John Bartus

Most of the people who visit the Keys are wonderful people with a real appreciation for our islands, our environment and our way of life. Sometimes, however, a true jackass can set relations between locals and visitors back several years. Add copious amounts of alcohol, and the behavior gets exponentially worse.

I’ve had the privilege of running into more than a few of these well-soaked people at my gigs. This is a story of one such gig from several years back. There was a particular woman who had shown herself to be a burrito short of a combination plate throughout the evening. She decided to show off for her dance partner by attempting her old cheerleader split maneuver, then picked up the tambourine I use for percussion loops. I looked at her and shook my head, and she put the tambourine down. No problem.

A little later, a friend of mine came by and picked up the tambourine, and because he wasn’t abusing it (and because the song was nearly over), I just let him play it. Well, one would have thought that I had just stolen Christmas from the orphanage. The shipfaced splitter came up while I was talking with my friend and said, “How come you let him play the tambourine and not me?” She continued to parrot this same question in the exact same annoying tone of voice until I looked at her and said, “We can continue to talk and jabberjaw about this, or I can get back to playing a song. What will it be?”

When she asked the tambourine question one more time, I just said, “Thank you, good night,” into the microphone and put down my guitar. Thinking I had ended the situation, I had no idea what sinister wheels I had actually set into motion.

My friend, who also had a few cocktails by this point, thought I was blaming him for the incident. I tried to reassure him that it was really the blotto tambourine babe that caused me to quit. I asked him if it would be better if I went back up and did my last song so we could all end the night on a happy note, and he agreed. I took the stage, picked up the guitar, and launched into “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” — not your typical three-minute song.

Enter the drunken dimbulb onto the scene yet again, this time accompanied by her faithful Best Female Friend. I was paying them no attention, just getting through the song, and offering them no satisfaction by not acknowledging their presence. Personas non grata. I found out after the fact that Tambourine Babe was flipping me off and dropping F-bombs. At one point, she even cleared her throat loudly so I’d look her way, but nothing doing on my part.

Another of my friends came over and sat near the offensive out-of-towners. At some point (although I wasn’t watching), my friend (we’ll call him “Steve”) “accidentally” spilled his drink in the general direction of the women. A shouting match ensued, and “Steve” expressed his opinion of the situation to the polluted percussionist and her little friend. All this time, the two “men” who belonged to the toasted twosome just sat back and watched as the tableau unfolded in front of their eyes.

As our combatants were led off the battlefield, I tried to find out what exactly had happened. Just then, the psychotic tambourine beauty approached me. She told me that she had left a “big tip” in my tip jar, and — I swear I’m not making this up — asked for it back. I asked her how much her “big tip” was, and she told me.

Five dollars.

I reached into my jar and handed her a five-dollar bill. She then actually said, and again I’m not making this up, “That wasn’t the bill I put in the jar.”

I told her, “It’s five dollars. Have a great night.” I turned and walked away. When the owner of the establishment went over to talk to them, our tipsy tambourine wannabe lost the Miss Congeniality Award by actually bawling her eyes out and lying, telling him she didn’t take money out of my tip jar.

If there’s anything to be learned from all of this, perhaps it’s that as the blood alcohol level increases, the intelligence quotient decreases… exponentially. Bottoms up!

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