Don’t Look Up

A touchy situation.

On one evening in the first summer after finishing high school, a classmate and I decided to drive into Ft. Worth to see if we could get lucky.

The plan was simple. We’d begin at the steps of the Tarrant County Courthouse and drive South on Main St. stopping at every joint on that faced the street. If things looked promising, we’d stay long enough to have one beer and maybe slip a quarter into the jukebox. Otherwise, we’d move right aiong.

While en route from our hometown of Burleson, my co-conspirator, who had considerably more experience in the field, gave me some advice. Whatever you do, he said, do not be hasty. Take stock of what’s going on and be as aware as possible of who might be socializing with whom and if trouble breaks out among other patrons and you can’t easily leave, just stare straight down into your drink until it gets resolved. Most importantly, he said, since domestic games often carry over into the kinds of places we’d be landing, I should at first play it a bit shy if approached by a seemingly interested lady.

We hit several places on Main St., but not much was going on. So, when Main St. dead-ended at Rosedale, we shifted a little to the West and then headed South again on Hemphill, which is where our night’s adventure came to an end.

The last place we visited was a smoke-filled, noisy dive with lots of seating, a couple of pool tables, a jukebox, a massive antique mahogany bar with a huge custom-made mirror, and a shitload of regulars on hand. The only available seat was a stool at the bar and I headed over to it while my friend put a quarter on the rail of one of the pool tables to mark his place in line as a challenger of the winner and then stood nearby awaiting his turn.

Everything seemed to be going well as I sipped on a glass of Lone Star draft and took in the scene. After an half-hour or so, a sweet young thing sauntered over, took the empty stool to my left, intent on starting a conversation. Out of an abundance of caution, I at first just stared into my glass and said nothing. After a few minutes, I started thinking all might be well and maybe I could at least exchange pleasantries.

But I could not have been more wrong.

As I raised my head and before turning to the left to face her, I glanced into the mirror opposite. In that instant, I saw what I thought might be trouble in the making in the form of some dude standing behind me with a cuestick in his right hand, which would normally be no big deal since there was a pool table very near to the bar.

Thing is, I’m very fond of both straight pool and nine-ball and have spent many hours playing in many places. So, I found it more than passing strange that the guy behind me had the thing upside down. He was holding it by the wrap with the bumper up and the tip planted on the floor and he was facing the bar, not the table.

Since you don’t shoot pool with the fat end of the cue, I got the uneasy feeling that he might have in mind an entirely different game and that sweetness might be trying to draw me in. So, I kept my mouth shut and just looked back down at my brew until the temptation to my left went back to her friends with cuestick guy more or less in tow.

Not a minute later, my old friend came over and said that given the late hour he thought we’d better call it a night and I agreed.

Once we were in the car and headed back home, he told me that he’d damn near shit his pants watching me.

As it turns out, cuestick guy was married to and had been arguing with the little bit who’d tried to chat me up and she had told him that she didn’t need him and that she could easily pick up any other swingin’ dick in the place. For his part, cuestick guy had vowed to split the head of whoever might have the audacity even to look sideways at her.

So. That’s how I got schooled in the potential relationship between situational awareness and longevity…