Monday, August 4, 2008

Gambling: The Lucky, the Unlucky, and the Despairingly Downtrodden.

Part of my bartending gig is not slinging drinks or serving espressos, part of it is not very glamorous at all.

Some less glamorous jobs include:

Stocking the beer - it doesn't seem particularly awful, until the moisture of the cooler causes the cardboard to become moist and mildew-ridden, until the cardboard loses its integrity and beer bottles push their way through. When attempting to remove the deteriorating boxes, one must remove all the beers, lest they spill out and break, and then pull up the sopping wet, falling apart, dirty belly-button smelling boxes.

Dealing with daytime drunks and alcoholics - it may, surprisingly, sound worse than it is. I rarely have to kick people out, when I do they tend to go peacefully, but seeing these people can be mighty depressing.

Pulltabs - a form of gambling in which a person pays $X for X (or 1/2X or 2X, 4X or 10X) pieces of two ply cardstock with tacky themes and tabs to pull. Most regular tab players, or tabbers as I'll call them, have pulled so many tabs that they have it down to the most efficient "art" and can just bend the tabs in just the right manner that all three to five tabs pop open at once, revealing whether a person has lost, won a playback, or won big.

The lucky... Mr. J of the paddleboat, who has been in to visit me most every Saturday for a couple months now, came in this last Saturday with a friend from the boat. Somehow they decided to try some pulltabs, spending less than $10 I believe. I was already off shift, counting my till and sipping on a Ruby-red Madras, when Mr. J opened up a tab and gasped, "No way." He had opened a $300 winner, after the two had put in a total of $3 in the ten-centers. They tipped the bartender at the time, they tipped me, and Mr. J was in a state of Euphoria.

The unlucky... There are people who come in weekly at least to play the tabs. These tabbers will drop hundreds in a sitting or at least hundreds over the course of a week or two. One woman who frequently pulls had the company of another woman who doesn't do it. The new woman asked about it and I commented that most people tip 10% on a big win, which makes the tabs worth while for the bartenders. The old time tabber, who tips little if anything, said something rather depressing, along the lines of there being people who spent so much gambling that they can't afford to tip.

Then there is Gary Garble. He qualifies as despairingly downtrodden. Gary Garble, who is best described by my friend Stickpaste in his blog, will spend hundreds of dollars in a night, hundreds of dollars in the course of a few hours. He will drink Blue Moon after Blue Moon, sucking the beer-soaked flesh of the orange slice from the rind every pint. Sunday afternoon, Gary Garble was wearing a shirt with a large red graphic on the front. It had a wheel-barrow full of a substance which, out of context may not have been apparent, but in context was most definitely shit. The shirt read, in a ring around the shit filled wheelbarrow, Manure Movers of America. Gary Garble drunk and Gary Garble sober, if I've ever witnessed it, or I should probably say Gary Garble at the beginning and Gary Garble at the end - they are the same person, basically. At no point does he not mumble, stutter, slur, repeat himself, drone on about mindless things, or moan and groan to himself in despair. At no point does his gait seem to stray from its usual falter. At no point does he seem to become any sweatier or any less focused. The more Gary Garble guzzles his pints and gambles,actually, the more focused he becomes. He'll cash checks, he'll consult his check register, he'll go to the atm, and he'll spend hundreds on beers and tabs. To give Gary Garble credit, despite not winning big on Sunday, he tipped me $23 overall. He makes sure to tip before the end so he knows he won't run out without tipping. In the end, I think he tips so well not out of generosity but as an impulse. The same impulses that drive him to drink pint after pint, the same impulses that drive him to drop hundreds on tabs, those same impulses drive him out the door, leaving his last bills on the table with his empty pint glass and the pull-tab husks. Gary Garble didn't say goodbye, he just wasn't there when I next looked in his direction.

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