We have a friendly pair of bar stools waiting for us at the end of each week. We have selectively weaned out those stools in our favorite watering holes that do not offer us optimum space, premium access to the bartender, and the most satisfying ambience. Of course, we can adjust if need be, but usually we’ll plan to arrive early just to get those coveted stools.
We’re on a first name basis with a few bartenders; we know their kid’s names, back stories, and hopes for the future. Until a few years ago, we were not bar hounds; we sat at quiet unassuming tables away from the activity of the bar, until we vacationed in South Carolina and our friends introduced us to a whole new world where ‘strangers’ weren’t necessarily strangers.
Once we left the protective table scene behind, we realized that never knowing what a bar stool might bring could be half the fun of going out. Would our chosen bar stools provide us with quiet conversation – just the two of us sharing thoughts and dreams; decompressing from the day, or would it be a time when we would open up to complete strangers about our life, family, and travels? It truly all depends on the inhabitants of the other bar stools – are they open and friendly, or closed and to themselves? Like dear ole’ mom and dad used to say – “just try it…you might like it.”
Sometimes you meet some pretty interesting characters, like the time we met a friendly female couple who told us about the years they spent living and working in Boston. It was all good until politics entered the arena; that’s when we, along with the bartenders, smartly refrained from sharing our opinions.
Then there was the couple who were in-laws to the bartender, and through a few degrees of separation we found out that her sister lived just around the corner from us and our boys were childhood friends with their nephews.
And who could forget the wonderfully spunky lady who, in her early 80’s and still an active part of the work force, was not afraid whatsoever to take her divorced self in a rented RV cross-country. She passionately advised us to start attacking that infamous bucket list well before retirement made it fashionable.
Most recently, we sat between two single patrons; an older gentleman enjoying a beer to our right, and a woman in her mid-50’s taste testing beer to our left. We were a seat away from both, but that didn’t deter the rich conversations, which grew from humble bantering about the weather and the fabulous focaccia bread.
We learned the gentleman, who had never married and had no children, got a head start on his bucket list as a young man: Safari’s in Africa, a well-planned trip west beginning in Los Angeles and then on to Hawaii, Fiji, and New Zealand (*note that itinerary for future reference), trips to Seattle where apparently it doesn’t rain all the time (even though that’s what the locals want potential visitors to think), and living in the artsy yet quaint city of Savannah Georgia, just to name a few. We asked questions and interjected here and there about our grown children and their escapades growing up, and our recent “glamping” experience in Moab Utah with them.
This well-traveled gentleman also gave us a brief history lesson about our neighboring town and how it had fallen into disrepair until an effort in the 1970’s pushed to refurbish and renew economic prosperity. We had no idea that the now thriving, quaint, upscale town we knew so well once suffered, and we felt lucky to have moved here at such a flourishing time in its history.
To our left, we chatted about San Diego; the friendly open manner of the people, but also that there was no change in season there and without that how things can become stagnant; no ‘natural’ refresh button. We found a common link to a local business our daughter had once interned for, and shared about her career now and life as a Bostonian. We talked about this woman’s brother who climbed his way up from humble beginnings in the restaurant business to co-owning multiple franchises along the northeast coast. We talked about her varied career life, coastal living, travel, wine and beer, restaurants, etc.
It was fun and unexpected on either side of our stools. When the gentleman to our right prepared to leave, I heard him say to the bartender, “Well this was fun.” We shook his hand and said we hoped to see him again. When it was time for us to go, we happily shook the hand of the lady to our left and expressed that we hoped to see her again as well, and she remarked how much she’d enjoyed the time.
With a wave we bid our amiable bartender a good night and left with a genuine warmth in our hearts, knowing that once again our bar stools did not disappoint; they just added another glorious chapter to our growing anthology of bar stool tales.