It’s Christmas night. I had recently endured driving and more driving and then more driving, before arriving home. First was to my father’s house in the early afternoon (8 miles), followed by further travel to my brother’s house soon after (50 miles), followed by the departure from my brother’s house back to my father’s house (50 miles), before ultimately landing at home after driving home from my father’s house (8 miles). The morning drive to my father’s house was as pleasant as I would hope Christmas could be. I’ve given up on relying on the gifts of giving and receiving in regards to Christmas; it is now an excuse and ultimate dependence on the fact that certain times of the day (both morning and night) will be characterized by the lack of people and crowds and traffic and the population going about their business as usual for one day of the year. Peace on Earth doesn’t arrive through the birth of a savior anymore, it arrives through empty roadways and desolate parking lots given unto us weary early morning travelers by Christmas morning, and it is marvelous. For a few hours each year, rushing to destinations isn’t an issue and there’s no need to make extra travel time to accommodate for traffic. It’s peaceful for the few of us that get out of bed and get behind the wheel, though that serenity only lasts til the early afternoon in most locations. (By 2PM, life is back up to speed and traffic is prevalent to the wayward X-mas traveler.)
But I enjoyed it while it lasted. I savored my glimpse of what I envisioned life to be like, were I the only driver on the road, and it was good. Then I arrived at my father’s house and we got stuck in traffic on the way to my brother’s house. Peace on Earth is fleeting in regards to the Garden State Parkway, but we endured.
The drive home was less grueling of course, as night had arrived. We made it back to my father’s home, and I left bound for my house soon after. My drive home was more of what the morning offered me; empty roads brought on by the general public’s obligation to be at home with family, and I savored it once again.
I returned home and realized I had nothing to drink for the festive night, then quickly shot back down the street to the bar that serves packaged goods out of the side of the bar. It was packed. The strangeness of feeling obligated to spend more than a usual amount of time around one’s family usually has people itching to escape the confines of home come X-mas day, and as everything is closed, not many options for refuge are available to the familial escapees. Luckily, bars and convenience stores remain open throughout the holiday season. Kisko’s is a tavern down the road that additionally serves packaged goods in a small alcove of the bar that was recently fashioned into the shape of a small liquor store. It’s cheap and open past 10PM, which allows every would-be-alcoholic in the area the chance to not seem like they need to rush to the normal liquor store before 10PM. It’s the loophole drinkers seek when friends are hinting that there might be a problem, and it’s only a bike ride away.
I entered the bar and made my way to the packaged goods section. The crowd was boisterous and additionally filled all sides of the bar. Parked just within the door were other bikes aside from the one I just entered with. I filed past the bar and into the store area, oblivious to the bartender. She was at the other end of the bar, serving customers and partaking in the festivities. I perused the various wines available conveniently down the road from my house at 10:30PM on Christmas night. The selection wasn’t outstanding, but at least this option of a poor selection of various wines from California was available to me, reminding myself once again that it is 10:30PM on Christmas night. I ignored labels and simply went by price. $5 was too cheap and would have to be forced down, and the selection didn’t vary too greatly from the $5 variety. I reached up to the top shelf and grabbed a Cabernet. It was $9.40.
I waited for the bartender patiently for about 3 minutes, whom was still serving patrons of the bar. I assumed she hadn’t seen me and decided to walk from outside of the store area and into the bar, hoping to make enough eye contact with her so that she would understand the “Hey, I need to pay for this wine over here” aloofness I was aiming to portray. Ultimately, she did.
Bartenders serving packaged goods have, in the past, not been the most friendly cashiers. I assume that bartenders see people buying packaged goods as missed opportunities for getting tipped at the regular bar. At least I would were I a bartender.
Kisko’s is different though. I think the clientele at the bar harass the bartenders to the point that they appreciate less business, but this is pure speculation brought on by one event about a year ago, buying packaged goods in the same bar on a less festive night than Christmas. The woman bartender ringing up my purchase asked me if I had a girlfriend. I immediately stuttered, and softly replied, “Umm, yeah I do. Sorry to disappoint you.” She then quickly retorted, “No, I wasn’t hitting on you… Some dirtbag back there (motioning in the direction of the bar) brought my flowers today, and he’s a total creep, so I was asking you if you had a girlfriend because I was going to offer you to take the flowers off of my hands and then surprise your girlfriend.”
I was taken aback. Here was someone simply trying to present me with a nice gesture, and I made it seem like I was a pompous fuck riding my bike around the downtown area, assuming every woman I came into contact with was interested with me. I slowly replied, “Fuck, sorry about that. I hope you didn’t take that the wrong way. It’s just that the last time a woman asked me that, she then tried to ram her tongue down my ear.”
“No, I didn’t. It’s an understandable reaction. Do you want the flowers though?” she followed with.
“Sure I guess so,” I replied. “Will the guy get mad?” I asked.
“No, he’s a complete psycho. He does it to all the girls that work here,” she answered.
I paid for my wine, thanked the bartender and made my home to a newly happy girlfriend, content with the fact that the flower buyer was just “a complete psycho.” I didn’t pass it off like I bought the flowers though, sure that I would’ve paid dearly for such a karmically poor action somewhere down the road.
Anyway, this encounter reinforced my assumption that the bartenders embraced packaged good customers at Kisko’s with open arms; on the basis that the quick fire in and out customers presented less of a problem than the ones that stayed a while and offered up their self-fortified brands of liquid courage.
The new Christmas night bartender approached. She asked if the wine I was about to buy was a gift or not. I immediately started to worry if there was some unknown law about buying wine for yourself on Christmas night, but then blurted out, “Whatever way puts me to sleep faster.”
She then replied, “So I guess I don’t need to wrap this then?”
“Yes,” I said.
She packaged it up and then said, “Maybe you should just get some Nyquil instead?”
I grabbed the small talk bait and replied, “Yeah that would work, but it just doesn’t go down as smooth. I need a hint of the fruity aftertaste that a nice Cabernet offers.” I was two things here; surprised at my quick and witty reply, but also surprised that I was somewhat comfortable in making small talk with a strange woman, whom also had a revealing top on that cradled her rather large breasts together. (Usually, the breast thing spells ‘intimidation’ in all capital letters.)
She gave me a courtesy laugh, took my money, gave me change and offered her sincerest holiday greetings, which I returned. I think she had bigger assholes than me to attend to in the regular bar, ones that would tip on behalf of the cleavage factor. I rode home through the cold Christmas night air, fully aware that I was about to escape reality through two quick glasses of wine and a 1-2 punch to the pillow. 40 minutes of The History Channel later and I was out cold and done with another Christmas, (the actual day at least).