Where’s my camcorder when I need it? I’ve apparently slipped through a rip in the fabric of time and space and have landed at the bar from hell. Forget asking where it is, because it could very well be in your neighborhood. Let me just say that sitting here at the bar affords me a glimpse into Dante’s Inferno. So this is what nether regions look like?
A quick look around the room tells the story. The guy in the corner booth...the one with the irritated expression...was just served a drink sloshing over the rim with little pieces of sopping paper napkin stuck to the sides. He looks a lot happier though than the two suits seated by me at the bar. They’ve been fuming for easily ten or twelve minutes with empty glasses. The impatient rapping of their glasses on the bar is an unmistakable sign that they’re about to be lost causes. Sure enough, a few short minutes later the two briskly head out the front door with the deportment of men who’ve tolerated enough bad service for one night.
The problem is the bartenders are otherwise occupied. They’re seemingly working to capacity occasionally making drinks for servers, washing a glass or two and flirting with the coeds sitting by the station. I’ll wager that it’s about all these young men can handle. It’s a shame that no one’s indoctrinated this hapless pair on the long-term benefits of rendering hospitable service.
Murphy’s Law — people get the worst service on those dog days when they can least emotionally afford it.
We all have our thresholds. Rankle our sensibilities, trod on our concepts of lounge etiquette and we’ll rebel. There are unwritten conventions governing professional bar conduct. You know most of them intuitively. Then why is it that so many bartenders consistently step on those conventions? And why do they all seem to wait on me?
One such convention suggests that inquiring if a customer would like another drink when the person’s glass is still half full (or empty) is pushy and waiting until he is spinning the glass upside down on a length of sip sticks is inattentive. The time to ask is when the person’s drink is about a quarter full (or three-quarters empty).
Another source of ruffled feathers is failing to acknowledge that customers exist. When people sit down at a bar, they will extend the bartender a certain grace period before she sidles over to take their order. Miss the grace period and she‘ll have to nearly kill them with hospitality to overcome the snub. If the bartender is temporarily too busy to wait on guests, that grace period can be easily extended with a smile and an “I’ll be right with you.”
If you’re one who likes to keep score, forgetting what a person is drinking leaves a negative impression (minus two points), while recalling a regular customer’s name and using it correctly in a sentence is a major bartending coup (plus six points). Being friendly and polite is still politically correct (plus five), but gratuitous, overly friendly behavior is as convincing as a soap opera love scene (minus 3).
A bartender’s professionalism is most apparent when the bar is busy. Whether it’s that certain “calm under fire” quality or their precise bursts of movement, really good bartenders are a pleasure to watch. On the flip side, a bartender who loses his cool, making the customers bear the brunt of his anger is like a cold hard slap of reality. People get slapped around plenty in their day-to-day life without being subjected to it during “happy hour.”
Well, I’m out of here. I’ve been ignored, over-charged, under-whelmed and desperate to decompress in someplace classier. Perhaps McDonalds is open.