A dog chased me while I was jogging, and my response to this potential threat on my life–or at least my ankles–was to say “hey now, don’t do that.” I approach dangerous conflict like Jerry Seinfeld approaches everything in his life: observe and quip. This rather passive and snarky lifestyle lends itself to a lot of things. I think I make an alright teacher. I’m somewhat entertaining at parties–provided they’re the kind of parties I go to. And I’m a delight at the doctor’s office because what health professional doesn’t love someone who makes jokes instead of fainting when they’re nervous. However, poking fun and being generally non-threatening does not lend itself to the job I had for–I think–two weeks in my sophomore year of college. As it happens, sarcasm and general passivity don’t work well if you’re a bouncer.
My students know me as a weird hybrid of goofy dad and awkward nerd, and despite my best efforts, that’s what the drunk, grinding patrons of San Felipe’s Cantina knew me as too. San Felipe’s wasn’t the kind of bar I’d go to now. It was the kind of place people went to if they wanted less than 1 square foot of breathing room, a floor as sticky as a movie theater with half price sodas and all night showings of kids’ movies, and it had a pole for the staff or random people to dance on. It was a club disguised as a bar, and it was the worst place on Earth.
I am not a particularly physically imposing individual. Recently, I was diagnosed as 5 foot 8, and that’s just something I’ll have to live with for the rest of my life. I was 19 when I worked at San Felipe’s, and I looked it. To understand how effective I was as a bouncer, I only need to describe one altercation. Imagine a room packed with grinding sweaty people lubricated with cheap drinks and loud, rhythmic club music. The lights were low, and the plastic fish on the walls had a thin film of vaporized vodka and glitter coating them. Amid this crowd of undulating bodies was a man with a gorilla physique who’d had as much to drink as anyone would need to justify throwing up in an alley–which apparently he did. Now, imagine a slightly below average 19-year-old with patchy stubble and a neon green staff shirt excuse me-ing his way through a crowd of people who don’t care that he exists. When our hero finally reached the drunk, he stopped, was shoved around by dancers, and then he made a gesture he would learn to love when he finally became a teacher, but this gesture is not so effective on someone who blacked out an hour ago. The youth stopped, looks at the gorilla, pointed at him, and wagged his finger a little bit. Then he said, “hey now, do you think you should still be here.”
I remember being very proud of my rational approach to kicking a drunk out of a bar. That pride lasted only as long as it took for him to reply. He said “yeah,” and I thought “well alright then,” and went to go find my boss to tell him there was really nothing more I could do.
I was a temporary worker, but when I was hired my boss said temps were usually hired on after a short trial. I was not invited to join the team permanently. Now, I use my very brief tenure as a bouncer to make myself sound impressive to my students. I do not tell them many details–though I do let them know I wasn’t amazing at it. Looking at me, I don’t think they’re surprised.