Sunday Night Fever
It was that type of unseasonable cold-snap for Toronto in early October. Easily a 15 degree drop from the previous day combined with a wicked breeze. As if Mother Nature got impatient, skipping past autumn all together to give our city a taste of Winter before we’d even dug our coats out of storage. The residents of north Toronto opted to stay indoors. They would need a few more days like this before realizing all that was needed to venture back out into the cold world again was an extra layer.
On this blustery Sunday evening, the pub, normally hopping during the dinner hour, was near empty, save for a few couples scattered to the warmest corners. I stood at service with the two gals on staff joined by my most loyal barflies, Reef & Jay. All of us staying warm by the heat of the chemical steam from the glass washer.
My back to the front door, Maureen nodded at me, her eyes darting over my shoulder, meaning I had a customer. I hadn’t even heard the door open let alone feel the harsh blast of wind that would have accompanied it. Yet there he was, a man standing halfway down the empty length of the bar.
He was bundled in a coat and scarf, braced for the chill. I came down the bar to greet him. His face, once shadowed by the bill of his ball cap, raised to meet my own in the light.
Speechless, I stared back in disbelief. Standing less than two feet across my bar was one of the most recognizable celebrities on planet Earth. In my attempt to be cool, I’m sure the shock was betrayed in my eyes — that jolt of recognition he must see mirrored back at him from every stranger’s face dozens of times a day.
“What can I get for you, sir?’’ reflexively slipped across my tongue.
“A bottle of soda water please,” a twenty dollar bill in his hand.
Those riveting eyes. That chin, like he battled a swordfish and lost. And now, that unmistakable voice. Any lingering doubt vanished.
John fucking Travolta.
“Like, a Perrier?” I stammered.
“Yeah, that’s fine.”
With that, I turned my back on Danny Zuko, reaching into the bottom of the beer fridge to hunt for one of the few bottles of Perrier I’d seen during my bar training shifts just two months prior. If bottles could collect dust inside a fridge, I’d have to wipe off a layer just to read its label, stashed with the equally redundant bottles of non-alcoholic beer.
My next move provided a bigger challenge; finding the Perrier on the computer to complete the sale. While I painfully searched screen by screen, peripherally I could see all conversation among my barflies and staff had come to a halt. The youngest and dimmest girl on staff, Carrie, tilted her upper body for a better angle to view my illustrious patron.
“Is that really him?” she asked, in a voice that would have been lost on a busy night, but might as well been shouted through a megaphone.
I started to whistle. It’s rare that I do that only when I get rattled. The normal time it should have taken for me to ring in the Perrier had elapsed long ago. I imagined Vincent Vega’s eyes piercing through the back of my head, every second of my incompetence hanging in the air like a frozen breath.
“Here we go!” I exclaimed, finally punching the button ‘carbonated water bottle’ buried on the seventh menu page. Triumphant, I spun around for the face-off.
“Two ninety-five,” I declared.
He slid the twenty across the bar. A bit too eager I snatched it, getting his change back quick to make up for lost time in the transaction. As I went to twist the cap on the bottle, I noticed he made no attempt to remove his coat or take a seat.
“Did you want this to-go?”
“Yeah, I just needed to make change for parking.”
“Okay. Sure,” was all I could reply, handing over the bottle.
With a sly grin, the urban cowboy nodded his thanks and vanished out the doors back into the mad city. The only remnant of his presence was a five dollar bill left on the bar.
I turned to my captive audience back at service, their collective stare falling back to me the moment the front door closed.
“I could be wrong, but was that the dude from Look Who’s Talking?” I said, knowing that Vinnie Barbarino would forget our encounter by the time he fed the parking meter.