I was banned from the Champs in downtown State College for twenty minutes last week. This was the first time I've been banned from a restaurant. Will it be the last? It's hard to say. Life is strange and getting stranger.
I don't frequent Champs. College kids go to this sports bar, I'll use the hip vernacular of youngsters here, to get their drink on. I'm 38. I don't get my drink on. I get my sleep on.
Incidentally, I didn't get my sleep on last weekend. Happy Valley Improv (HVI) was part of a local theatre festival. We led workshops, watched shows, and performed. It was a busy weekend.
Two of Nate's friends, one of the founders of HVI, came in for the festival from New York. They improvised with us. They also put up their sketch show after our intermission. Nate's friends were great improvisers, their sketch material was hilarious, and it was wonderful to work with them. But their visit also led to my aforementioned interaction at Champs in downtown State College.
Nate's friends got into to town at 5:00 on Saturday. Our performance was at 8:30. Due to my extensive experience as a theatre director, I was asked to run sound and lights for the sketch show. To be clear: I'm not qualified to run sound and lights. But damned if I wouldn't try. I wanted to meet with Nate's friends to go over their script before the performance.
James, another founder of HVI, texted me at about 6. We would meet at Champs downtown.
It was raining. I was tired. But I'm a trouper. So I got my umbrella, told my sons I had to 'go to improv', and kissed my wife.
"Daddy, why do you always have to go to improv?" Solomon asked sadly.
"Have fun," Katie told me supportively.
I parked, opened my umbrella, and stepped into a torrential downpour. My shoes were soaked by the time I got to Champs.
I walked into the bar. It was mostly empty. State College is a ghost town in the summer. I didn't think to check in with the bouncer at the door.
"Can I see your ID?"
"Sure," I said, looking around Champs to see if James and Nate were there.
"You looking for somebody?" the bouncer asked.
"I'm just meeting some friends here."
The bouncer scanned my ID on a computer and handed it back to me. I began to walk into the restaurant when he stopped me.
"Hey," he said too loudly after something came up on his screen. "You can't come in here."
I stopped and looked back at him. "What?"
"You need to leave," the bounder told me sharply.
I was perplexed. I spoke in what can only be described as dismissive sarcasm. "Am I banned from a Champs?"
"Yes, you need to go right now."
My astonishment grew.
"You've got to be joking," I told him.
"I'm not. Leave."
"I've been here like twice. What could I possibly have done to be banned?"
"I don't have to tell you that. Get out of here."
I looked around to make sure that this wasn't some sort of elaborate hoax. I walked back outside, into the pouring rain. I texted Katie to let her know I'm banned from our local Champs.
She responded quickly. She wanted to know why.
I couldn't tell her.
I tried to call James and Nate. No answer. James arrived with his wife Kim about twenty minutes later. I was standing outside. In the rain.
"How come you didn't get a table?" James asked.
"I'm not allowed inside."
James and Kim laughed at me.
"I'm not joking."
They furrowed their brows at the same time.
"Why?" James asked.
"I don't know. He wouldn't say."
James is a force of nature in many ways. He's a powerful improviser, entrepreneur, lecturer, dude, etc. So he stormed into Champs and approached the bouncer.
"Why is my friend banned?" he asked.
"I don't have to tell you," the bouncer repeated.
"I'm not leaving until you tell us why Sam is banned," James told him. James can be an immovable force.
The bouncer finally gave in. "He stole silverware."
I began laughing. I'm many things. But a silverware thief? From Champs downtown? Boy. I can't think of a worse way to make some extra money.
James howled with laughter. "Sam is 38, has two kids, and high cholesterol. He didn't steal silveware."
James continued berating the bouncer. Finally, James asking to speak to his boss. The bouncer's boss was a woman sitting next to him at the host stand.
"I'm not getting involved," she said.
"My other boss gets here at 9:00 tonight," the bouncer said.
"I want his number," James continued. "I want to know the date that this happened. We had a business lunch here like a month ago. That's like the only time Sam has been here."
James can be an immovable force. I was impressed.
The bouncer agreed to lookup the date. He opened up his computer. The bouncer searched my name. I watched him type "Tanner" into one text box. He typed "Anthony" into the other.
"Excuse me," I said meekly. "My first name isn't Anthony. It's Sam."
The bouncer looked at me sheepishly. "Let me see your ID again."
I showed him my ID. He saw that my first name was Samuel.
"Sorry," he said unapologetically. "You can go in."
James laughed loudly.
The rest of our party arrvied shortly thereafter. We discussed making a statement by attending a different establishment. But it was raining, our performance started shortly, and I wasn't feeling particularly vindictive. So we sat down. Our waitress was kind, but we weren't offered so much as a free drink. Pity.
We made jokes about stealing silverware during dinner.
"Wouldn't it be great if Sam were walking out and a bunch of spoons fell out of his pockets in the doorway?"
The bouncer apologized to me on our way out. I told him not to worry about it. I'm not much for spite.
This story is instructive. Tiny, insignificant tragedies happen. They'll continue to happen. Our existences are fraught with annoying disruptions. But things are okay. The power goes out in my basement or I spill coffee on my laptop. These things aren't worth worrying about. Being vindictive or destructive doesn't help when things are out of joint. Worrying doesn't help. But being peaceful does. That's a lesson worth learning, to be sure. Our circumstances are our circumstances. But we don't have to let that dictate our inner worlds. I mean, Jesus walked on water during a typhoon for Christ's sake. I can surely handle being mistaken for notable silverware thief Anthony Tanner, banned from Champs, and standing for twenty minutes in the rain.
Seriously, though. Does anybody want to buy some spoons?