” I asked.
“Well, that’s 16,425 days left to do something really great and interesting with your life.”
I don’t care what religion you’re from or belief you love, but you really can’t get better advice than that. That’s some class-A Rhode Island, country raised, small town bred kind of logic. We all might need a bit of that as we close out the year 2022.
I’m not mad at the calculator anymore. It was just a very Lo-Fi version of a Ouija Board. The calculator was one of those Guardian Angels that visit the fortuitous. The calculator was a palm reader that didn’t charge a dime. My mother was right. I had 16,425 days left — if I was lucky — to do something interesting. It was just another good reason to be in fine spirits this holiday season. After all, time is the only commodity we really have.
Why don’t you pick up your own calculator and do some Math? What do your numbers look like?
You might uncover some strange revelations for yourself.