I went out for a beer last night with a friend of mine. One of those friends who you share old stories with, and then near the end of the night when you start doing the math, you realized that most of the things you talked about happened more than half your life ago which makes you feel old and weird. Nevertheless, these little beer nights seem few and far between for whatever reason, and the last thing I wanted was for either of us to get killed, but I’ll get to that later.
We’re at a bar that I’ve been to a few times before. One of the best beer selections I’ve seen, and they keep the pricing very reasonable considering the rarity of some of the beers they have. Great beer, low price is a fantastic business model if you ask me. I’ll give them all the money I can spare. The food wasn’t as good as I’d remembered, but you can’t have it all. The waitress was cute, and did a good job answering our questions. We had a nice spot right near the front of the restaurant beside a window. Life was good, and we were having a good time catching up, when the paranoia sets in.
A guy in his mid 50s comes in with a sandwich board looking sign over his shoulders that says “What Is Love?” He stands right near the front door, which is basically right near us. I’m waiting to see what sort of disturbance he’s going to cause. We were in downtown Toronto, which is really safe by large urban metropolis standards, but there are still quite a few weirdos out there, and on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of weird parts of town, this bar was located between 8.5 and 9. At first I thought maybe this guy was homeless, but with the sign and all, he’s clearly got a bee in his bonnet. Perhaps he’s protesting something. Or maybe he’s selling flowers. He took the sign off his shoulders to take a little rest. I didn’t see any flowers under there. Have you ever had someone sell you flowers in a restaurant? Not on a Wednesday. He seemed like he was waiting for someone, but he didn’t grab a table (it was seat yourself). Then he went outside for a second. Not for a cigarette, just to do it. Then he came back in and stood. Near our table no less. All of which caused my friend and I to have the following conversation which I sort of remember sounding like this…….
Me: Do you see this guy?
Him: Yeah. What is Love?
Me: Baby don’t hurt me….don’t hurt me….no more….(you won’t get that unless you’re between 38 and 43, so let’s move on)
Him: What do you think?
Me: I think we’re gonna get stabbed. This is the beginning of Fisher King all over again.
Him: Yeah, you might be onto something. Although he doesn’t look too crazy. More like a recluse.
Me: I know. Those are the ones. The ones that look really crazy get arrested more often because people see it coming. This guy? What is Love? Nobody will see it coming, and then on the news the police will be all mystified. The neighbors will be like ‘he was so quiet’.
Him: Should we get our next round somewhere else?
Me: I don’t know. Let’s wait it out for a bit. I’ve still got half a beer left. It’s really good. Do you want a sip?
Him: Sure. Why is he carrying the sign around? Was there a march we didn’t know about? What is he protesting?
Me: He’s protesting happiness man…. He’s gonna off everybody in here that looks happy, and he’s gonna start with us.
(Waitress approaches…..by now the guy has taken a seat, but he’s facing us, and he’s opened a laptop)
Me: Oh, hey…..
Waitress: Do you guys want another beer?
Him: Uhh we’re just debating that right now. We’re kind of concerned that the guy behind you with the sign is going to open fire on the entire restaurant. What’s with that sign?
Waitress: I know, right? He’s been in here before, I think he’s waiting for somebody.
Me: I feel like there’s a button on that computer that is going to blow up this entire street if he presses it, and he’s just deciding whether to or not.
Waitress: I’m pretty sure he’s harmless.
Me: Lower your voice, he might be the type that could hear a pin drop from a mile away. We might be one ill-advised comment away from getting it…… In the meantime, bring us 2 more.
Waitress: OK. (Leaves)
Him: So, what are we going to do if the shit goes down? At least we’re close to the exit.
Me: Keep your bottle within reach.
Him: Maybe we should change the subject.
So the story ends like this…… This fairly attractive black lady comes in and she has to be 15 years younger than him. She gives him a full on kiss on the mouth, picks up the sign even, and walks with him toward the back of the bar where there was more privacy. I debated whether to include her race because it doesn’t matter, but I do think it adds to the ‘that was the very last thing I was expecting’ vibe of the story. She seemed as normal as can be. There were guys in their 20’s in this bar whose dates weren’t nearly as attractive, but she came for this strange older dude with a sandwich board strapped to him. I always think I’ve seen it all. When the waitress came around I asked what they were drinking. Him tea, and her tequila neat. I should have bought them a round just to hear their story. I’ll bet it’s fascinating.
I don’t know how this whole thing reads for someone who doesn’t know me. I really wasn’t overly concerned, but was more just having jokes with my buddy. That said, there’s always some element of truth. I was staying mentally prepared just in case this guy was a psycho, because you NEVER know. On the opposite end of my learnings, the theme of not judging a book by its cover was present here as it always seems to be in life.