In this bar Happy Hour is followed by Sad Hour. It starts out as the bartender's joking way of clearing people out before the after-dinner crowd comes in. When he hangs up the Sad Hour sign, drinks jump from two dollars to ten dollars, the basket of free peanuts is put a way, and the music switches from rock-and-roll to slow organ preludes.
The first time Sad Hour happens, the Happy Hour crowd grumbles and leaves. But in a few weeks some of them stay.
I think this is what I needed, one says, and forks out ten dollars for a beer.
Me too, says another. You get what you pay for.
And so the idea of Sad Hour catches on. When the Sad Hour sign goes up, more and more Happy Hour customers start lingering, as if knowing a trend when they see one. Then there are those who come only for Sad Hour. These are the most sober, always entering by themselves and sitting alone. But all of the Sad Hour customers are quiet and polite, laying out their money without complaining, cooperating with the bartender by lifting their feet as he sweeps up. They sip their expensive drinks and slowly sink farther into their clothing as the hour wears on.
For the last fifteen minutes the bartender set the organ music at half speed so that the speakers give out melodic groans. By now Sad Hour customers have nearly faded into themselves, looking more like hats and coats draped over counters and tables than they do like people.
But at some point even Sad Hour has to end. The bartender waves his arms and shouts, Itís time!
There are some sighs of disappointment and occasional pleas for a slow last call, but the bartender turns up the lights and turns on the liveliest new rock-and-roll hits. He lifts his hands over and over, palms up, the way a minister might gesture for a congregation to rise. Itís time! he shouts again and swings open the front door. Together the Sad Hour customers get up, their bodies slowly refilling their clothes. Calmly, they walk out onto the noisy streets, almost smiling.