The Guy At The Bar

He’s sitting there, drinking his beer, passing the time. He isn’t really talking to anyone. Mostly just letting his eyes drift from the televisions to the patrons to the bartenders and finally back to his beer. Walk into any bar in the world and you will see this guy. He is no one special. He is simply The Guy At the Bar.

I’ve been The Guy At the Bar 100s of times in my life before, and I’ve never thought anything of it. But that all changed about a month ago. My handful of minutes spent waiting for my to-go pizza order forever changed how I will look at The Guy At the Bar. I was sitting there passing the time, letting my eyes drift from the televisions to the patrons to the bartenders, and thinking…

“Not a single one of these people knows that I have to go back to the hospital after this and say goodbye to my first born son.”

It was not a Woah Is Me moment. It was Woah Is We moment. How many times had I been sitting at the bar not realizing the guy next to me was fighting his own battle? Or how about across the bar? Or the bartender? Or the guy making my pizza? It was in that moment that I realized a happy place does not always equate to happy people within it. It’s easy to look around at everyone having a great time and think how there isn’t a care in the world. But the reality is this. There is always A Guy At the Bar. In nearly every situation in our life, there is A Guy At the Bar.

The Guy that cut you off on the highway after work. He’s exhausted from spending the past week sleeping next to wife’s hospital bed as she fights her own battle with cancer.

The Guy that just brought you a cheeseburger, when you explicitly said no cheese. He’s $100,000 in debt from college, and can’t find another job as the bills and stress pile.

The Guy that’s giving you phone support for your overcharged cable bill. His wife just left him for someone else, and took their 2 kids with her.

The Guy at the airline counter who just told you they oversold the flight and you don’t have a seat. He was just diagnosed with ALS, and is planning how to break the news to his family.

The Guy in the express checkout line who clearly has more than 10 items. He is 30 days sober wondering when his next relapse is going to be, and if it will be the final one.

Every single day of our life is just a collection of moments. Moments where we get to choose the person we’re going to be. I can flip the guy on the highway off. I can leave the waiter no tip. I can cuss out the cable rep. I can threaten to get the airline attendant fired. I can roll my eyes at the guy in the front of me in the checkout line.

Or I can realize that I don’t know their story. I can realize that I don’t know what fight they’re fighting. I can realize I haven’t walked in their shoes. I can realize that at this very moment in time, there’s a chance that they’re The Guy At the Bar.

Published by Adam Griffin

Adam is an entrepreneur & writer. He is the former founder of Bodeefit, and is the author of Redwood: A Guide to Leading a Remarkable Life. He lives in Denver, CO with his wife and kids.

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  1. Absolutely. I remember wondering the aisles of the grocery store the day after my back brace came off only months after being released from ICU from our car accident. I wasn’t sure if I could finish my trip and wanted to leave my cart behind. I will never look at an abandoned cart at the store the same way again. Makes me wonder what PTSD patient got too anxious and had to leave. Thanks so much for your honesty here Adam. Our continued prayers are covering your family.

  2. I read something very very similar to this a while back. It struck a chord then, and it strikes a whole new chord now. Between the time that I read that first post, and now this one (as well as foodcoachme’s comment) my brother committed suicide. I’ve been that girl that has left a full cart of food in the aisle because something triggered a meltdown and I just couldn’t bear to be in that grocery store, surrounded by people, any longer. I’ve been the girl that is probably a little distracted while driving and cut you off, because I just drove past the house my brother had lived in, where he killed himself, and I’m now sobbing as I’m driving down the street. I’ve been THAT GIRL many times over and it gives you a new perspective on life and other’s actions. My new rule is: Love trumps judgement.

    1. Hi Bella – thank you for your honesty. What a terribly hard thing to go through. And thank you for your quote “love trumps judgement”. That strikes a major chord and is incredibly well said. Hope you’re pulling though okay.

      1. Absolutely. A friend sent me this link and I’m very glad she did. I read back through your story and I’m sincerely sorry to hear about everything you have been through. I cannot imagine the pain you have felt. I honestly wish that more people were brave enough to be more honest about their challenges and heartbreaks. I’ve found that deeper relationships and more genuine bonds are formed through adversity than only celebrating the good things. Too often people keep things locked inside, and suffer in silence. It’s truly unfortunate, because even suffering can be a beautiful thing. (Which I know is incredibly hard to admit at the time you are suffering, but man, have I witnessed some beauty and miracles through suffering. The human spirit is truly amazing)

        As a side note, as I was poking around your page and am very intrigued with your business… helping people be the best they can be and follow their dreams, whether they are fitness or otherwise. Very cool. That’s similar to my approach at my job. I’m in human resources and you can look at that as an administrative function… OR you can look at it as the opportunity to be a career coach, a counselor, a wellness coach, a cheerleader, a friend. Yes… there are the unfortunate sides of the job, but as a whole, I try to follow a model that seems similar to the way you run your business. I like it 🙂 Great job.

  3. Please email me this. I can’t figure out how to send it to myself. I want to send it to my work email from my Gmail and post it for my inmates to see. I work in a prison. The guys need more stories like this. Inspiration to be a better person.

  4. Adam, I do not know where to begin. Thank you for your courage to write that. How honest and real…heartfelt and painful… Sad but happy all at the same time. I lost my family a year and a half ago. They were all I had and everything I had. I have been that girl and I still am. Reading your story has made me realize that I have my struggle of getting on with life but also made me even more aware that others are having struggles too. Sometimes we get so caught up I our own daily duties and forget that others need more compassion. In today’s day, we are so quick tempered and judgemental … This was so refreshing. Thank you, thank you thank you! I would love to have a copy of this to remind me, if that is possible. I can not copy it.

  5. At intersections. That’s when I see “The Guy At the Bar.” I have always been intrigued with the people in cars around me waiting for the light to change…or turning in front of me while I wait my turn…or in a hurry…or driving super slow waiting for the rest of us to take it easy. I am always wondering what is going on in their worlds. Curious and respectful.

  6. I’ve been that guy and I’ve seen that guy many many times at the bar but instead of judging I like to ask questions because this is how you truly find out about a person and let her/him know that you care to know more. We never know what’s going on in other people’s lives and that’s why I always choose to come from a place of love hoping that a smile can brighten anyone’s day.

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