From Flood Water To Scotch And Water

As you probably know by now, this year is the 50th anniversary of the devastating flood of ’72. You know this because the media loves over-reporting on the anniversaries of historically terrible events, like natural disasters, wars and the Jerry Springer show.

Not everything flood-related was bad. It helped me get a job as a bartender and
bouncer.

The bar was the Pub, located at the site of today’s Southport Town Hall in Bulkhead. It was owned by a sweetheart of a woman, the late Ann Savino, and was one of a few taverns in the region that didn’t get flooded, making it one of the hottest bars in town.

Every night, the place was packed with people drinking 25-cent Miller drafts, grooving to Sly and the Family Stone on the jukebox, eating cheeseburgers and French fries from the grill, and sharing flood stories.

Back then, the legal drinking age was 18. The place became so popular and so crowded with young people that Ann turned to me for some help.

“Pfif, we’re having a problem with a lot of underage kids coming in here,” she told me. “You seem to know everyone. How would you like a job checking proof at the door for $2 an hour and free drinks?”

I accepted the offer and hugged her with “I can’t believe it” thanks before she finished her sentences.

There was one small problem.

I was only 17 and about to start my senior year at Southside High School.

Ann thought I was 18, because I had shown her a fake ID my first time in the bar. Yes, I know it was wrong for me to use a fake ID, but you have to remember, it was the summer of the flood I was only 17 and I had no moral compass.

I wasn’t going to let that minor detail get in the way of my responsibility to see that no underage guests got through the door.

So, there I was, all skinny 140 pounds of me, sitting on a bar stool, next to the open door, a rum and coke with lime in my hand and ready to proof anyone who looked as young as me.

I was on top of the world, controlling who got in and who didn’t at one of the most popular night spots in town — I let in the pretty girls and threw out their boyfriends—while enjoying free drinks and getting paid for it.

This resulted in some interesting encounters, like this:

Me: “Hold it there, buddy. I need to see ID.”

Customer: “You’re kidding, right? Hell, you’re not 18. Let ME see YOUR ID!”

Me: “That’s the wrong thing to say to a bouncer. You’re outta here, pal. And don’t come back until you’re of age.”

Most of the time, the underage wannabes left without issue. Sometimes they wouldn’t leave without a fight. A good bouncer prevents fights.

I wasn’t a good bouncer. When challenged, I stood my ground. I had three things
going for me regarding my self-defense abilities.

  1. I was crazy.
  2. I knew how to wrestle and box.
  3. I was crazy.

Back then, we settled our differences with fists, not guns, knives or drive-bys. The fights were short and rarely resulted in serious injuries, except for one’s ego. For me, the summer of the flood made my life like that of a razor, always in hot water or a scrape.

When I wasn’t checking ID and dodging punches, I was behind the bar, learning how to pour a good draft and mix a tasty cocktail. Back then, mixed drinks were popular and they had crazy names like “Grasshopper,” “Harvey Wallbanger,” “Singapore Sling,” and “Rudy Giuliani.”

Thankfully, I had an “Old Mr. Boston” bar book that listed the ingredients for almost every cocktail.

During one really busy night, an impatient guy was pounding his fist on the bar for me to get his order. I told him to take a nerve pill and that I would be with him as soon as I could.

When that time came, I asked him what he wanted, and replied “I want an American Quarter.”

I didn’t know how to make an American Quarter, so I got out the bar book and turned to the “A” section, scanning it for the recipe.

“What the hell are you doing now?” he asked with impatient scorn.

“I’ve only been bartending for a few weeks. I don’t know all the drinks so I’m looking yours up to see how to make it. So, cut me a break, okay?”

“What are you talking about?” he said as he held up a quarter in his fingers. “This Canadian quarter doesn’t work in the cigarette machine. I need an American quarter.”

The flood not only got me a cool job but it taught me three important skills:

  1. How to make a perfect martini.

2. How to duck a punch.

3. How to do a foreign currency exchange.

Jim Pfiffer’s humor column posts every Sunday on the Jim Pfiffer Facebook page, Hidden Landmarks TV Facebook page, West Elmira Neighborhood, SouthernTierLife.com and Elmira Telegram.com. Jim lives in Elmira with his wife, Shelley, and many pets. He is a retired humor columnist with the Elmira Star-Gazette newspaper and a regular swell guy. Contact him at pfifman@gmail.com.