Laura Leigh Semon

Every neighborhood bar has its regulars, and its own variety of drunks who never seem to leave. Early this year, an extra special little old lady called Kitty came into my life and reminded me just how lucky I am that I work in a New York City pub.

I show up to work one evening and Ron the day bartender, a rather petulant older man, is complaining to me how she had yet another accident in the bar.

“Again? Huh?”

Apparently one time she had been there and had an accident on the bathroom floor. This time it was directly next to the bar. She pooped on the floor next to the bar.

“What. Do. You. Mean?”

Personally, I think this transcends the realm of “normal” crazy locals. I’ll risk sounding callous and admit that I find this insane. This poor old woman is all but completely senile and nobody takes care of her. So, without her family to look out for her, she wanders in on us and we get to play babysitter. Not only that, but she never has money, and therefore never pays her tab. That first night went on and Kitty did not return. I wondered if I’d ever get to see this Kitty, or if I even wanted to.

The next night I got my answer. I arrive for my shift and she is sitting at a booth by herself. I instinctively know that this woman is Kitty. First of all, she is tiny, and she’s also wearing stereotypically old lady clothes. Her nylons are rolled down one leg and she is somewhat of an afterthought to anyone scanning the room. To see her, and believe she is there requires a second glance. Ron groans to me that he has been trying to kick her out for two hours and warns me not to serve her. He approaches her, yelling that she better get out and she tries to hit him with her purse.

“I don’t make enough money for this shit, no pun intended, do not leave her for me.”

Of course, Ron leaves and she starts asking me if we have Courvoisier.

“Who even drinks that?”

The night bartender thinks we should just keep her happy and quiet, and pours her a house brandy, neat. Moments later in a high-pitched twang she starts asking me if we have sandwiches.

"How ‘bout a tuna sandwich baby?"

Another phenomenal Kitty trait- the woman can’t hear, can't hear a damn word, and when she thinks she heard what you said (for example, I say “chicken” she replies “sausage,”) She goes "Ohhhhhhh, Ooooooh." She pulls me close to ask what kind of sandwiches we have. She smells like she hasn't showered in decades. I'm starting to hive at this point. Freaking out. I am turning red. Grilled chicken is the first sandwich on the long list of options, and so I begin there. After ten full minutes of repeating the word ‘chicken’ until everyone in the bar is watching me yell CHICKEN into her ear, she asks me how much it costs, and after my answer she of course replies with, "Ten dollas? Ten dollas? ohhhh ooooh," because she is literally counting her change on the table. Overwhelmed past the point of disbelief, I walk away. Not five minutes later she calls me back.

"You got sandwiches here?"

"We've been through this m'am."

"How bout a tuna sandwich?"

"We don't have tuna,"

"Ya don’t have tuna? What do ya got?"

So we play the chicken game again. "Ten dollas? Ten dollas?" I just kind of leave her behind. Eventually she goes to the bathroom. I start to freak out that I'll find shit on the floor. She comes back and sits at the wrong table and asks me what I gave her to drink, cause "oooooooh oooooh," whatever that means. I check the bathroom, all clear, and return to find that she has counted out about $1.35 on the table in change and she's asking me how much her drink is. I try to tell her it’s six dollars, and she starts raving.

"Six dollas? Six dollas? This is enough. You got enough baby I need anotha’ drink for that kinda money."

“It's not 1931, please leave my bar.” (Well, I didn’t say it, but I thought it).

I take her change and eventually she makes her way out the door. Not two minutes later some guy walks in, comes over to me, and starts trying to speak. BAM! He has the worst stutter I have ever seen in action. I am already sweating from my ordeal with Kitty and he is desperately trying to get words out. He’s taking forever, I'm staring, I'm sweating, so I just say, "It’s okay," as soothing as I possibly can. But it’s not okay. I just want regular customers who leave regular tips behind, not feces. Eventually, after what feels like an eternity he spits out "Are you hiring?"

“Yea. Yea we're hiring, we'd love to have you. Because everybody's gonna’ flock to the bar with the bartender who takes two and half hours to say, ‘What'll it be?!’”
 (Well, I didn’t say it, but I thought it).


Kitty's reign at the bar officially came to an end a week after the above incident. She returned to me, sassier than ever, and it took everything I had not to toss her frail little frame the hell out. She accused me of lying to her about how much she drank and, of course, the cost of her drinks. She was starting to bother my other customers with her outbursts when I finally managed to get her out the door. I honestly did, and still do feel awful for Kitty. Yes, she is old and confused but she has children, and a family out there who don’t bother to care for her. We know this because there was one time when they actually troubled themselves with hiring a “caretaker” who enabled Kitty’s behavior by bringing her into the bar. At this point she’d also hurled a napkin and straw holder at Ron when he’d asked her to leave earlier in the day. The afternoon following what would be our final showdown, Ron realized that he simply could not handle her anymore and put in a call to the NYPD. When they arrived she tried to get nasty with them, swatting at them to leave her alone, trying to fight them off, at which point they gave up and called paramedics who brought in a stretcher and strapped Kitty in, all while she was waving her finger at Ron and shouting that God would take care of him for what he did to her.

All I can say is that as crazy as Kitty made me, I’m glad I’m not the one she cursed on her way out that door.

Naturally that same evening a nerdy looking guy in his late twenties stumbled in, three sheets to the wind, and made it a point to follow me around the bar. He tried to make conversation but I simply could not make out what he was trying to say, his slurring was unbelievable. He was at that point when he should have been passed out but was somehow still getting pieces of words through his lips. When he tried to wink at me it took him a torturous full ten seconds to get his eyelid to close.  I finally took away his Blue Moon and told him to get the hell out. After another ten minutes of incomprehensible musings, he lit a cigarette inside the bar and finally disappeared. At least now I'm not afraid to be mean to annoying drunks.

Thank God I’m College educated, or I may have to turn my back on this career and do something beneath me, like work for a Corporation, or have sick days, vacation days and benefits. Ha! Leave all this? Never.