Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Ten Foot Pole

There are people we don't want to touch. I don't want to touch Guidos. Guidos can be excessively sweaty -- due to the drugs, I'd suspect -- and sometimes, when they greet you, your hand ends up smelling like cologne for hours afterward. I don't wear cologne, so I don't like when my hand smells like some perfumed eau de Guideau because I'm afraid people will think I'm wearing that particular brand. And Guidos tend toward your lower-end fragrances, so my misfortune often doubles before I've even had the chance to dig my own grave.

When Guidos fight, however, I have to touch them sometimes. This is okay, because Guidos generally bathe. They can be greasy, and many of them carry diseases, but it doesn't enter your mind, at least at first, that "this is a dirty person I'm touching." You know, not like it would if your job entailed going around touching people at Penn Station or the Port Authority Bus Terminal -- places where "dirty people" congregate.

There was a "freak" in the club last weekend. A "dirty freak." Dirty freaks are fun to watch from a distance, but when they get close to you it makes you uncomfortable. You'll say, "Look at that dirty freak!" to all the other bouncers as you gather around to stare at the dirty freak. "Isn't it funny how that dirty freak is acting? Who's a dirty freak like that dirty freak?" But when the dirty freak comes your way, you'll scatter like dust.

And then it comes around to, "Who let that dirty freak in?"

It wasn't me. I wasn't the one who let the dirty freak in, but the dirty freak got in, for sure. The dirty freak was standing at the bar, wiping the dirty freak's face with napkins and throwing them on the floor. The dirty freak had a face made of leather, and the dirty freak was causing concern. Drawing stares. "This," I thought, "is going to come to a head soon."

When something like this is going on, and you're a bouncer who's turning over a new leaf and pretending to care again, you feel like the dirty freak is your responsibility. It's funny how this works. I didn't let the dirty freak in, I didn't provoke the dirty freak and I wasn't actively stirring the dirty freak to action, but I knew, somehow, that the world was blaming me for the presence of the dirty freak. And that the world -- or God, or somebody -- was going to punish me because the dirty freak was making ripples.

And then, on a no-smoking night, with me standing closer than any other bouncer, the dirty freak lit up. "Terrific," I thought. "Now I have to interact with this dirty freak."

When you ask dirty freaks to do things, even if you ask nicely, they often don't want to comply. I suppose if life had dealt me the dirty freak hand, I'd resent some scrubbed-up punk-ass motherfucker telling me what to do, too. I'd rail against the injustices of the world -- that you could be born and live your life and be clean, while I was spit the fuck out and relegated to the dirty freak pile.

You get to certain points in life, and there's no going back. Everything's negated once you're over that precipice -- the crib, the playpen, the toys, all of it. It doesn't matter for shit anymore once you have a disease, or somebody cuts off your balls, or your veins get so trackmarked up that the only thing in life you can ever be, from here on in, is some dirty, freakish untouchable who's miles past the point of no return.

"You gotta put that out," I said. "You can't smoke in here." Please don't touch me.

"I'll smoke wherever I want."

"No you won't," I said. Please don't touch me. "Put it out now, or you're leaving." Please don't touch me. Fuck you. I don't want you spitting at me. I don't want to touch your hands. I don't want to touch your hair, or your clothes, or anything else that's ever been within a football field of your dirty, freakish existence. Fuck you for putting me in this position. It was your choice -- your life -- not mine.

What would you do? You know you can do whatever you want, physically, because this person can't handle you. But at what cost? Being bitten? Spat upon? If something happens, do you even want to swing back? Do you lose your mind and cease to care for those few minutes it'll take you to do your job, and deal with the consequences later on?

Or do you face reality: that putting yourself at risk for God-knows-what in order to enforce the smoking ban simply isn't worth what you might've thought it was ten years earlier?

Out comes the radio. "JD, you on the air?"

"Go 'head, Rob."

"Come to the main bar," I say. "No emergency, but I got a little situation over here. Bring a couple guys with you."

Fuck it.