It’s where we go. It crosses age, race, religion, and ethnic groups. Even the retired folks are all in. We’re over half the bar crowd in South West Florida. At least where I am, relax, reflect, there should be no more anxiety. The corporate rat race seems far away.
Time for happy hour. A refuge for a reasonably priced drink and meal. I put on my game face and run to the bar for the cheapest martini. Some folks won’t get a seat. I am getting stressed thinking about this. The last two times I struck out.
So what’s my strategy? Timing matters. At Bravo, an Italian eatery in North Naples with a large rectangular bar, showtime starts at four o’clock. The place is full by five. Which means you better get there by 4:45. This time I arrive at 4:38. That should work. I approach the bar. From a distance, I see three empty stools. I am excited. I get closer and see that a well-dressed woman in her sixties is saving all three seats. I politely ask if she needs all of them.
“I have friends coming.” She says this so politely I almost felt bad asking. I hear one of the bartenders call her name. It’s Susie.
“Sure, I understand … Susie.”
‘You knew my name?”
“I heard the bartender say it.”
I circle the bar, hoping that one of the elderly lounge lizards might be paying and leaving. No such luck. A couple, he’s a silver fox and she’s blue hair all the way, is nervously circling the bar. I’ve got competition. Do they know I was here first? Minutes later, I come back to Susie.
‘Your friends aren’t here yet?”
“No, they should be here soon.”
I’m getting impatient. Is there a Plan B to get a stool? No harm in trying I say, “I like your earrings.” They are long, thin, colorful strands, like feathers. I don’t really like them. They’re too long. I’m getting a headache. I meant to bring Tylenol.
“Thank you.” She’s polite again, but my compliment doesn’t get me a seat while she’s waiting for her friends. I have to dig deeper. As in, into my pocket. “Can I buy you a drink?”
“Oh, you don’t have to… Ok, the next one.”
“Does that get me a seat, I mean, just for a few minutes?”
She looks around. She smiles. She gets the drill. “Ok, for a few minutes. You’re a tenacious little guy.” I calculate the drink will cost me about a dollar a minute to sit. It’s worth it so much for saving a buck at happy hour. Susie’s nice enough, though, and the couple I’m watching is still circling. They park themselves next to me. Susie’s son the phone.
“Do you need these two seats?” the lady half of the couple asks me. I tell her to ask the woman who is next to me. Susie hangs up, and says to me, “I need to leave. My girlfriends can’t get here for a while. They’re stuck in traffic on Tamiami Trail. We’re meeting somewhere else. Go ahead …”
I say to the lady, “Take these seats. My friend has to leave and we don’t need the extra ones.”
The lady says, “Thank you,” and turns to her husband, “Hal, this guy is so nice. Let’s buy him a drink … He says he‘s retired, he’s too young to be retired.” Hal stares at her blankly.
My anxiety dissipates. A burst of sunlight. Faith restored.