The Incident at the Cockpit

While I was working for the non-profit organization in Austin, I wanted to make a little extra cash, so I got a job at a bar. The bar was called Cockpit, and it was located too far away from the other gay bars to get much of a regular crowd. The manager asked me one night if I wanted to work there because he thought I could help bring in more business by exploiting my friends. Little did he know that even with every naked European soccer star in there at once, that place could not draw out a crowd.

Travis was the day bartender, a type-a personality, mid 50’s in age, six-foot-two, white, skinny, bald with a bitch stare that could slice you in half. He was catty, confidant, slightly humorous, and a fun guy with a good head on his shoulder. He knew everything about the Austin gay community, and would go on to manage bigger and better bars. During the day time, I would stop by there after work, grab a few drinks before heading home. Although the venue could hold a 250 capacity, I never saw more than 30 people there at once, and even then it was the saddest bachelorette party you ever did see.

This one rainy day, I stopped by on my way home for a drink and hopefully some gossip. As soon as you walk in the front door the corner of the bar is the first thing to greet you in 5 steps. This day, Travis was leaning down on the bar chatting with Susan, a lesbian who recently moved to Austin from San Francisco. Susan, 53, stood proud at six-foot-five, and weighed near two hundred and fifty pounds. She was a solid woman, with a gentle and loving soul. Over the few months before this night she had become a regular at the bar, and a very good friend to me. I walked over and gave her a hug and asked how she was doing. She sat on one edge, and I sat at the other, then Travis peered down at me looking over the rim of his half glasses, “Well, what the hell do ya want?” On this day, as it was with every day, I always order a dirty gin martini, extra dirty. Travis knew this to be my drink, but always had to throw sass at you right as you come in, just so you know he was in charge.

Susan was sipping a beer, and the three of us chatted for a while. Travis got bored after a while and started making shots for us all to have. Now, Travis loved to make Jager-bombs (Jagermeister shot dropped into a glass of red bull), and would force them upon anyone who wanted a shot, and often those who didn’t want a shot. After the first three or four, I told him we had to cut out the red bull, because it was just too much. So the three of us switched to small Jager shots. The small shot glasses are skinnier and lighter than a regular shot glass. The manager, Kendal, had ordered too many of them a few months prior and couldn’t return them. Getting bored very easily, Travis came up with a new game for us. He said we can help get rid of the excess shot glasses and have some fun at the same time.

Basically, we cheers, tap the shot glass to the bar, drink the shot and then throw the empty shot glass over our shoulder. Yes is the answer to all of your follow-up questions: It was wasteful, dangerous and out right stupid…but as I said before it was just the three of us, and we had been drinking.

We do it once, the sound of the crashing glass was slightly amusing, but nothing to write home about. They were lighter weight shot glasses, so it wasn’t going to have the sound of a Crate & Barrel shelf collapsing. We continued on, doing a shot every fifteen minutes or so. I knew the end was coming soon because I didn’t want to get drunk and then bicycle home.

The new round was poured, I toasted, tapped the glass on the bar, downed the shot and tossed the glass…however, just at that moment the door to the outside of the bar opens up. A midget walks in, and as he steps inside out of the rain my shot glass nails him right in the forehead. In such a state of shock this poor guy started to flap his arms, and this gets Travis to shout “Run Chicken Little, the sky is falling!!!” Travis then burst into a laugh that doesn’t quiet down for another hour, while I’m so embarrassed, Susan and I run up to this poor guy to make sure he is ok.

Luckily, this gentleman was not hurt, just a small bump on his forehead. He was visiting from Arizona, and just wanted to get a drink. Due to the insensitive comment paired with the uncontrollable laughter, Travis pays for any and every drink the visitor wanted, and the four of us ended up talking for another three hours together.

Although I did not witness this guy getting hit in the head, Travis would describe it for me in detail for the following months. Calling it “The Great Chicken Hunt” all because this poor guy flapped his arms a little. That was the last time I will ever throw a shot glass over my shoulder, at a public space, without making sure the door is locked, and that nobody can get in the path of my flying shot glass.

Wherever that little man is today, I sincerely hope he doesn’t have a permanent mark.

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