This is somewhere in the late ’80s. I was on the back patio of this skeezy redneck rat cage juke joint where I was Head of Security, trying to figure out what’s up with this guy who couldn’t take two steps without crashing into the furniture but showed no other signs of intoxication, when I hear four VERY loud bangs from inside the bar.
Dammit. I turn loose of this guy and just BLAZE down the hallway back into the bar. As I round the corner I see my door guy running through the channel into the main space, and a bunch of customers ducked and covered behind tables and chairs, all pointing directly at the only guy who’s on his feet. I hit him at full tilt, and even with him as a buffer it jarred the hell out of me when we slammed in to the wall. Paulie was running so hard he actually overshot us. He’d been out front and I’d been out back, so we were the only two people in the whole place who could HEAR; I told him I got this clown, go around and see if anyone needs immediate help.
Then I spot the debris. M-80s. Turns out this idiot touched off four M-80s in the bar. Paulie and I frog march him out, and I tell him I’d better never see him in the bar again, or even inside CITY LIMITS. He says, I kid you not, “you’re kicking me OUT??”
“Hell YES I’m kicking you out. Be grateful I’m not kicking you to death.”
“C’mon. It was a PRANK. I didn’t know it would be that loud.”
Oh. Well that changes everything. Hey Paulie, we got any “I played a prank that almost got me killed because I’m too goddam simple to anticipate what four monster firecrackers would sound like in an ancient brick tomb of a bar” exception forms left?
“Nope, we all out.”
“Sorry sunshine, Paulie says we got no ‘I played a prank that almost got me killed because I’m too goddam simple to anticipate what 4 monster firecrackers would sound like in an ancient brick tomb of a bar’ exception forms left. We’ll have to go with Plan A. Now git.”
He asked if he could at least go tell his friends he’s leaving. “Are they idiots, your friends?” I ask. He says no. “I bet they piece it together then. And I’m not kidding. You really want to get out of my sight.”
He split, and he did indeed have three friends inside. I got to meet them as they came to me individually to apologize for him. Which was a classy move, but entirely unnecessary. I won’t hold anything you don’t do against you.
Each one also took a stab at explaining (not defending) the guy’s thought process. They tell me he’s not a bad guy, or even a moron, believe it or not. He just gets these pranks in his head, and all he considers is the set-up and reaction. He doesn’t think about collateral carnage. Y’know, like making innocent bar patrons think they’re gonna die.
Which puts what he did on the extreme end of a really common problem. When he did what he did, he didn’t consider how it looked to people who didn’t know why he was doing what he was doing.
I call that my “Dead Behind the Eyes I Am a Remorseless Shark” glare. Thinkin’ about patenting it.
That lesson stuck. I used it just recently, as a matter of fact. Reagan was still in his first term when I started doing this job, 1982. I’m still fine tuning it, and I hope I never stop. Understand, if I get the first hint that I need to react violently I will not hesitate to do that. But all the other times, I’ll give a guy the opportunity to explain that what I’m looking at isn’t what I’m looking at.
A while back I was literally walking in the door to go on duty when I saw a guy at the bar reach over and grab a bottle of tequila. Time was, I woulda dope-slapped him and 86ed him for that. But he wasn’t stealing; he was going to ask for a shot of that tequila when the bartender got back to that end, just so he could see her reaction (he still had to go, but he didn’t get struck).
Or the time I saw a guy drop something in a girl’s drink. He could have accidentally fallen down the back stairs a couple times for that. Turned out the drink was his sister’s, and he’d found some fizzy tablets they both loved as kids. It had a very distinct taste when added to a glass of Coke, and he was just surprising her with it. One of the most despicable things I’d ever seen turned out to be pretty damn charming, and I never would have known it if it hadn’t been for M80 guy a few years earlier.
And the very first guy, Klutzy McStagger, turned out he WASN’T drunk. It was an inner ear infection that killed his balance.
This first appeared in The Havok Journal on July 3, 2020.
Bama has been a rodeo cowboy, a professional stuntman, and, for 38 years and counting, a bouncer at various biker bars and redneck rat cage juke joints through the Deep South. He makes cool stuff as Crimson Tied Paragear, using knots his Army Ranger Scoutmaster taught him at Boy Scout summer camp deep in the Okinawan boonies back in 1972.