Transmission – Ted Prokash

I have bad memories in this place. Well, actually they’re good memories, but that’s a secret between you and me. The last time I drank here I ended up walking down the street and punching out a window at the DMV. That glass had to be a quarter inch thick, Officer Kohlbeck said. Finally he respected me.

I’d sworn off the place, citing bad service and overpriced food, but we’re going out for my wife’s birthday and she says it’s under new ownership. She says people have been raving about the Wellington Burger, the flatbread pizzas, etc. So we go.

The bartender critiques every item on the menu, citing her personal favorites. She speaks with an affected southern accent, calls you hon. My wife loves it. I just wish she’d leave us alone. I’m more interested in one of the servers. She’s no more than five feet tall, dark. Native maybe? Big toothy smile. She’s young & curious instead of young & jaded. Young people who act jaded are the worst. 

I have a gin & tonic at the bar; I don’t trust the tappers. A certain math goes into ordering beer around here. The tap beer is usually enjoyable in inverse proportion to the size of the room and this place is a cavernous tourist trap. I take olives in my gin & tonic and call it a GTO.

We get a table. The kids are with us. My oldest son drinks Spotted Cow. I didn’t give him the tip about tap beer. There are some things just you have to find out for yourself. A couple young guys come bursting in with smirks for everybody in the place. They go up to one of their buddies at the bar and start giving him the business. Ha ha. Probably frat brothers. My son and I share a knowing look. He’s inherited my strong, sensitive douche radar. We think about things that make better punching even than windows.

The young native girl comes to check on our drinks. She smiles in the way where there is something inside her that’s only kept in as a joke. It’s the way cats at the zoo would smile if they were secretly let out at night, to roam the streets and kill. If you only knew. Yeah, um, I saw a couple bottles of Flying Dog in the cooler, I say, (I’d noticed the bat wings) but I couldn’t tell what kind of beer they were… She’s confused by my non-question, but not fazed. Um… we just got a new one, it’s made with oats or something? I don’t know, it’s like a… Oh, stop. Stop searching for words young diamond, they will always let you down. That sounds good, I say. I’ll have that.

She brings out a can of Dogfish Head IPA that is indeed made with rolled oats. A pretty damn good mistake. She smiles in acknowledgment of some joke that we are both in on, that the world spends your whole life telling, and even though you know the punchline from the very beginning, you entertain a little glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, there’s a magical surprise at the end instead.

Every miserable person is the same. Every young person smiling through the pain breaks your heart a little.