What would you do?

If you see the place is filling up and you’re lucky enough to have a seat but you’re just drinking water… I’m talkin’ tap water… don’tcha’ think there’s something wrong with that picture? Even a little? Well that’s a question I’m posing, dear reader, and one I pose to you as a neutral observer. For your friendly bartender is far from neutral and he especially wasn’t this past Friday night when the following incident made its way into Bar-land.

Two guys in their early twenties come in and take a seat at the bar, one guy orders an Oban neat (a very good start it would seem), and the other guy says, “I’ll have a glass of water. ”

Hmmm, I think, probably just a pre-lim til he figures what he wants.

Then five minutes later when I go back to the guy and ask if he’s made up his mind, he proudly says, “No, I’m just having water.”

Well, the room is still fairly empty, I think, and there are other seats to be had, let’s give this guy a pass for the time being. Plus he might change his mind.

But no more than twenty minutes down the road (and which often happens in our place) the room fills up and now there aren’t any seats. Not a one. Especially for the two lovely women standing directly behind our waterboy and looking for all the world like they want to sit down. In fact one actually says (rather loudly, as I recall), “Are there any seats available down at the other end?” “No, miss,” I say, looking at H2O the whole freaking time.

So you get the picture, right? Seats are now at a premium, Oban is slowly sipping (which is what you do with a single malt so I have no problem with that), and waterboy is not only not sipping he’s finished his glass and is promptly asking for another. Which I give him. Along with a look when I set down the freaking water. Along with a bang when I set down the water to embellish!

Now before I go any further here and you think me Scrooge with an apron who’s wearing his grumpy pants, let me give you some back story on all this nonsense. First of all… many times when people come in and see that the bar has no seats, they’ll walk back out. Which of course is their privilege. Or they’ll just stay for one ’cause it’s too big a pain to juggle a drink in addition to what they might be carrying…. particularly women with purses the size of carry-on luggage. (Or men with “man purses”!) And that means either of those exits costs me swag.

And secondly (at least the way I see it), you’re in a store for crying out loud and a store is a place where you go to make a purchase. I mean, can you check into the goddam Waldorf and say, “Do you mind if I take a nap in one of your rooms? But don’t charge me because I won’t mess up the bed or anything, I’ll just lay on top of the covers and brush my teeth.” Can you do that?

So back to Friday night…

Another fifteen minutes go by, the place is really humming now and waterboy still doesn’t get the freaking picture. He’s oblivious. Even when people with money to spend are reaching over his shoulder to spend that money. “Excuse me, ex-c-u-u-u-u-u-se me,” they say, as their drinks and multiple dollars slide past his nose. This man is sitting in the middle of a scrum, he’s the one with the ball and still has no clue. But when he points to his glass to indicate a refill I finally lean in and make sure he gets the clue.

“I don’t mean to be a hard ass,” I say, “but you’re gonna have to do better than a glass of water here. All of a sudden your seat is valuable real estate. Look around, man!” And his reaction was not only rife with surprise but it held an air of resentment thrown in as a bonus.Β  To which I just smiled, shrugged and walked back down the bar. Then moments after that, I’m glad to report, Oban (who did get the picture) asked for the check.

So here we had two guys, one drink, and an hour and a half of bar space to affect that transaction. Not to mention how many transactions got lost in the interim. And so my question to you, dear reader, is simply this… was I out of line for saying and doing what I did? And what would you have done in a similar situation? That’s right, here’s your chance to jump behind the stick, put on a nice clean apron, and tell your friendly bartender what you would do ! And he more than looks forward to reading your learned response.

A final note before you weigh in: I’m fully aware there are people out there who (for whatever reasons of their own) do not partake of any kind of alcoholic beverage. And I applaud that choice. But if you come into a bar and take a seat (at least to my way of thinking) you should at least jump into a club soda, coke or a juice. Even if you promise to not mess up the bed!

Over and out from Bar-land, see ya’ next week-end!

36 Responses to “What would you do?”


  1. 1 physiobabe February 21, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Io sono quim, amico!

    The second time he asked for water, I would have asked him what he’d like as a chaser.

  2. 2 scribbler50 February 21, 2010 at 11:12 am

    I like that, physiobabe, a lot! See there? You would’ve been a good bartender after all.

  3. 3 jc February 21, 2010 at 11:29 am

    H2O needs to read your blog. Don’t order water when the bar is deep! Extra demerits for hogging up space.

  4. 4 Paleoprof February 21, 2010 at 11:49 am

    Yep I’m with you if he doesn’t drink then he needs to either not be in a bar or order something without alcohol. My guess is he goes into bookstores reads the magazines then puts them back on the rack. Seems about the same.

  5. 5 scribbler50 February 21, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    jc: “H2O needs to read your blog.”
    From your lips to his computer and thanks, jc, for remembering the “water on the side” business. Extra credit for you!

    Paleoprof: Excellent analogy, prof… the bookstore browser. It IS “about the same”, in fact right on the money. Thanks for the comment.

  6. 6 Jennifer February 21, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Perhaps he thought it was ok since he was drinking what was on tap.

    Maybe you need a sign… “One water minimum”.

  7. 7 Jennifer February 21, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    Oops… Should have been “One water maximum.

  8. 8 Ken February 21, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    You were absolutely right. To go into a hopping bar, take up a seat and not order a drink of some kind is just wrong. Even a coke or club soda will show some good faith.

  9. 9 Comrade PhysioProf February 21, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    You were absolutely in the right. Bars are for fucking drinking. The dude was an entitled asshole, and you called him on his shit.

  10. 10 scribbler50 February 21, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    Jennifer: Yes, your second comment makes sense, good thing you added it. πŸ™‚ (“On tap”, very clever, you punstress!)

    Ken: Bingo! As I said, a soft drink or a juice is just fine, it acknowledges that this is a place of business and not a student union.

    Comrade Physioprof: Fuckin’ aye, mate!

  11. 11 d-a-p February 21, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    you totally did the right thing…if someone wants water and the place is empty…fine…but the second it fills up he should have either given up his seat and continued to drink the free water…or ordered something not free…thats really all there is to it…oblivious people are really hard to understand…
    and by the way…forget the water this time…just makers on the rocks will do fine..
    d-a-p

  12. 12 scribbler50 February 21, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Maker’s on the rocks coming up… thanks, d-a-p!

  13. 13 isisthescientist February 21, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    I don’t know, Scribbly. Usually I am in full agreement with my favorite barkeep, but there have been times I have gone out with a friend who wants a drink because he’s had a rough day. I’m not looking to get plastered, just be an ear and drive the poor sap home, so I have a water or a diet coke. I do make sure to always leave a healthy tip behind though for having my backside in the real estate.

    Or, worse, for the entire 9 months I was pregnant, I was the water drinker in my marriage, but I still always sat at the bar with my husband because we were enjoying a nice conversation before dinner or something. Again, we’re good tippers, but would you have had me wait outside?

    If he had come in alone for the water, I’d say sure. Coming in with a friend? You might be a grumpy pants this week, my darling.

  14. 14 Anonymoustache February 21, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Dude,
    not only were you not out of line, I’d say you were pretty generous to begin with….I’d have clued him at the first refill when the bar was already filling up….
    The primary business of a bar is to serve drinks. When occupancy is at a premium, non consumers need to take the hint and give way to business.

  15. 15 scribbler50 February 21, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    Isis: There are exceptions of course to the rule at hand and being pregnant is certainly one of them, but this clueless cat who was in Friday night displayed no overt signs of bloating or morning sickness (or Happy Hour sickness for that matter), just a complete and utter obliviousness to the situation. And as I said, a coke or a juice would’ve been fine which you said you’ve done. But you’re entitled to your opinion, MY darling, so if it’s Grumpy Pants that I am this week then so be it. I love you anyway!

    Anonymoustache: Spoken like a true (a-hem) capitalist. And you’re right, I should’ve clued him in sooner but I figured he’d pick up on it. Some people’s kids!!!

  16. 16 Anonymoustache February 21, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    Dude,
    A true capitalist would’ve charged him a drink’s money for each water he had and not worried whether he sat there all night or not! So thanks for the (a-hem) compliment, but I do not think I’m cut from that cloth!

  17. 17 Anonymoustache February 21, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    BTW, here’s the justification for charging folks for waters — even tap water). Water is a drink. Potable water costs money these days…just the way it is….Stuff you buy in a bar costs a lot more per unit than it would cost you otherwise (if you bought it at a store by the bottle, for instance) because the establishment has to make up for its overhead including labor and make a profit too, as a business. It takes just as much trouble to dish out a water as it does to dish out a soda or beer. So yeah, you wanna sip on a water at 4.95 a glass or whatever, feel free….
    So I guess I am sorta cut from that cloth….but you see, I can think up this shit in a jiffy, but couldn’t act on it in an eon….I think more potential millionaires have been held back by conscience than by anything else…..
    Dammit, that Oban with a splash of water sounds great just about now, my friend…..

  18. 18 scribbler50 February 21, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    Wow, Stache, I think you’ve more than covered all your bases there. You’re one who knows how the system works but have much too much conscience to actually exploit it. Let me change “a true capitalist” to a man of honor!

    PS: Boy would I like to charge for water, you have no idea!

  19. 19 Donna B. February 21, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    You were absolutely right and much nicer than I’d have been about it. What he did is called “squatting” and it should be discouraged.

  20. 20 scribbler50 February 22, 2010 at 10:09 am

    Donna B: “Squatting” it was, my friend, with no intent to buy, rent, lease or otherwise take purchase of by transaction. His seat was a log and he was a bump upon it! Thanks, Donna, I’d just like to have heard the words you’d have used on said squatter.

  21. 21 El Snacktator February 22, 2010 at 10:34 am

    Thanks for the blogroll addition, Sir Scribbler!

  22. 22 scribbler50 February 22, 2010 at 10:59 am

    El: Just returning the favor, friend, thank you as well!

  23. 23 Tx Expat February 22, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    You were way nicer than I ever was. After the first water, absent mitigating circumstances, I started charging. Don’t like it? Well, we all have choices to make and I’m gonna choose to make a living.

  24. 24 scribbler50 February 22, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    Tx Expat: I like your attitude and logic but I really can’t justify putting a price on a glass of water. Legally that is. So I have to do it by shaming the person into action.
    (Welcome back, it’s been a while since I’ve heard from your feisty self!)

  25. 25 JSaw February 22, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    I’d like to say I’m shocked how people can be so oblivious, but I’ve been in this city too long. There’s definitely a sense of entitlement amongst some people that breeds this obliviousness which just makes it all the worse.

    Anyway, given H2O’s response, he’s clearly not someone you want in your bar anyway – drinks or not. (Assuming Oban did right by you but H2O stiffed you, right?)

    Now, if they were deep in conversation and one of them was crying or what not — well, there’s you have an extenuating circumstance.

  26. 26 scribbler50 February 23, 2010 at 1:13 am

    JSaw: No extenuating circumstance, and of course the dude stiffed me. But it wasn’t about the tip it was about bar etiquette. Would you walk into a diner during lunch hour and ask for just a glass of water? Hell no! Flo from the show “Mel’s Diner” would tell you to “kiss my grits”.
    Thanks for your comment.

  27. 27 Sen February 23, 2010 at 6:28 am

    I wouldn’t have given him as long as you did. My boss used to get awfully crabby about that sort of thing and I never liked being the one who got his bad mood in the face.

  28. 28 scribbler50 February 23, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Sen: Funny you mention “boss” because just for the hell of it, while this was going on, I mentioned the situation to the lady who owns our place who is never in a bad mood but was wondering at that moment why I was. Which led me to ask her, “How long would you let a water drinker take up space?” Without missing a beat she said, “Til you need the seat.” To her way of thinking, it’s nice to be nice… to a point!!! I guess I reached that “point” a little too late.

  29. 29 Linda February 23, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    I am totally cool with people not ordering an alcoholic beverage, for the aforementioned reasons of pregnancy, friend who had a hard day, or being the designated driver. But guess what? YOU DON’T GET A SEAT unless you are a paying customer.

    As I type this I am using my laptop to work at a coffee shop. So far I have purchased a coffee, a refill, and a muffin. Would I get to sit here and use a table for my writing if I didn’t buy something? Absolutely not.

    If someone wants to drink only free beverages — not even buy a dang Coke! — it’s quite simple: ya don’t get a seat. You can sip your water and talk to your friend just as easily from a standing position.

  30. 30 Chris February 23, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    I totally agree Scrib, you were much cooler than I’d have been. I own a small business so I know how it is when people jerk you around. In your case if thats your bosses opinion then I’d tell them and they can take it up with her if they want to bitch about it. Your there to make money and in a city like yours, with the cost of living, its much needed I’m sure. If they don’t like it screw them they can go to one of those fruity oxygen bars (if they still exist) and sip water all day long.

  31. 31 scribbler50 February 23, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    Linda: Bravo! I like the way you think. You can have coffee and a muffin in my place any old time. AND a glass of water!
    (Hey, welcome aboard and the best of luck in the great city of Chicago!)

    Chris: Glad you agree but I would never refer this guy, or anyone for that matter, to my boss. This was my situation to handle, I just wondered how she felt about it that’s all.
    Thanks for checkin’ in.

  32. 32 Katherine February 23, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    Yeah unless I’m with a big group, when I don’t feel like drinking but want your seats to park in I certainly buy a juice. I don’t think you were too harsh, you said you waited ages before you actually said something so no prob there πŸ™‚ Not a fan of the “one water maximum” sign except as an exasperated jest, unless it specifies a whole bunch of exceptions.

  33. 33 scribbler50 February 24, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Katherine: Hi, Smiley Face, thanks for sharing your view but are you serious about the “one water maximum” sign? I’ve never seen it.

  34. 34 Katherine February 28, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    I meant the idea of putting a sign up. Never seen it, though there was an uproar recently when one bar started charging for water.

  35. 35 Jennifer M.D. March 26, 2010 at 11:52 am

    See I dont drink, but if I do go out with friends then I usually do order nonalcoholic brevages.
    I do see your point especially, if the place was full of people, he should have either given his seat to one of those ladies (this way maybe him and his friend can also have a convo with them) or just ordered juice or soda. Seems like he didnt want to be there but was dragged thier by his freind and couldnt say no. We never know what people’s financial situation is like as well. Maybe he couldnt say no to this friend of his and was strapped for cash?
    But the question is what you would do? And Id ordered a nonalcoholic drink πŸ™‚

  36. 36 scribbler50 March 27, 2010 at 8:56 am

    Hi, Jennifer, always good to hear from you and thanks a lot for your insights. Yes, he could’ve been a victim of any of those circumstances so (as the good Doctor Jennifer would do) he should’ve ordered a non-alcoholic drink. Or SOME-thing! Cheers!

    And here’s a πŸ™‚ for you.


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