A half empty glass of ginger ale

After a long stretch out of work, I was quite relieved to land a nice job with a really good organization. I'm telecommuting, but they've put me up in a perfectly nice hotel a few times here in Virginia, as I get some on-site training, build familiarity with the team, and all that.

One of the perks about the hotel is the extreme cordiality of its staff. I've run into four people at the front desk (it's a small lobby), and am treated with remarkable courtesy every time I pass. A second perk is its proximity to a great brewery: it's directly across the street. Now, I love the Hudson Valley, but I can't walk across the street to get a draught beer, let alone one that is cask-conditioned. In fact, this place often have several cask IPAs on tap (perhaps my favorite style of beer).

Anyway, when I was here a month ago, I went into the brewery two or three times. The staff are friendly and easy going, and the patrons at the bar all seemed fine. In fact, it was here where we watched that thrilling Falcons-Ravens Thursday night game, and the crowd was actually a lot of fun. It was definitely a place I knew I'd visit during this stay.

Each time I was in there last month, I did notice one older man, mid 60s perhaps, sitting in a corner at the end of the bar. I sat two seats away from him on that last occasion, only noting that I had seen him in that seat before. He had a bunch of magazines, Sudoku puzzles (I think), etc, and talked to the bartender and a friend who happened to be with him. I didn't notice at the time, but all he drank was ginger ale.

Well, on Monday, after work, and after dinner, I decided to cross the street and watch the start of the Monday Night Football game. The staff were noticeably low key. I took a seat at the bar, ordered my beer, and started talking to the bartender. He apologized for any lack of cheerfulness, and pointed to the corner seat at the bar. I had noticed something was odd, as some newspapers were neatly arranged and a half-filled glass of ginger ale rested near them. I figured that same guy who had been sitting there just left.

It turns out that the he was staying in the same hotel I was staying: his house had burned down a few months ago, and the insurance company put him up there. Every day, he spent a few hours in the friendly place across the street.

Apparently, shortly after I had checked-in the day before, the man left his seat at the bar, and was killed when struck by a vehicle while walking back to the hotel. I was stunned, saddened at the news, and its obvious effect on the crew.

The next morning, while getting coffee in the lobby, I spoke to the manager, and explained that I was in the bar the night before and heard what had happened. He repeated what I was told in the bar--first the terrible misfortune of having lost his house, and now his untimely death. He added that, upon seeing the Christmas decorations in the hotel lobby, the man had lamented the loss of his decorations, and the hotel staff had been planning to put some in his room.

I went back to the bar last night, saw the same bartender and some staff who are becoming familiar. They seemed in better spirits, but the newspapers were still by that empty corner seat. Along with that glass of ginger ale.


  1. Sad story but interesting. Thanks for sharing. And glad to read about the job. So many without one these days.....


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