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What The Bartender Sees
by [?]

A young man with a cold face, much nervous energy and a tired-of-the-world expression leans over the polished, silver-mounted drinking bar.

You look at him and order your drink.

You know what you think of him, and you think you know what he thinks of you.

Did you ever stop to think of ALL THE STRANGE HUMAN BEINGS besides yourself that pass before him?

He stands there as a sentinel, business man, detective, waiter, general entertainer and host for the homeless.

In comes a young man, rather early in the day.

He is a little tired–up too late the night before. He takes a cocktail. He tells the bartender that he does not believe in cocktails. He never takes them, in fact. “The bitters in a cocktail will eat a hole through a thin handkerchief–pretty bad effect on your stomach, eh?” and so on.

Out goes the young man with the cocktail inside of him.

And the bartender KNOWS that that young man, with his fine reasonings and his belief in himself, is the confirmed drunkard of year after next. He has seen the beginning of many such cocktail philosophers, and the ending of the same.

The way NOT to be a drunkard is never to taste spirits. The bartender knows that. But his customers do NOT know it. —-

At another hour of the day there comes in the older man. This one is the fresh-faced, YOUNG oldish man.

He has small, gray side-whiskers. He shows several people–whom he does not know–his commutation ticket.

He changes his mind suddenly from whiskey to lemonade. The bartender prepares the lemon slowly, and the man changes his mind back to whiskey.

Then he tries to look more dignified than the two younger men with him. In the midst of the effort he begins to sing “The Heart Bowed Down with Weight of Woe,” and he tells the bartender “that is from ‘The Bohemian Girl.'”

He sings many other selections, occasionally forgetting his dignity, and occasionally remembering that he is the head of a most respectable home–partly paid for.

The wise man on the outside of the bar suggests that the oldish man will get into trouble. But the bartender says: “No; he will go home all right. But he won’t sing all the way there. About the time he gets home he’ll realize what money he has spent, and you would not like to be his wife.”

The bartender KNOWS that the oldish man–about fifty-one or fifty-two–has escaped being a drunkard by mere accident, and that he has not quite escaped yet.

A little hard luck, too much trouble, and he’ll lose his balance, forget that there IS lemonade, and take to whiskey permanently. —-

At the far end of the bar there is the man who comes in slowly and passes his hand over his face nervously. The bartender asks no question, but pushes out a bottle of everyday whiskey and a small glass of water.

The whiskey goes down. A shiver follows the whiskey and a very little of the water follows the shiver. The man goes out with his arms close to his sides, his gait shuffling and his head hanging.

It has taken him less than three minutes to buy, swallow and pay for a liberal dose of poison.

Says the bartender:

“That fellow had a good business once. Doesn’t look it, does he? Jim over there used to work for him. But he couldn’t let it alone.”

The “it” mentioned is whiskey.

Outside in the cold that man, who couldn’t let it alone, is shuffling his way against the bitter wind. And even in his poor, sodden brain reform and wisdom are striving to be heard.

His soul and body are sunk far below par. His vitality is gone, never to return.

The whiskey, with its shiver that tells of a shock to the heart, lifts him up for a second.