Winning (Except for the Losing)

I don’t generally have a problem with going to a bar by myself–so long as I already know the spot well enough. Then, it’s like the bar itself is a friend, and that gives me all the confidence I need to meander in and plop down for a while.

Unfortunately, I’m not very familiar at all with the bars in my new neck of the woods, and when it comes time to watch a blacked-out Bucs game, the choices are a tad limited. The one down the road might carry the game, though not likely, and it’s got a six-seat bar. So I turn to the next island over.

The best option is a fantastic idea–what was a ground-floor parking garage in the center of a cool little island shopping district was converted to an open-air, multi-TV, giant-bar restaurant just over a year ago. The problem is A) any place carrying a blacked-out Bucs game has the potential to be overrun, and being by yourself and not finding a place at the bar is awkward; and B) given the central location in a touristy spot, it has a good potential for being a massive douchecanoe marina.

But, what the heck, I ventured forth.

Found a spot at the bar, albeit on the opposite end of the room from the Bucs game TV, but it was still a decent view.

I really never know in these situations how long I can feel comfortable before getting fidgety; usually midway through the second drink at an unfamiliar spot I want to escape. So I ordered a Bud Light bottle and held my breath. Bartender told me buckets of five bottles were on special.

“I’m going to pretend I’m not going to drink five beers myself,” I told him.

Then, after some nervous moments wondering what degenerate might claim the empty seat near me, a 60something guy asked if it was taken, and settled in. Awesome: He was by himself, also watching the game, and he showed virtually no interest in talking to me.

Only every once in a while did he make a chummy comment about something happening with the game, but other than that, he totally left me alone. I managed to find an occasional signal in what is kind of a black hole for internet, too. Hell, I figured. Maybe this isn’t so bad.

I was on my third beer come halftime, and I had a decision to make: Bail now, because I needed food, or ask for a menu and commit to another chunk of time. Hell, it was a good game.

Bonus: Their coconut shrimp are .awesome.–big shrimp and breaded in coconut as well as sliced almonds. Brilliant.

Enter the fourth quarter, I order my fifth beer. “Not gonna drink a bucket, huh?” the bartender joked. I laughed and said they would’ve been warm by now. He said he’d give me the discount anyway. Good man.

Well, the game was worth the watch through to the end–Bucs down only a point, with the ball and 13 seconds left to play. Neighbor and I had a few more frequent exchanges regarding the Bucs’ secondary and Josh Freeman’s last-minute comeback ability. He was knowledgeable enough to give me an opportunity to show my knowledge, too–nary an expression of surprise from him that a girl might know the ins and outs of the Tampa 2. And even though the Bucs weren’t able to pull off the win, I was happy I stayed to watch the whole thing.

In fact, the worst part of the afternoon was 15 minutes after I returned from the bathroom, when I realized my fly was gaping. Eh, whatever.

I got the check, gave the bartender a good tip, and told my neighbor to have a good one. Never even got his name. It was the perfect bit of socializing for someone as antisocial as me. Not an out-and-out win, but hey, they covered the spread.

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