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Bar Life, Dogs, Salt Lake City

The Traffic Stop

Pie Hole is not good pizza.

In fairness, at 2:30am after slinging drinks for 8-hours, covered in spilt booze, sweat from the garbage cans and the grim of a busy piano bar, Pie Hole is decent enough. In all fairness, at 2:30am, the Pie Hole is God damn delicious. Considering the options available for a late bite to eat in SLC, the Pie Hole isn’t a half bad choice. The problem is that NOBODY makes Pie Hole the office lunch choice unless they work at a tattoo parlor or have been 86’d from Este’s.

With that said, when I have had enough Nachoritas from Beto’s and Del Taco for the week, the where-do-I-eat-wheel choice for a city that has a poor restaurant history usually lands on Pie Hole and that’s where the needle landed on Friday night when I was leaving Keys On Main.

It wasn’t one of our better nights. The crowd was atrocious. Besides not wanting to drink, I don’t think they wanted to see a dueling piano show either. They were a wet, sloppy mess of out-of-towners who cared more about pounding Coors Light and babbling amongst themselves. It was hard to stay focused with a bunch of knuckle-draggers mucking up the club and not giving two shits about the show. Crowd energy is everything at Keys. I thought the guys played a great show but the crowd was visibly hostile and rude to the piano players. Unless you’ve seen over 1,400 dueling piano shows (that would be me and maybe Scott Alexander), you have no reason to be disrespectful to the piano players. You haven’t seen enough dueling piano to earn that right. Instead, they needed to embrace the beauty of the format of a dueling piano bar by paying them to stop if you don’t like the music.

It was a draining affair. The trick to not hanging yourself by your belt or start taking belts during the shift is to stay busy. The problem was there wasn’t any action in the club. It’s hard to wipe a counter down that’s hasn’t had any cocktails on it. I spent most of the shift helping the service bartender and actually watching the show. The curse of the service industry is that when we’re busy, nobody is better. When we’re slow, there are no worst bartenders/cocktail servers. I tried to make sure that everybody staid busy. Bartending is a risky enterprise because I am dependent the generosity of others to make a living. It’s the job I’ve chosen and for the most part, it works out well.

Unfortunately, on Friday, it didn’t.

We got out of there at a decent hour. Usually, I am hitting the road around 3am but I was out of there by 2:15. I had already made the deal with the devil and was going to poison myself with some Yukon gold and bacon pizza from the Pie Hole. While the rest of the staff was off to smoke the night away, I headed to the Pie Hole to fill my pie hole.

There is an edge to the Pie Hole that is not found in other parts of the Valley. People are drunk, stoned and tired. The bars have broken for the night and there is a weird, hostile energy at pizza joint. Anytime you have hungry hipsters trying to keep down a belly full of Jim Beam and PBRs, you’re going to find an environment that is ripe for conflict. Fortunately for me, even the drunkest of hipsters would think better than to get between a fat man and his pizza.

I randomly picked three slices, had them heated up and made my way back to my truck. The Pie Hole is on State Street and was I going to head east on 400 South to get home. I slide into my truck, placing the pizza on the floor on the passenger side and headed home. I turn left and in front of the SL Library, an explosion of Christmas lights flares up behind me.

WTF? Was I getting pulled over?

I hope I was getting pulled over with the amount of lights behind me. At least I knew I wasn’t being abducted by aliens. I signal and turn down 300 East. I turned the engine off, grabbed my registration and waited for the cop to make it to my window. In the moments before the cop made it to from his squaddie to my truck, I took stock of what could get me in trouble. I wasn’t drunk, my car is properly registered and insured, I don’t have warrants out for my arrest and I didn’t think I was driving like a lunatic. In truth, I drive like an old lady with my hands at 10 and 2 and I never use my cell phone behind the wheel.

The problem was that I was covered in beer and I had changed out of my uniform. Earlier in the evening, while changing a keg of Coors Light in the walk-in, the tap exploded, covering me in a bukkake of cheap beer. I was soaked. Beer dripped off of my head over my glasses and into my eyes. My shirt, vest and tie were drenched and I accidently got some of the worst tasting brew on the planet in my mouth. Between dry heaving and wondering how the keg destroyed my uniform, I knew I smelt like a brewery. Worst of all, I was sticky. Cheap beer has a way of griming a man up both on the inside and out. I had disrobed at the end of my shift and changed into a hoodie and shorts. If I was still in my black and whites, I shouldn’t have had any trouble explaining why I smell like a booze sponge.

I was surprised in how handsome the cop was. Blond, fit with beautifully white teeth and just enough confidence to make you listen to him. Imagine Jeremy Renner with an SLC badge. If he requested a quid pro quo to avoid a issuing me a ticket, I might have agreed simply because he was the best looking person I saw all night. After handing him my license and registration, he asked if I knew why he pulled me over. I honestly had no idea. He told me that I had made an illegal lane change pulling out the Pie Hole.

I guess I did make a beeline for the left side of State to turn on 400 South. I apologized and told him that I was probably too focused on getting home to eat my pizza. He said it smelt good and I asked him if he’d like a slice. He laughed and I was really taken back how white his teeth were. He said no thank you but would I step out of the vehicle.

Ugh! Here we go.

He asked if I was drinking and I told him no as he grabs a pen to track my eyes. He told me using only my eyes to follow the tip of the pen. I told him that it wasn’t fair because my glasses were dirty from work. He shrugged his shoulders and told me to try. I followed the pen to his satisfaction. I thought I was in the clear but my night was about to get a lot more interesting.

The next process was for me to recite the alphabet from T to K. I’d like to think of myself as somewhat of a wordsmith but that was pretty tricky. I asked if I could warm-up and run through the letters. I quickly sang the ABCD… and when I hit T, I started down the list: T-S-R-Q-P-O-N-M-L-K. Ha! We both knew I just nailed it. Talk about an unfair test. They should give drunks more of a sporting chance and have them name all of the state capitals that have “City” in the name. Also, how do you give a sobriety test to the illiterate?

However, our games continued. He had me walk a straight line which was absolutely not fair. My right knee is swollen like a casaba melon and I can’t walk a straight line with a gun pointed at my mother’s head. I warned him that my knee is filled to the brim with fluid and if hanging on to my calf by half a tendon and asked if I could juggle the tennis balls I have for the dogs in my truck instead. For the third time, the cop laughed but told me to walk the line. Jesus! I made my way down the line and back without too much problem. Juggling would have been easier.

I thought we were done and his body language loosened dramatically. I though he was about to let me go when he looked into the back of my truck. Oh Shit! I forgot about the trunk! Instantly, he became a police officer again and asked whose beer cans were in the bed of my truck. Now, between you and me, the baker’s dozen worth of crushed MGD beer cans in the back of my truck are not mine. I think they are the empties from the tattoo parlor next to the club. Because of all of the heavy snow we had a week ago, the contents of my truck were covered and I forgot that I had them back there.

I told the cop this and he gave me a very cynical but justified look of what kind of bullshitty lie was I tell. Rolling around in the back of my truck was also a bottle of Miller Lite that I drank on the tailgate while parked at my house. He asked if that was the tattoo parlors as well and I said no, that one is actually mine. I told him I hate MGD but I do like Miller Lite. He asked how could I not like all of the Miller products and I told him I thought MGD tasted like a beef byproduct and my parents drank Miller Lite.

He then asked what was in the plastic bag tied up in a very tight knot. This one I knew without looking. I told him it was dog poop. Dog poop? Yep, dog poop. Why are you driving around with dog poop in your truck? On one of my walks with Shelly, I picked up her poop and thrown it into the back of the truck and like I was telling him, I forgot what was back there because of the snow.

In the dark, I could see him rolling his eyes. He put the flashlight in my face and wanted to retake an inventory of what was in the truck. The MGDs? Tattoo parlor. The Miller Lite? Mine. The dog poop? That’s mine but technically it’s Shelly’s.

He handed me back my driver’s license and told me I was free to go. We got into our respective vehicles and headed are separate ways. I think I might have won the battle through attrition but certainly lost the war of having any sense of dignity. All of my problems that night were the direct result of not cleaning my truck and having the self-dicipline to eat an apple at home. But to the Pie Hole’s credit, those three slices of pizza were absolutely delicious from the safety of my home office. Hell, they probably would have been pretty good if I had to eat them at the police station.

Ben Raskin bartends at Keys On Main Wednesday through Saturday. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin. The SLC PubCast… blah, blah, blah. If ever arrested, his only request would be to get double-cuffed.

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About Ben Raskin

Born in El Cajon, raised in Las Vegas, educated in Reno and living in Salt Lake City. I bartend, write, box and live in Sugarhouse UT.

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