By Jessica Wallace
Knock, knock, knock.
The McDonald's employee grows impatient, waiting for whoever was locked in the men's washroom at 2:30 a.m. on Saturday night. Another customer was waiting to use it.
Knock, knock, knock.
The door opens and a man stumbles out.The employee and the waiting man step back, not just because the guy from the washroom can't walk straight but also because the waft of vomit from the bathroom is overwhelming.
No one seems to notice the man stumble alone down the hall, his sweater covered in his own vomit, into a comfy seat where he cozies up and closes his eyes.
The Third Avenue and Victoria Street restaurant that serves Happy Meals to children by day has become a regular after-hours downtown pitstop. Open 24 hours, it is the only nearby place to take refuge after 2 a.m.
A short walking distance from the main bars, it's a convenient place to wait for a cab, grab a bite to eat or keep the party going.
It's become so busy after-hours that management man the front door to control capacity—a McBouncer.
I first noticed the McBouncer a couple weeks before while I was out, part of the bar flush, doing what everyone was doing—looking for food. The place was packed. Someone barred the door. Confrontations developed in the line-ups.
While McDonald's seems to figure out how to handle the downtown bar flush, for others, it's more complicated.
The city recently installed new taxi stands in front of the major downtown liquor establishments to get safe rides home and get people out of there. Commodore bar owner, Dino Bernardo, says they seem to be working.
The hot dog stand outside Cactus Jacks is in plain view of the flush, serving street meat to hungry partiers as they walk out the door. John Trulsen turns the dogs on Saturday nights - the busiest night for sales. He is retired after 35 years in corrections.
He said the tough skin he developed while 'looking after the bad people' has helped handle these crowds. He often deals with rude customers. They swear at him or squirt condiments on his stand.
But that's only the worst of them, and in his two years outside the nightclub on Saturday nights he has noticed that most incidents actually happen inside the bar—not out.
"All you get is arguments with the bouncers and a few fights," he says.
A little ways up the road on Columbia Street, an after-hours veteran has watched Kamloops bar patrons for 10 years working night shift.
Denny's server Sheila Eagland, known to most by her first name, says from 2:30 to 4 a.m., she has come to accept and even expect patrons vomiting or passing out at her tables.
"I could write a book," she says with a chuckle.
But she says the environment has changed since two Kamloops nightclubs - Rivers and The Max - have closed.
"We're not as busy as we used to be," she says.
She says she deals with it all with stern rules that people either love or hate. She doesn't see herself leaving anytime soon.
"They're my kind of people," she says. "It's kind of become my social life."
Except maybe not tonight. The Blazers game was long over, the lines at the clubs nonexistent and the streets showed little of what many have seen here before.
Kamloops RCMP Staff Sgt. Grant Learned said the night life picks up with the change in weather.
Patios open up and bars promote cheap drinks to university students. When they're gone, it's tourists and tournament players.
Might be a completely different story down here come summer.
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