Regulars are the blessing and bane of every bar. Bernice’s has its fare share. After a time you know what they drink, how long they’ll stay, whether you have to talk to them, what, if anything, they’ll leave for a tip. The bar has become part of their daily routine and the bartender is just an appendage which comes with the bar. We need them and they need us but neither would call the other a friend.

Pete will drink a dozen cans of $2 PBR. He’ll roll cigarettes compulsively throughout the hours, ducking out to inhale them in what seems like seconds every fifteen minutes or so. He usually has his phone plugged in and charging on the table by the bathrooms. He goes over and looks at it in between gulps and drags. God only knows what part of the world wide web Pete visits. I’ve never had an actual conversation with him, though he’s always listening in to the talk of others. If the subject is old rock bands he usually breaks in with corrections or verification of facts and figures. One time when “Walk on the Wild Side” was playing on the jukebox he confirmed that it was indeed Lou Reed’s only hit.

His face is drawn, eyes watery and unfocused, cheeks ill-shaven. He’s usually got some bags with him, though I don’t know whether he’s actually homeless. He left me a dollar tip last time I worked which surprised the hell out of me.

The Professor isn’t much into hygiene either. Though he’s better than he used to be according to Steve. People used to complain that he smelled, so Steve took him aside and suggested gently that regular bathing and a change of clothing now and again wouldn’t hurt. He comes in every afternoon and pours a half dozen pint bottles of Svyturys Ekstra into a short beer glass while perusing the newspaper. If seated next to an acquaintance he’ll expound on political events of the day, soccer, astronomy, or any of a dozen other subjects. One time I made the mistake of sitting next to him when the Academy Awards were on the TV. He kept up a ceaseless commentary on the dress and physical attributes of every female presenter and performer. He went on long after I’d stopped acknowledging his presence and had emphatically turned my back to him. What he enjoyed best on that broadcast was Lady Gaga performing songs from “The Sound of Music”. He went on to trash Julie Andrews, repeating again and again how Gaga had shown her how it should be done.

When I started bartending at Bernice’s, Steve told me a few regulars got grandfathered prices. So the Professor pays $5 for his Svyturys while everyone else pays $6. I know he’s done when I see a $5 under his empty glass. He hardly ever says goodbye. He probably knows that there’s little point, as he’ll be back in tomorrow afternoon and every afternoon after that until there are no more afternoons for him.