As much as I love the color green, spilled green beer has a tendency to stain the floor. For this reason, not as many pubs as you might think sell the stuff on St. Patrick's Day. But people who take real pride in their Irish heritage come prepared.
A few patrons at Celtic Crossing in Cooper-Young did just that, bringing bottles of green food coloring to dye their beer. They were happy to share with the other patrons, assuring me that the best way to celebrate all things Irish is through imbibing Technicolor beer. I had to admire their resourcefulness, even if I was the one handing them their beverages instead of the one drinking them under the table.
It was St. Patrick's Day, and I was a server at an Irish pub.
All kinds of people walked in the door that morning. A group of 20-somethings arrived with babies in tow, jokingly ordering whiskey to get the tots started early. One young man showed up with an inexpertly clipped moustache and a black bowler hat, claiming to be James Joyce. We even had a professional leprechaun.
Things got hectic around 1 p.m., when a group of Irish step dancers ages 7 to 15 filed onto the pub floor and began shaking the foundation. When an 8-year-old boy began dancing with two girls, both with ringlet curls and rainbow-colored dresses, he was greeted with rousing applause.
"Look at that little pimp!" someone shouted. The kid grinned without missing a step.
During the dance, the restaurant became packed with Irish and non-Irish alike, eager to partake in any excuse to drink to their heart's content. Instead of pushing my way through the crowd, I found it easier to walk through the side door of the restaurant, round the patio, and come back in the front door. Going up the steps was tricky, as I had as many beers as I could hold without my arms collapsing under the weight. My feet started to hurt around trip 30.
Only once was I effectively blocked. The crowd was close around me, a table obstructed my immediate path, and to my right, the step dancers were kicking their legs into the air. I was carrying 12 beers and my arms were getting tired. I needed to get through.
I ducked under a table, avoided the dancers' legs, and came out the other side without spilling a drop. My customers loved it. Luckily for me, most of the tables at the restaurant are a comfortable three-and-a-half feet high.
My mission that Saturday: to help hundreds of Memphians celebrate their Irish heritage. Judging from the happy staggers of my customers as they walked to their cabs, I think I can say that I succeeded.
Even if they did have to bring their own green food coloring.