When you are drinking, it is a different matter. Then you want your bartender right away, Johnny-on-the-spot, greeting you brightly as you walk in, hands poised, ready to spring into action at your direction, pulling taps, scooping ice, upending bottles, mixing, serving.
But I don't drink. Though a drink, in the form of a non-alcoholic beer or soda or coffee, was the price I was willing to pay to use their restroom. A lot of coffee, driving down to Logan Square. And just walking in, using their bathroom and leaving, well, that's against my moral code.
After parking and talking to the union workers picketing the Dill Pickle Co-op—whose ownership never did get back to me with their side of things—I had an hour of parking left (I almost said "on the meter." Though there is no meter. Only an app, ParkChicago, and a good one). So I thought I would wander down Milwaukee Avenue a bit. Toward the Logan, where I took my younger son to his first movie.
First things first. I slid into The Old Plank, a welcoming place, walls open to the perfect summer day outside. I took a seat at the bar, looked around, expectant. One patron, a woman at end, studying her phone. There was a bartender, six feet to my left, but he never looked at me. I checked my own cell phone, waiting, patient. He didn't come over. Maybe this is the invisibility of age. Everybody in the place was 30 years younger than me. A waitress came hurrying behind the bar. I sat up a little straighter. For a second, I thought she had noticed the bartender was asleep at the switch and was rushing into the breach to take my order. She wasn't. She just grabbed something from behind the bar and left again. I gave the bartender a last look, slid off the stool, and shambled back to find the rest room. It was where it was supposed to be. On my return, I snapped a photo of a mural claiming we were "In the Heart of Logan Square." I'd say the heart of Logan Square is the eagle-topped column up the street (honoring the centennial of Illinois in 1918, created by Henry Bacon, the designer of the Lincoln Memorial). But it's their wall, they can make whatever claim they like.
Returning, I considered hopping back on a stool, ordering something, or trying to. I don't have many rigid moral rules, but I don't like to barge into a place, use the bathroom, and leave. That's something bums do. These are businesses. But the bartender still was gazing off in the middle distance as I passed, so I mentally shrugged, decided not to force my five dollars upon them, and just kept going, out the door and onto the street, where the day was unfolding beautifully.