8. Tales of a Student Nurse: Extracurricular Lessons

Once in the parking lot of Hank’s Place we got out of the car, but before we started walking to the front door, Alice took me aside with final instructions.

“Barb: there’s a bouncer at the door who will ask to see your ID. Look him in the eye once, look down at the birth certificate and then hand it to him without looking at him again. Don’t say a word to him or to anyone else. He doesn’t care how old you are; he needs to make sure you have proof with you in case of a police raid and he needs to help get women in the door to fill the place.”

We started for the entrance; Alice’s roommate, Betty, was ahead of me and Alice behind me. With my heart in my throat, I followed Betty to the door where the bouncer was standing. He asked Betty for her ID and I watched her behave exactly the way Alice had instructed me to. The bouncer barely looked at her birth certificate and gave it back to her without saying a word to her. She walked into the loud, smoke-filled room, moved off to the side and waited for us to clear the door.

I slowly walked up to the bouncer trying to appear nonchalant and calm. He wasn’t really very tall or very big but he was stone-faced, didn’t smile or welcome me to Hank’s and seemed bored.

“Lemme see your ID” he said, without even looking me in the face.

I did as he asked and with a perfunctory glance, he handed it back to me, tilted his head toward the bar and I felt Alice behind me give me a nudge. I walked into the room, saw Betty and headed toward her. Alice went through the same process and within seconds she had joined us. My knees were knocking and my hands were trembling but Alice was completely unfazed.

“Okay, Barb now get yourself a drink. Make it a draft beer – it’s the cheapest thing at the bar – and sip on it until some guy asks you to dance and he’ll buy you a drink. Then get whatever you want. Make sure you’re waiting at the door by 10:30 so we can get back to Residence by curfew. And watch for the police. We all need to split up so we don’t look like a group of underage girls. If you see any cops come in, get out of the building and wait for us.”

With that, she and Betty walked away from me and left me standing alone. I had no idea what to do then. I was miserable but I had to avoid unnecessary attention; I had to blend in, so I walked up to the bar to buy a beer. I was not a drinker and I found the beer bitter, fizzy and just plain awful. Heading back to the area where Alice and Betty had left me, I tucked myself in behind a group of women watching the dance floor and I pretended to be having fun. At ten twenty-five I was still standing there, still miserable and still holding that beer. No one ever asked me to dance, no one ever bought me a drink, I was completely demoralized. I couldn’t wait till it was time to leave.

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Barbara Tiessen is a retired RN who lives with her husband in southwestern Ontario but winters in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. She researched her genealogy, wrote and self published The Schoenfeld Russlaender: A Mennonite Family's History in 2015. More recently her interest have focused on writing short stories.
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