Thursday, June 05, 2014

The Last Beer

My flight to Greenville was cancelled out of New York JFK thirty minutes before we were supposed to leave.  It is Murphy's law that states, "The probability of having a flight cancelled is directly porportional to how early you arrive at the airport."  So after a couple of hours at JFK,  they sent me to LaGuardia for a flight to Cleveland connecting to Greenville.  
The layover in Cleveland was more than an hour and the gates were next to each other.  I was looking for a place to hang and there was an airport bar between my two gates.  It was a Gordon Biersch Brewery/Restaurant. 
They had free wifi and a full line of beers on tap. It seemed my day was getting better and better after the cancellation. 
Steve, the bartender came up to me and said, "What will you have?"  I picked some obscure brew from the long list on the menu. He said, "Sorry we don't have that." I asked for another and he said they didn't have that either. In fact he said that he only had two kinds of beers available. Before I could comprehend that statement he said, "We have a limited selection, because we are closing... this is our last day. Actually we only have two beers available."  At first I thought, no wonder you are closing if you only stock two of the 32 beers that you have on the menu.
I asked if the bar was changing companies and he said, "No, they are closing this entire terminal. " All the vendors are gone after today. Everyone is out of work tomorrow."
I said to Steve.."How long have you worked here?" 
He said, "Since 1981." 
My attitude sank a little as I added up the years Steve had been the keeper of the bar here at Hopkins International Airport. There was a real sadness to the rest of the staff as they tried to pretend it was just another day.
"Where will you go after this job?" I asked Steve.  
"I'm not sure. This has been my job for so long. I am so near retirement I thought I would be here till then."
With that information I immediately starting writing this blog.  Steve came up to me and said, "Another." I said I had to catch my flight and needed to pay the check.  I was upset I didn't have more time to complete this post.  Just as I was about to pay my bill my smart phone dinged.  "Your flight to Greenville has been delayed."  I said, "Steve, hold on... I think I can have one more before you close. My flight has been delayed."  Steve's eyes lit up..  "Delayed?" he said, "That is great. This means we will get more more people in here."
He got my beer as I walked across the terminal to see what was up with my flight.  The agent said they were fixing the plane and check back every 20 minutes because "you can not hear my announcements in the Gordon Biersch Brewery."  (How did he know that was my new office.)
There were several other businessmen who were delayed by the mechanical problems as well.  I said to them,
"This is the last night for the Bar right over there.... you have to come in and celebrate."  In a thick mid-eastern accent they said, "We will." 
I would love to say that the bar filled up but only 4 or 5 new people came in.  I don't know when the normal closing time for the bar might be but I know  we are getting close. 
"How about a shot?" Says Steve.
"Sure" says me. 
Of course they have a limited selection of shots since the bar is closing. Steve says he likes Jeagermiester. I say I never liked that but we found an acceptable substitute.  He says "I wish I could have a shot with you...but I'm still working." Even in the final hours he would no break the rules.
Just as he delivers the shot and I am ready to sing "The party is over"  the agent from the gate walks to the edge of the bar and says, "The plane is here and we are going to Greenville."
 I quickly get the check from Steve and try to express the strange emotions I feel for his job and his career coming to an end. I hand him a credit card because I am low on cash. The bill comes to $6.42, I say, "Really."
He says "Yeah".  I signed the credit card voucher and gave him a cash tip that  was much greater than the  bill and hustled to my plane. 
And with that I am off to South Carolina, knowing that I have been a part of a major event that I was not invited to, but got to celebrate none the less.
Isn't life full of surprises like that ?
Yep, that's why they call it life.
As you were, 

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