By Tim Hayes

“The event is being held on floors three and four, Sir,” said the trim fellow holding the door open for me the other evening.

Three and four? What did that mean? I followed the other attendees to the elevator and we all stepped off on the third floor, where the obligatory hors d’oeuvres and soft drinks awaited me and my fellow networkers.

I’ve never been comfortable in those sorts of “milling around” scenarios, so after munching on some toast tidbits and cheese, I decided to head up to the fourth floor and see what might be happening up there.

It soon became apparent that the real action lived on the fourth floor – which also happened to be a rooftop patio. Out in the open air on a lovely warm late-summer evening, I quickly spotted a favorite professional colleague and began chatting together.

Nearby stood a small bar offering two types of mixed drinks, so I excused myself and strolled over. The rooftop space had become a little crowded by then, making it difficult to figure out just where the line for the bar actually took shape, so I let some other folks go ahead of me.

I heard a voice from the bar area declare, “They say chivalry is dead, but this nice gentleman just let about eight ladies come up before him.” He meant me.

The women, holding their drinks, all turned to me and said they were sorry, they didn’t know they had cut in front of me. I waved them all off. No problem. Happy you could get your drinks first, no big deal, my pleasure.

As I stepped up, the bartender said, “That was really nice of you.”

“I just didn’t want to have to go to confession this week for being pushy,” I joked in reply.

Then came the bombshell.

“I’m a former Franciscan monk,” the bartender said. “I can grant you absolution right here.”

Let me paint a picture of this guy. He looked to be in his mid-30s, tall, slender, dark hair, carefully trimmed beard. He could have stepped right out of an ad in GQ. And I’m supposed to buy this line of bull that he’s a former monk?

“Yeah, right,” I said. “And I’m the Flying Nun.”

“No, I’m serious,” he insisted, pouring my drink. And then he proved it, speaking the traditional prayer of absolution – IN LATIN – to me. Before I realized it, a wave of Catholic muscle memory hit me and I stood there, at a professional networking event, surrounded by corporate business people, politicians, and social advocates, making the Sign of the Cross as my soul got wiped clean.

“What just happened?” I stammered, reaching out for my drink.

“You just got forgiven,” said the GQ-fresh former friar. “Now, how about tossing a buck into the tip jar?” The easiest buck I ever spent.

It just goes to prove that surprises lurk everywhere. If you had told me as I left the house that evening that I would be stepping into an ad hoc Roman Catholic confessional booth – while standing at a bar on the roof of a Downtown building, under a warm sky, holding a plastic glass full of gin and 7-Up, by a guy who looked like a model from “The Price Is Right” – I would have legitimately told you to go take a nap and sleep that hallucination off.

Yet that’s what happened. You never know what’s coming around the bend. Even something as wild and crazy as a rooftop absolution. Laus Deo, I guess.

Copyright 2019 Timothy P. Hayes