When working at The Club(tm), we had to stamp every bodies hands with luminescent ink as they entered. You know the sort of ink, invisible until bathed in the muted purple of a black light? Sure you do. Well that’s what we used. It glowed yellow under the black light but was otherwise invisible.
This was a very important step in The Club(tm)’s admission chain.
I did this myself for a while when I first started. Sitting their next to the cashier chick saying, “Top of the right hand please … [STAMP!] … Top of the right hand please [STAMP!] … Top of the right hand please … [STAMP!].”
Real drill-work. And the only fun part about it was getting to choose which animal shaped stamp we’d use for any given night. I always preferred the Unicorn stamp, myself … but that’s neither here nor there …
But the stamping process was important, and it was one of the most notoriously enforced of all club policies (other than not letting folks have sex on the dance floor or in the movie room).
Top of the right hand and nowhere else.
It had to do with security and making it easier to catch folks trying to duplicate stamps. And, working in that sort of environment, dealing with the sorts of folk that passed through our doors each morning, I learned to develop very thick and unforgiving skin in regards to the enforcing of such policies.
Suffice it to say, I had to occasionally get moody with certain folks, sometimes downright nasty (as did we all at a point, especially the cashier chick, who was a bit of a Local Bitch Legend(tm), but that’s another blog entirely).
But invariably, speaking of club policies and stamping, there would always be the random visitor that simply didn’t want the stamp on the top of their right hand. For whatever reason, they would go on and on about how they wanted me to stamp them elsewhere, “But I want it on my left hand,” they might say. Or … “put it on my forehead!,” they would plead. And certain visitors were known to say, “Can you stamp my tit instead?” … or … “I want it on the underside of my wrist so it won’t fuck up my outfit” … or some other such unacceptable banter.
None of the above were allowed of course, except for maybe one of those mentioned alternatives, but even so … the rules were generally enforced in a militant fashion.
To those who simply refused to let me stamp the top of their right hand? And after a cursory, if but brief explanation as to why it was necessary? I’d say something like, “Look fucker … it goes on the TOP of your FUCKING right hand, nowhere else … so gimme your damn right hand already or I’ll have my pal “Boss” here escort you out the same way you came”
This almost always worked. When it didn’t? The rare dissenting rebel was either walked or was dragged or went flying out onto the stairs. These possible scenarios were always left entirely up to the customer and the appropriate means of exit was always congruent with their own chosen behaviour. (LOL)
But despite our hardened exteriors (appropriate to the environment as they might have been) … despite the policies of The Club(tm) … there were the occasional moments when all policies became subordinate to simple human frailty and genuine expressions of grace and pain.
And I daresay, the idea that such purely human, purely profound moments could occur in that bestial and impulse driven environment, still today remains a rather delightful paradox to me.
The following is a brief attempt at describing such a moment:
So one night, around 3am, as the titty dancers, ravers, drug dealers and trannys were being processed through our front door … a certain young lady approached. She was kind of cute, dressed nice and holding out her left hand. The all important right hand she kept tucked away in her fly little jacket. Her jacket, I remember, had three giant buttons down the front and was sort of mustard colored … and it had this kick ass flashy sort of nineteenth century “notched” collar (I blame my fashion sense on my sister, Leah BTW, ghey as it may seem).
But despite her instantly smiting me as lovely, despite the fact that I was taken with her and would have enjoyed leaving my post to find out more about the lass … my ingrained Elite(tm) club guy attitude kicked in, I mean … The Club(tm) had policies and all.
It was that damned right hand, tucked away in that damned fly jacket that garnered the bulk of my concern and which would shape the first impression of myself that I would present to her … and which I would very soon regret.
As she stood there … left hand outstretched … with her adorable and all but expressionless face … looking like a cast off from a J. Crew catalogue that never made it past editing … I thought to myself, “Oh, here we go…” and then, quite plainly (careful to not betray my affections) I said:
“It goes on the top of your right hand, darling, nowhere else.”
And she just looked at me.
In truth, she seemed to be about to say something but she didn’t. And in the end, she just let her eyes sort of drift away as though she were almost ashamed or sad or scared or something.
And myself? I just looked right back at her.
All the while next to me, sensing A Moment(tm) approaching, the cashier chick began to fidget with her cash drawer, pretending to not notice the proceedings, which I knew all too well were clues of an upcoming violent outburst on her own part.
But back to the quiet snappy dresser … holding out her left hand and all … never saying a word.
She was so weird.
I couldn’t get a lock on the girl. Such a voiceless and queer encounter had never occurred prior to that night. And I knew I had to handle the situation before, god forbid, the cashier chick passed from the fidgety stage to the bitchy stage and started cursing the girl and me and anyone else she thought deserving of her wrath.
And even though I was instantly fond of this silent little rebel. Even though I thought her interesting and quite the snappy dresser, we still had rules … and so I somewhat rudely said:
“Look here sista … if you want to come inside then let me stamp the top of your right hand. Otherwise? You have to leave now. Your holding up the line.”
And with that? The poor girl looked doubly distressed. Hurt, even. Confused. I remember her face so well, not able to speak, not able to look at me, always looking at the ground or to her side. I was counting the seconds till the cashier chick erupted or the bouncer next to me simply hauled her out the door …
But finally, after seeming to wrestle with some internal demons … and never looking me in the eye … she said:
“I can’t give you the top of my right hand; I don’t have one.”
And that’s when her right arm came free of that flashy little coat of hers to show me the somewhat fresh stump where her right hand was supposed to be (it was still bandaged).
The cashier chick, to my immediate left and close to my ear, let out an audible and sickened sort of groan; the bouncer next to me said, “Awww, dude,” under his breath. And me? I couldn’t say anything at all.
I thought the girl was going to start bawling. Really. She was so on the edge. She never looked at me. She just stood their with the stump that should have been her right hand, held out before her. The bandages gleamed near white under the black light, and her face was a picture of genuine embarrassment and, even more so, pain.
(Now know this … I am a sensitive guy … my well crafted manly exterior not withstanding. I have cut my teeth on the classic works of poets and story tellers alike … from Shelly to Shakespeare to Carver … and I am not without the means of recognizing a genuinely tragic moment when it so brutally slaps me across the face. And this moment was such if ever a moment was.)
My heart sank and my throat choked; I very near gagged while trying to come up with some sort of verbal response; my face and neck warmed instantly and I tried to hide it. In not so many words … I was crushed, left without breath or words or reply. All at the door of some meaningless late night dance club where folks tried hard to be important but in the end were just tools (myself included) … and all before this lovely one-handed girl who so well knew how to dress herself but could not, for the life of her, explain that she had recently lost her right hand.
And, in the end?
Without a word, I quickly grabbed her left arm by the wrist and stamped the top of her left hand with our gay and meaningless luminescent unicorn. I then grabbed that same left hand in my own right hand and walked her into the club as a guest.
It was not a pity moment by any means, the comp and all. It was simply me trying to undo the embarrassment I had caused the both of us while playing the stoic and emotionally unmovable Door Guy(tm) at this stupid dance club that I worked at five nights a week. And also, it was because I wanted to get into the dark for a few minutes while my color changed back to normal.
My co-workers supported my spur of the moment decision to walk the gal into the club proper. The cashier chick, bless her, even let me confide in her the extent of my self-induced trauma (though I/we could not have seen it coming) and I remember her hugging me and saying that it fucked her up too.
But regarding the cute girl with one hand who was quite the snappy dresser? The girl who taught me so much about pretense and pretending (always a bad thing!) ?
She would revisit the club on certain occasions.
I would see her off and on over the next couple years and I always recognized her. Even more so, I loved holding her left arm by her slender wrist and stamping her left hand without question or interrogation or words; we had come to an understanding, she and I. And eventually, the strangeness of our first meeting would fade into the rhythm of regularity. As much as such a place could be called regular.
And occasionally … when entering The Club(tm) those following weekends … she would even smile when she saw me … and that always made me feel so fine.
And I guess the moral would be?
Think before trying to be something your not; sometimes, there’s a human being on the other end.