Monday, November 17, 2014

The PC: Brawling and crawling in the virtual barroom.

The PC: Brawling and crawling in the virtual barroom.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

I've got my clipboard, text books, lead me to the station
Yeah, I'm off to the civil war
I've got my kit bag, my heavy boots, I'm runnin' in the rain
Gonna run till my feet are raw
--Pete Townshend, “Slip Kid” lyrics

Once upon a time at our pizzeria, two male customers came bouncing inside, displaying the obvious symptoms of delirious pre-intoxication. Whether their addled condition owed to liquid or herbal sources could not be clearly determined.

They ordered pizza … and soft drinks. Even they understood there was little hope of being served beer in such a condition.

Staff assumed the best until provided with evidence to the contrary, and sure enough, soon the duo began verbally harassing other patrons. Our man on point called the police, and two officers quickly arrived, spotlessly removing the offenders from the dining area and shifting them outside into the parking lot.

There by the curb, the tragicomic dullards put up a mild, slapstick resistance to arrest. I earnestly hoped the officers would deploy nightsticks, flashlights and perhaps even cattle prods, but they were impeccably restrained in the face of provocation.

Astutely observing the condition of the unruly future drunk tank denizens, the policemen merely shrugged and maintained a loosely demarcated cordon, permitting the Two Stooges to smash into one another like semi-erect, soggy egg noodles. It wasn’t long before they both plummeted onto the unyielding pavement in a tangle of sodden, swill-fueled ineptitude.

One of them promptly began moaning in the fashion of a starving, flea-bitten, matted-wet cur, barred from the soothing warmth of house and hearth:

“We jess cayme ta eeeet peeezza! Whar’s mah peeezza?”

It was as pathetic a performance as I’ve witnessed during a quarter-century in business, and a sad commentary, too, because try as one might as an owner to maintain order and an ambience of non-threatening good times in your place, there is a certain percentage of the human race unable to follow the handy directions on the teleprompter.

While most consumers remain perfectly capable of responsible social drinking, some simply do not possess this gene. Unfortunately, those eagerly digressing into incarceration like the two bedraggled pizza cravers seem to be forever determined to pull others down into their own morass of dysfunction.

There’s no larger point to relating this memory from so very long ago, apart from the uncanny way it mirrors my current state of jaundice, which in turn is a reflection of the dysfunction seemingly characterizing so many facets of the world around me.

However, the lessons of history provide as many reasons to be sanguine as depressed. Life, work and beer are cyclical, and the pendulum forever swings out and back. One merely needs to be patient, and wait for the next bus to stop.


The pizza drunkards episode provides a final, useful reminder: The virtual barroom on contemporary social media doesn’t differ substantively from the tactile venue in real-life, except that it’s immediately viewable by a greater number of jaded voyeurs.

Whether transmitted electronically or seeping from an adjoining barstool, they’re the very same peccadillos and predilections: The snobbish beer narcissist, the inveterate jokester, the big brother who has everyone’s back, the egalitarian beer geek, the political know-it-all, the lady slayer, the heartbreaker, the matron of honor, the gullible, the sandbagger and the stray couple still in love after all these years.

My least favorite archetype from bartending daze of yore was the perfectly sober fellow who’d arrive around 8 p.m. as the dinner crowd was receding, proceed to have a couple of pints while conversing entertainingly with the assembled regulars, order his third beer at some point around ten, and then promptly descend from the charming normality of Dr. Jekyll to the obtrusive mania of Mr. Hyde, all in the span of minutes, and at times seconds.

He would shakily stand, suddenly emboldened and ready to fight all and sundry over this perceived slight or that deeply ingrained wound from remote childhood -- and my use of the pronoun “he” is purely intentional, because how many times have you ever seen a female acting this way?

Most of the time it would come to nothing. Beer would be spilled, a chair knocked sideways, and a patient, saintly barroom figure would come forward, willing to devote the next hour or two of his or her precious recreational drinking time to soothe the inflamed beast, coax him down from the ledge he loved so well, and in short, provide the sort of amateur counseling he so desperately and obviously needed from a professional, trained headshrinker.

The fundamental things apply, as time goes by. Alcoholic beverages are to dissociative identity disorder what an H.L. Mencken essay is to my attempted rhetorical flourishes. Add the pervasiveness of social media into the mix, and the result can be amplified thousands-fold, and that’s sad, because back in Luddite times, at least we could contain the collateral damage within the physical barroom itself.

These days, from Birdseye to Bangkok, it comes directly to futon and hammock.


Last week, I had a few difficulties of my own with social media. The Floyd County Democratic Party blocked me from following it on Twitter, and withdrew posting and commenting privileges on Facebook. As a left-leaner who has been denouncing fascists since before the current party chairman was born, I find this intemperate muzzling almost as delicious as one’s first glass of cool, elegant Spezial Rauchbier after four years away from Bamberg.

I’m undeterred by the pettiness. Whether seated at the Stammtisch or pontificating on social media, I derive value from an embrace of knowledge and the primacy of ideas. Because my place of birth attaches a pathetically low value to educational attainment, these areas always have been seriously undervalued hereabouts.

Consequently, to me there have been two choices: Either attempt a measure of self-growth and comprehension by playing the role of contrarian gadfly in the midst of localized incomprehension, or risk the relative happiness of placidity in another locale, where most other people (might) view life in the same way.

My tendency has been to choose Door Number One, because hard-wired somewhere deep within my psyche is the conviction that it’s better to stay put and confront complacency and apathy at home – to be a royal pain in the posterior and a performance artist for my vision of truth whenever and wherever possible in an effort to illustrate the simple fact that it’s okay to be different – than to cut and run.

My preference may or may not be noble. It would be foolish of me to deny my fair share of character flaws, or to defend inconvenient exceptions to my philosophical precepts. It's just me.

The party chairman isn’t the only New Albanian who’d like to vote me off the island, and he has been joined in recent years by various apologists, hoarders and solipsists in the emerging beer appreciation doltocracy, who would be first in line to proffer the hemlock to Socrates if it meant not having to suffer actual thoughts before downing an ice-cold, barrel-aged Trojan Goose.

I have only this to add: Think globally, drink locally, and woe to the functionary with the white-out fetish.

Why wait until the beers of evening to throw a few polemical punches when morning coffee works just as well?

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