I found myself in a bar this past Saturday afternoon.
It’s mid April here in Denver, but one of those typical late winter/early spring snow storms settled in on Friday evening and just hung around until Sunday afternoon. No one is too stressed about it, because all of us Coloradoans know that the snow will melt within a day or two and that this is our last weekend holed up inside, or swishing down the slopes.
On Saturday, though, I found myself bellied up to a bar in a dull, suburban tavern while I waited for my daughter as she was at a birthday party, bouncing around in a dull, suburban indoor trampoline park. I had my Kindle and I ordered an Avery IPA and settled in, partly reading The New York Review of Books and partly watching the Warriors game on the bar’s television.
It was one of those cavernous spaces that pumped classic rock (I can’t hear “Hotel California” one more time!) through the sound system and where patrons sallied through the doors, shopping bags in one hand and cell phones in the other.
The bar was pretty full so I just found a seat, waved to the barkeep and ordered my drink. There was exactly one black person at the bar and a lonely Indian guy sitting at a table by himself.
The people to the right of me—an older guy (older than me) and two 30-something women were engaged in a lively conversation about the beers on tap, so I thought it would be an okay place to settle for a time.
After a few sips, though, a cell phone from one of the women on my right started ringing. Loudly. And it wasn’t the “Chimes” or the “Ocean Breeze” sound—it was that sharp strike from the Face Time app. The woman picked up her phone, answered the call and as I glanced down and over at her phone, I saw a young girl, maybe 12 years old, staring out through the screen. She was blond and sweet-looking and it appeared that she was in a basement—there was no natural light and there was a television on in the background.
“Where’s dad, mom? He said he’d be here an hour ago?”
The woman, annoyed, barked into her phone, “I do not know! He said he’d be there. I’ll call him.”
She hung up and then volleyed a torrent of expletives about her ex-husband to her bar mates.
My first thought was, “Well, here goes a peaceful hour,” but then after a few minutes of her torrent and then repeated Face Time calls from the daughter, appealing for someone to please come pick her up, I just felt sadness and despair. The woman kept telling the girl that the dad was on the way, then she’d triage with the dad, yelling at him to get his ass to the house, hang up and then commiserate with her friends how the dad really wasn’t going to show up anyway and she really should be going. Except she never left and every time the little girl called, saying please come how, the mom said, your dad is on his way and I can’t get there because I’m out with my friends.
At this point I was in a kind of self-righteous fury and it took everything inside of me to not get up off my bar stool and tell her to just go home and get her daughter. But I just sat there, feeling sorry for myself (I couldn’t concentrate on the Kindle OR the game) and for the little girl (what would become of her?) and super angry at the mother (just go home for God’s sake!) and, at that point, everybody in the dull, suburban tavern.
I know life is hard. I know parenting is hard. I’m not a perfect parent—I yell at my kids more than I’d like, and I make plenty of parenting mistakes. But, my lord, is this what we’ve come to?