Cattle Drivin’ At The Bar

“Alright everyone! Get out! Finish them up!”
“Let’s go! Drink ’em up!”
“OUT! NOW!”

Chances are that if you’ve been to a bar at closing time, you’ve heard one of the above or a slightly angrier version delivered with a lot more force, sometimes accompanied by swearing. Tens of thousands of bars close every night every day of the week in this great country and this end-of-night experience is supposedly part of the social contract patrons sign on for when they walk through the saloon doors.

However, this practice has never made sense to me and I know I’m not the only one that’s thinking this. Allow me to paint the scenario which is applicable to both sexes and probably transvestites too. You and three friends make a decision to go to SuperBar, one of ten possible drinking holes in Any City, USA. You like the atmosphere and frequent this place a few times a month. You show up around 10pm and throughout the night, you and your crew are buying drinks and are having a great time. It’s so fun that your group invites other friends to come join you from other bars, drawing even more business to SuperBar that they otherwise wouldn’t have had. Fast foward to closing time. Your group has signed off on all tabs and you’re finishing up your last round before heading out. Then, you get to endure the experience of being rushed to leave in the most impolite manner possible as described above. It was fine when you were spending money, but now, you’ve become the equivalent of in-laws during the holiday season.

In any other industry, this practice simply would not stand. Imagine going to GAP and being told to get out at closing time (“Alright everyone! Let’s get those jeans and sweaters and move it!”) or at Shaw’s (“Ok! Move it, Grandma! Get the legs moving those eggs!”). Even normal restaurants don’t rush people out as they hit closing time, but rather start cleaning up and such when their last few patrons are finishing up their meals. (I think this is rude when it’s happening around you while you’re eating, but for the sake of discussion, I will digress.) But in the bar industry, it’s completely ok and ACCEPTED! Am I crazy in thinking that something isn’t right here?

What sparks this diatribe were two recent conversations from both sides of the coin. Blog reader Ben experienced the phenomenon this past weekend, actually fighting back a bit by getting into a spirited debate with a bowling alley “customer cattle driver” (a term I just coined) about the merits of his rationale in forcing people out a good 10 minutes before closing time. One of the best lines Captain Galactic Bowl used against Ben? “Last call was 1:15 and you had 40 minutes to drink it. Why don’t you just chug it and go?” All this while a cop was standing a few feet away. Nothing like being a responsible bartender….

The other conversation took place a few weeks ago with an actual bartender who is forced to “customer cattle drive” (let’s shorten this to CCD) as part of his job. This guy is a really good friend of mine, but that got tossed out the window as myself and some friends were finishing up some late-night beverages. Lo and behold, closing time came and we were no different than anyone else in the place. Yes, despite the fact we are friends, we were asked to leave rather harshly by my buddy. Now, myself and this guru of pouring drinks have a good discourse going, so I had to call him out on it the next day. He blamed it on some local sports players that seem to think they’re above the law and should be served anytime, hence the same treatment needs to go for everyone. I vowed revenge and moved on, but the bizarreness of this situation and others like it lingered.

I will admit there are always going to be a few people that are just hanging around without any call to action to leave. Some need extra prompting and occasionally, some physical prompting at that. But seriously, should this be the way paying customers are treated? If any of my readers have been in the position of a CCD, I’m sure you are probably thinking that I have no idea of what I’m talking about and that after a long night, the bar personnel want to go home and these late drinkers just elongate that problem. My response? No offense, but that’s not my problem. I work long hours like a lot of people and I don’t need to be harrassed when I go out and pay money to blow off steam.

Unfortunately, there’s a not a lot that the social drinking public can do. If we refuse to leave, that causes an issue. If we begin to argue, that causes an issue. If we don’t go to the bars, that’s not helping anyone because yours truly needs to get his drink on. What needs to happen is some sort of sweeping social change via a commercially viable medium like a movie. There was a skit on this season SNL premiere (hosted by my man-crush Dane Cook) called ‘Let’s Go’ that helped recreate the ridiculous experience, but it was near the end of show when everyone watching at home is either passed out with nacho cheese on their shirt or getting head.

If it helps, add this blog to the fire and let’s hope the movement will blaze a bit brighter. We all have a lot of drinking to do in our lives, so the quicker we can band together and find a solution, the better all our lives will be. Hey, if we pull this off, world peace will be as easy as downing a Sam Adams Winter Lager after a long day of work.

On the flip side, I’ll be lucky to EVER be served again if this movement catches on. Forget that I said anything. In fact, GET OUT!

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So a week after announcing my big leave, I got a whopping one email and two comments on the blog comments section. Seriously, I AM LEAVING MY JOB! God, I hate being emotionally needy. Maybe more people knew or maybe I’m underestimating the amount of people that came up to me to ask questions. Regardless, it’s been quite a week of answering questions that have no answer. Two major ones:

-What am I doing next? I have NO idea. Seriously, no friggin’ clue. After seven years of having that figured out (and four more if you count college before that), I’m perfectly at peace with not knowing what exit to take on my highway of life. And like Tom Cochrane said, life is a highway and I want to ride it all night long. However, if you’re going my way, I want to drive it all night long. (Never quite understood that line, but then again, it is Tom Cochrane.)

-Where am I going? Not sure, but I’d really like to stay around here. I know a fun group of people and the opportunities for getting where I want to go are more prevalent with the Boston area being just 45 minutes away. However, a dream of mine would be to move back to Portland and begin to change the perception that young people are moving away in droves and that Maine is not forward-thinking with their industries. Plus, my crew of friends and family are unsurpassed. Oh, what shall I do? Time will tell and I’m sure you’ll find the answers right here.

-Why? That was all last week. Scroll down and read it if you missed it.

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I guess I left out a few people in the Home(coming) Is Where The Beer Is piece I wrote last month. Definitely not intentional, but it was stream-of-thought writing. Sometimes, those streams fire out like the first bathroom stop after a night of drinking and other times, it’s like rocks through a drinking straw.

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Was relaxing last night after a brutal four games in seven days stretch and caught some of Comic Relief 2006, helping raise money for Katrina families. A few standouts were Louis CK and Sarah Silverman, but the one disappointment was Dane Cook who got little more than crickets during his five-minute segment. I hate to say it, but dare I say overexposed? Say it ain’t so!!!!

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Still have seen zero movies lately including Borat or The Departed. I’ve heard both are really good. However, I was asked to find a corkscrew for a suite at work this week.

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Have a great Turkey Day week and I hope to see you all soon.

your friend,
nason

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The Final Five

Almost seven years ago, I graduated from the University of Maine and headed out into the real world. I took a job with a professional hockey team after an aborted stint as a financial advisor and had no idea what and where it would take me. There was no five-year plan, no long-term vision for the future. Life was day-to-day and that was ok for me. A year after taking that chance in Portland, another one came available a little further down the Pike in some place called Manchester. Some of my co-workers had gone there to work and the offer was open for me to join them. I needed a change and decided to take the plunge. In 5-and-a-half seasons after signing on the dotted line, I found a new home, grew up faster than I expected and helped created a new life for myself in an industry that I didn’t exactly go to college for. It’s been an amazing, confusing and exhilirating time full of accomplishments, learning experiences and fun.

This spring, this chapter of the book comes to an end as two weeks ago, I told my boss that this will be my final season with the team. (Yeah, feel free to take that statement in for a second. Believe me, it took me a while to say it).

In telling people, the big question has been ‘why?’ Honestly, there’s not one reason. I like my job even with the intensity, responsibility and stress I compound upon myself on a daily basis. I like the people I work with and they’ve been a huge reason why I’ve been able to stay in sports for so long. I like the area and have really grown to love living here, despite an implanted chip in my brain that tells me to move back to Portland a few times during the year. So why, Josh, why?

1) The Grind. A common question I get: “What do you do during the summer? Must be pretty easy, right?” Uhhh…not really. The summer for someone that works in a hockey front office is spent planning and preparing with some vacation time thrown in. While there’s obviously less weekends committed to work, there is still a good amount of shit to be done. Combine that with the actual grind of the season and there really is no down time to speak of, especially when your club is one of the best and you’re expected to stay this way. From October 7 through April 15, there are 28 weekends. This season, I have games on 20 of them. There are no make-ups days when I work a Saturday/Sunday. Multiply this schedule times the past six seasons and I’m ready to have a break. I’ve always found it strange that the media sometimes feels bad for athletes who have games on holidays or really tough stretches of games. No one ever mentions the front office people or the arena workers who don’t have multi-million dollar salaries to help offset their mental stress.

2) The Accomplishments: In all, I’m amazingly proud of what I’ve helped us accomplish here in Manchester. I love the city and how something as simple as a new arena and new team has become such an important thing to so many people. For example, we turned a recent game into a fundraiser for a fallen police officer’s family and raised over $50,000 for them. To say things like that make you feel good is an understatement. I can walk away at the end of this season with my head held high and proud of what I’ve helped create and to me, that’s really important. I never did get my Ice Girls approved, but that’ll be for another team. (Just kidding, ladies. Kind of.)

3) The Next Challenge. I’ve never been satisfied with what I’m doing but rather what else I can do. I have a variety of interests that I want to really focus on with writing being the main one. I keep talking about books and manuscripts, but I never set enough time aside to do it. Well, I’m tired of doing that and I hope that 2007 is the year when some of my visions start to take shape. I’ve been part of some interesting discussions lately involving some projects that will take some of you by surprise. I hate to be so secretive, but I hope the payoff will be worth it.

4) The Confidence. A few seasons ago, I’m not sure I had the confidence to really head out into the great wide world and direct my own destiny. Now? I’m more than ready. I have experience in a multitude of different areas and have an amazing group of friends and colleagues there to support me in every way. Seriously, the reason that so many people don’t fight to change their destiny is that they don’t think they can do it. I could have easily stayed at my current position for another few seasons, collected some great paychecks and been stable. But I want to try something else and the life training I’ve recieved has got me ready. I might succeed, I might fail, but most importantly, I have the confidence to try. Great friends and family and the desire to success will help do that to a fella.

SO, after all these statements, the big question remains and looms: Portland or Manchester? We’ll have to see. There are positive and negatives with both, but we’ll let fate make that choice. More on this another time….

As the book closes on this season in April, I will have worked more than 280 career games, including every Monarchs home game in the team’s history – one of only four people to make that claim. I have made amazing friends and amazing people who have done some amazing things. When I take my illegimate grandkids past the arena in 2043 in my flying car, I’ll be able to point to the arena and tell them about the glory days and what we created here (at which point, I’m sure they’ll throw me out of said car).

The final five months has arrived. Wow.

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A quick shoutout to a band you’ve heard me talk about before – Portsmouth, NH’s band The Whatnot. I finally got a copy of their second cd, ‘One More For Pocket,’ and caught them Friday night performing at an awesome restaurant/bar in Dover, NH, called the The Brick House. I can’t say much more about them and urge you to pick up their discs (available on ITunes, Rhapsody, etc) or check them out live. Check ’em out at http://www.thewhatnot.com and click on their media player link for a few choice tracks.

thanks for reading, guys. The best is yet to come.

(If not, can I crash on your couch?)

your pal,
nason