But one thing you can always expect, no matter the city, neighborhood, or general vibe of the place, is certain categories of patrons who pop up at every watering hole from New York City to Seattle, south to the border, and beyond. You've seen them, you've inadvertently interacted with them -- hell, you may even be one of them. Here are the types of people you'll meet in every bar:
The Regular -- usually an older male, but not always -- is a little too familiar with the place, and he wants everyone to know it. Whether it's constantly using the names of the staff to prove that they're friends or going behind the bar into the kitchen to make a big show of his status as an honorary employee, his antics are as annoying as they are sad. If you become a regular at his bar, suddenly he'll always want to talk about how long he's been hanging out there, much longer than you have. He keeps telling stories about the old days, "before you even knew about this place," but half the time they're stories you do remember. You don't argue, though, because The Regular needs this. His wife left him and his kids are constantly asking him for money but never remember his birthday. He bailed his sister out of jail and she skipped town. Also, he doesn't know it, but he's about to lose his job because he spends too much time at the bar.
She's just as likely to be tending bar as she is to be leaning on it, staring blankly at a wall, appearing deep in thought but actually thinking absolutely nothing. If the establishment allows smoking, you better believe she's smoking. If not, she'll be taking frequent trips to somewhere she is allowed to smoke. Her yellowing brittle hair, leathery skin, and gravelly voice betray a life spent questionably. She sings along roughly whenever the song "Smooth Operator" comes on, which always brings you to tears, because it reminds you of when she used to sing that song to you when you had trouble falling asleep on a school night.
Huddled in a corner by himself, nursing a beer, this ubiquitous old-timer is easily identifiable as a veteran by his military regalia. Since he's always at the bar, you can't help but pick up on that thousand-yard stare. He's seen some shit. It's tough to tell which branch he served in, but his purple beret, purple trenchcoat, and purple kilt with tassels are clearly 20th-century military. His puffy white pirate-style shirt is always adorned with tiny skulls from an unknown horned creature. When you finally feel comfortable enough to ask him which war he served in, he points to a patch on his sleeve that reads, "Leave me alone." Classic Admiral!
You sit down at the bar to wait for your co-workers after a long day. So long, in fact, that you don't even ask the bartender what's on happy hour before you order. As you sip your Flameberry Butterscotch Collins, you notice someone that looks familiar across the room. Oh man, here we go. Who is that? A former classmate from high school? College? A co-worker from an old job? A weird second cousin you met once? Oh boy, is it a current colleague that you haven't bothered to get to know? Could that be someone famous that you've seen on TV or in a movie? Then, you get caught looking, and you see the same recognition on the other person's face. Well, now you've done it, better go say hi. You get up to walk over, and the other guy does the same. As you approach, both raising a hand to say hello, you realize you've just been looking in a mirror the whole time.
You settle down with your friends at a table in the back, prepared to have a nice evening of drinks and chit-chat, but no matter what, The Party Animal is just not going to let that happen. You don't know him, and he doesn't know you, but that doesn't stop him from hanging around too close, butting in on your conversations, and hooting and hollering at every little thing with no regard to the fact that he's sharing a public space with others. He might be drunk, but you get the sense that it doesn't matter with this guy. He has a very specific look, so you can always spot him the moment you walk in any bar. He's covered in coarse fur, has huge teeth, and he walks on all fours, his terrible claws clicking on the beer-stained linoleum. His yellow eyes are constantly searching for something, anything, to eat, and his sense of smell and hearing are preternatural. You don't understand why no one calls animal control or why the health department allows a Party Animal like this to be in an establishment that serves food and drinks, but if you want to hang out at bars, dealing with his kind is the price you have to pay.
We've all been there. A standard night at the bar, nothing noteworthy happening, when suddenly the front door opens and everything changes. In walks a ninja, clad from head to toe in what can only be described as the outfit a ninja wears. That's fun, but not necessarily noteworthy on its own. The interesting part comes when the bouncer requires the ninja to remove his mask to check his ID and we find out the ninja isn't a he at all -- the ninja is a she! Every time this happens the same feelings go through us. We're surprised at first and then immediately ashamed that we were surprised. Why shouldn't a woman be a ninja? Why are our brains conditioned to assume every ninja is male? I suppose that's still ingrained in our culture, but if the changing scene in bars across the country is any indication, that cultural stereotype will soon be as outdated as white presidents. Sometimes the characters at every bar are good for a laugh, sometimes they're a little annoying, but sometimes they teach us a valuable lesson about our own society.