When I see hopeless drunks incapable of controlling their behavior or helping themselves, I've been known to step in and lend a helping hand. Guess it's my nature.
The last time it happened, I wrote a column about it called "The Thunder Rolls" (issue of Aug. 8, 2007). It was about a young girl drunk in Madonna's on a stormy night downtown. I helped get her out of the bar without having to call the police.
That story had a happy ending. This one you're about to read has an ending, but days later it leaves me still feeling upset.
This was on St. Patrick's Day, mid-afternoon. I'm downtown and looking to get a drink before heading home. Madonna's on Seventh Street is packed, and I don't like crowds. I cross the street, make a left and go to Rockin' Robin's.
The place is busy but manageable. I make my way down to the far end of the bar. At the very end of it sits a strange couple.
The guy is short and thin with black hair. He looks to be in his twenties. The woman is older, maybe 40, with brown hair, brown eyes and some missing teeth. They're making out.
One of the bartenders, a young man wearing glasses, takes my drink order. As I sip, I again look over at the couple.
The man is drunk, and the woman is totally wasted. The bartenders keep bringing them shots to go with their Budweisers. The woman pays for every drink.
I know no one in Rockin' Robin's. I think I've been there twice before. The people seem nice enough, but this couple at the end of the bar clearly needs to be cut off.
The man and the woman start to argue over something. I watch the guy start to put on his coat.
There's a little pushing and shoving. I get up from my barstool and tell them to relax.
The man leaves, and the woman goes back to her seat at the bar. She asks the bartender for another shot. When he brings it to her, I can hardly believe it.
"You need to cut her off," I say to him after he serves her. He stares at me and walks away.
I finish my drink, and the female bartender with long black hair and a tattoo on her shoulder asks me if I want another. I do.
The woman at the far end of the bar is pacing the floor now, staggering a bit and talking to herself. She looks at me with watery eyes.
"Where's the payphone in here?" she asks.
"I don't know," I reply. "Probably isn't one."
The tears are coming down freely now, and I think of the cell phone in my pocket.
"You need to call someone to take you home?"
"Yeah," she says. "That guy who left was my ride."
I take her to the back of the bar. She's too drunk to punch in the telephone number. I do it for her, then hand the phone over.
As she talks to the person who's going to give her a ride, I go back to the bar and approach the male bartender.
"Can you make a pot of coffee for her?" I ask, pointing to the drunk woman. "Don't serve her any more drinks."
I get another stare. I return to the woman, who's now sobbing loudly into my cell phone.
A tall young woman with short blonde hair comes out from the kitchen. I later find out she's also a bartender.
"You need to take this outside," she says loudly. "We can't have this in here."
Frustrated, I literally take the drunken woman by the hand and lead her outside to the front of Rockin' Robin's. I gently take my cell phone out of her hand, tell the person on the other end where we are and ask when the woman will be picked up. I'm told five minutes.
Thinking of my second drink at the bar and thinking maybe that bartender did put on a pot of coffee, I start to lead the drunken woman back into the bar. We're stopped at the door by the bartender with the short blonde hair.
"No, you can't come back in," she says. "We can't have that kind of behavior in here."
Feeling bewildered, I ask her, "You're saying I can't come in either?"
"You need to go!" she says harshly.
The chain of events after this is a little fuzzy. I'm now heated. I've never been kicked out of a bar before.
There's a sidewalk patio area in the front of the bar. I tell the drunk woman to sit there until her ride comes. I'm feeling rebellious, and I simply walk back into the bar to finish my drink. Just let somebody approach me, I remember thinking to myself. Screw them!
Of course, the reality is it was all a misunderstanding. The bartender thought I was with the drunk woman. She didn't know I was just trying to help her out.
I know nothing about the bartending business, but I do know something about common sense. The bartenders that afternoon couldn't seem to figure out they needed to stop serving that woman drinks. Is a drunk expected to know when to stop?
CONTACT LARRY GROSS: firstname.lastname@example.org