Wednesday, 19 February 2014

People You Bump Into

Years ago....in the late 1970s....I worked with a guy who had this life dream....running a pool hall.  He grew up in some small rural town in South Carolina, and had some uncle who ran a hall there.  His big dream....after doing four years in the Air Force....was to make his way back to the home state, find a town of some size without a pool hall, and open one.

This topic would come up in the TV room of the barracks.  We (the occasional audience in the dorm TV room)....would ask this guy about the plan, and how this would work.

You see....a pool hall guy....has to have certain qualities.  I never thought much about this....until this guy brings up the obvious ones.

Pool halls stay open late....so you'd likely open by noon, and stay open til midnight.  You kinda have to stay open six days a week (closing on Sundays)....so you are doing seventy-two hours a week in work.  Naturally, this would tire most guys out.

You have to stay clean, sober, and in-good with the local authorities....to get the booze license.  This means paying off the Republicans and Democrats of the local town, as elections come around.

You have to have some patience with drunks and disorderly folks.  People get stupid playing pool, make wages and bets way beyond reality, and someone has to lose.  Folks tend to get irate when they lose big-time.  Losing your paycheck one evening....usually means the wife getting upset and asking stupid questions.  So guys might get physical, and as the pool-hall owner....you really don't want this kind of fight or damage done to the place.

I never thought much on the attention to table quality until this guy started to quote manufacture and standards.  Running a dozen "fine" tables...means you need to put out cash and replace the tables on occasion.  Same with the balls and cue sticks.

As I was briefed deeply on the strategy of a owner....it's the kitchen that pulls in half the profits.  A decent pool hall serves first-class burgers and fries....with ice-cold beer always in the refrigerator.  Ribs and chicken are mandatory....along with grilled-cheese sandwiches and some kinda stew on really cold days.

Pool tournaments are a big deal, and draw folks to watch....and amateur players practice more to be noted as a legend or semi-legend in the local area.

Somewhere in 1979....our associate with aspirations of being a pool-hall owner....wrapped up his four years in the Air Force and left Germany.  We all figured he'd find success one day.  I have no idea what became of him, or if he ever got into the pool-hall business.

One of the neat things about being in the Air Force....you got around to meeting weird characters from across the fifty states.  Some were nuts.  Some were brilliant.  Some were worthy of being immortalized as the Mister Haney character on Green Acres or the George character from Seinfeld.
I can look back and feel kinda blessed (well...as much as a Bama guy can be)....that I took this long path and trail for twenty-two years.  Today, I probably know enough to fill up twenty 3x5 cards on pool-hall operations.  To be honest....other than about six games I played while at Rhein Main, and maybe one game while on some deployment to Turkey....I've never been much of a pool player, and never aspired to being a pool-hall manager.  

Forced fate?  Yeah, maybe.  Fate kinda happens and then you stand there....absorbed with pool-hall management concepts, but will never use that knowledge ever in your life.