On my way back from the restroom, I stop at the bar for my last porter.
One of my mental checkmarks of a well-run establishment is the state of the restrooms. Thoroughly cleaning the restrooms is the last thing someone wants to do when closing up a bar. But, especially in a bar where men's "aims" are "less than perfect", it's a necessary daily chore. If you don't keep up with it, the subtle stench of used beer soon becomes pervasive, requiring intense remediation. (I know this too intimately; in two former lives, restroom maintenance was one of my work tasks. I quickly discovered that doing a thorough job of such a detested task not only impressed my manager, but subsequent cleanups were much easier and faster.) I make a mental note to compliment the owner about their restroom maintenance if I get to meet them. When I make proactive compliments like that, it's almost always a surprise to the management.
After so many decades of observing myself and my ability to handle alcohol reasonably well, part of my "last call" decision is how far I have to go (on my own power) versus how much alcohol to have. In the case of my walk between the Midnight and my abode, I need to be reasonably alert. It's a nice, brisk evening, and the neighborhood is reasonably safe, so no incentive to get a cab. Mostly, at my age and condition, not seeing a bad piece of sidewalk in the dark and doing a faceplant onto said sidewalk is a life-altering event. Now that visiting the Midnight after dark is likely to be a regular part of my routine, I really should add a small, bright flashlight to my carry bag.
Now that the new day has officially begun, the Midnight has a few new faces. A group of medical folks have apparently just gotten off shift at the nearby hospital and are quietly unloading themselves of the bad parts of their long shift to each other. My ex is a Nurse, and while I tried to be sympathetic and listen while she related her various traumas to me at the end of her workday, I wasn't there in her shoes living the trauma of emergencies, obvious cases of abuse, the tragedy of homeless folks, and of course, deaths. So... many... deaths. So, good for them to be there for each other, able to unload their emotional burdens on each other. I walk up to the bar on the pretext of getting a mug of water, and quietly slip the bartender three $20s to pay for the medical group's next round. While my Ex and I are no longer together, I'll forever respect the work that she and her colleagues do every day.
Since I'll likely tumble into bed as soon as I get back to my abode within an hour, I decide to take out my pocket computer and glance at my calendar and make some notes for my activities for later today. On a new page in the notebook, I add the date, and that I'm at the Midnight as I begin the page. Even though all of these events are noted on the electronic calendar, from long habit, I transcribe them onto the notebook - just writing them down helps me remember:
So, now knowing I have to be up early enough to appear rested and alert for the interview (which will be video recorded), I down the last of my porter, wipe the sweat rings off the table, put the notebook into my carry bag, and carry the mug to the bar. The bartender nods at the courtesy, and gives me a subtle thumbs up as he nods to the medical group. He says "see you next time" and grins. Sometimes when people say that you know it's just rote, but this bartender seems to genuinely mean it.
I make my way to the door of the Midnight with a warm glow, not just from the porters and the bartender's salutation, but for having found a comfortable "third place" at the Midnight. I know I'll be back soon, but I'll choose a different day so I'll have some experience in judging the weekly rhythms of the Midnight. Tonight was perfect, but I don't yet know if there are Lady's Nights, or Karaoke Nights, or if Tuesdays are the usual night for the Nightfall City Naturals Roller Derby team to live it up at the Midnight after a match. (I have no idea why the Nightfall City Naturals came to mind, or why they might choose the Midnight... maybe just because it would be fun to be in the same bar as an entire team of Roller Derby Ladies.) That's the fun of multiple porters lubricating my mind to think outside the usual confines I try to keep it focused on.
As I step out into the night, Nightfall City is quiet and refreshingly cool. I take a deep breath to pull in a lungful of the fresh, cold air. I zip up my jacket and pull my ball cap out of my carry bag. A few cars go by as I begin my twenty-minute or so walk back to my abode. I glance back at the Midnight and just in those few steps, it's almost receded from view. You almost have to be looking for it to see its doorway tucked back amongst the storefronts of the high-rise building it's a subtle part of. I smile because I'm glad I found the Midnight Pub - maybe because I needed such a place, and for those that don't need such a place, it's easy to just not see it.
Within a few feet of the Midnight's building, where the sidewalk is older, I almost trip on a small lip of dislodged sidewalk slab. Those were good porters! Cosmic message received, I dig my pocket computer out of my pocket and turn on the flashlight mode. I'll order a small bright flashlight as soon as I get home so I'll have it in plenty of time for my next nocturnal visit to the Midnight.