Tuesday, February 10, 2009

In all the time I’ve spent working in bars and nightclubs, I think the one concept that’s been most completely foreign to me in terms of customer behavior has been the violent flip-out. You know, the one where a guy gets that look on his face and carries on – shouting threats, ripping his shirt off, maybe damaging some property, etc – for an extended period of time in front of a crowd of people.

I’ve never quite understood the purpose of public meltdowns, but they seem to have become very popular over the past few years. In fact, I think people have come to accept the fact that certain people – their friends – will tend to do this on occasion. In other words, I don’t think losing your mind and making a complete ass of yourself in public is as unacceptable for young men as it once was.

I was in the gym the other day – sans headphones, unfortunately – and overheard two guys having a conversation about an incident that apparently took place over the weekend. The exchange went something like this:

“Did you hear about Mike?”

“No, what happened?”

“He flipped out at the bar on Saturday night.”


“I dunno. You get a few drinks in that kid and it’s over.”

What struck me here is that the guy who hadn’t seen the incident didn’t actually ask what happened. He simply knew. When you say someone “flipped out” in a bar, it’s almost as though things follow a script. The order of events is implied. Something sets him off, he starts yelling, he gets thrown out, he yells some more, and then he either gets beaten up or ends up running down the sidewalk with his shirt off.

This is evidently customary and acceptable for young men under the age of, say, twenty-five, and everything goes back to “normal” the next day, even if this is the third time the flipper-outer has lost his mind this month.

I’m struggling to comprehend this.