When your friendly bartender happens to sit on your side of the bar, he obviously notices “more than the av-er-age bear”. It’s only natural. Bars and saloons are his playing field, he’s participating in an away game, and the guy behind the stick is throwing the pitches. And it’s not that he sits there looking for things to enjoy or take a swing at, it’s simply the fact that the view for him is different. As I said, he sees things. It might be the system the place is running, the speed of the bartender, the generosity of the pour, the ratio in drink ingredients compared to how he makes it, and most important, bartender / customer relations. Does the bartender fall under friendly, stoic, or arrogant? Well I regret to report this past Saturday night, while taking my turn at the plate, the guy who was throwing the pitches fell under arrogant. Way under and here’s why…
This terrific couple I know, let’s call them Nick and Nora (she a whiz in the advertising field and he a television writer), invited me out for steaks, some drinks and football. Nora is a major football fan, a Pac-10 junkie to be precise, and the restaurant they picked had two large screens over the bar. Perfect! The place is a well known midtown haunt where the food is as good as its rep, and the drinks, as I soon discovered, are generous to a fault. So when I sat down to join my friends-in-arms, in the middle as they’d insisted, Nick introduced me to Rob who was doing the pouring. Which is when the crap started.
“Nice to meet you, Rob,” I said, as I reached out and shook his hand, in return for which I just got a shake and a nod. No words. He just let go and folded his arms until I ordered. “Maker’s Mark on the rocks,” I said, “it’s a first time experiment. I want to see what the recent fuss is all about.” See, I’m usually a Jack on the rocks before dinner but because of this recent upsurge, we’re moving Maker’s like crazy, I figured I’d give it a try and see if I liked it. Big mistake. There was nothing wrong with the drink of course, it’s just that it wasn’t Jack Daniel’s, and being a creature of habit I quickly jumped ship.
“Excuse me there, Rob,” I said, “I think I made a mistake but please charge me for it.” Rob slowly walked over, his arms refolded. Stone faced. “Listen,” I continued, “there’s nothing wrong with this drink, my friend, in fact you give a great pour, but I’d rather have my usual Jack on the rocks. Okay? Sorry about that, my mistake.” Rob pursed his lips, stared for a moment at the Maker’s then poured me a Jack.
And when he set the drink in front of me he said, in didactic tones at minimum, “See, one is a whiskey and one happens to be a bourbon.” Which I appreciated though it had nothing to do with the taste.
“Thanks,” I said, “I know that, I’m a bartender.” And I said it nicely. But Rob just walked away after that and said nothing. Now I don’t mean to make a big deal out of this but usually when you make that connection, bartender meets fellow bartender, if it doesn’t kick start an inside exchange eliciting mutual woes, it at least will spark an interest in where the guy works. I know every time I hear, “I’m a bartender,” the first thing out of my mouth is, “Where do you work?” How can it not be? But not with this guy. I might as well have said I’m the lead needle in a sewing bee. Now later he did came over and ask me where it was that I worked… ten minutes later and almost as if it were obligatory… but when I told him he just shrugged and said, “Don’t know the place.” Then he walked away again.
“Geez, a real bag of laughs, this guy,” I said as I leaned into Nora.
“Of course,” she said, “for she has no name.”
“You’re kidding!” That’s the ‘for she has no name’ guy”
“The exact same guy!” said Nora. “Can’t ya’ tell?”
“From what I’ve seen so far, you bet I can!” (Now let me explain the history of, “For she has no name”.)
A few weeks ago Nick and Nora had done this exact same thing, come in for steaks and football with bartender Rob. And as soon as they took their seats at the bar, first time ever in the place, Rob immediately introduced himself to Nick. Not Nick and Nora, just Nick like she didn’t exist. And that was it as far as the introductions went. And after that and throughout the evening whenever Nora had a question, a question posed directly to bartender Rob, Rob in response directed his answer to Nick. All night! I mean this wasn’t just chauvinism this was isolationism! So in later recapping the evening for me, with humor and pure amazement, Nora summed it up as, “For she has no name!” Which said it all. And which we found to be funny. But this second time around it wasn’t so funny. Watch…
See the whole damn reason for coming to this place, in spite of that last performance, was so Nora could watch the Stanford game on TV. Oh sure, the steaks were good, the company was great, but she really wanted her Pac-10 game on the tube. Which gratefully she got. Until suddenly and out of nowhere, somewhere in the middle of the third quarter, her game got abruptly bumped to a back TV. (Huh?)
“Excuse me,” shouted Nora, “I was watching that game.”
“I have you over there,” said Rob, almost dismissively. He was pointing at a screen to which only an owl could’ve swiveled.
“But I’m watching this TV and I have been all night. Why are you doing this?”
Smiling the oily car salesman smile Rob explained. “See this gentleman here wants to watch the Carolina game.”
“And this lady here wants to watch the damn Stanford game. Which she’s been doing for three quarters!”
Rob kind of rolled his shoulders at this, smiling a bullshit smile, then threw out his arms in “What should I do, I’m in the middle?” mode. Well there was no middle which Nora quickly made clear. (For she has no fear!)
“That’s it, that does it, Nick, we’re never, ever coming to this place again. I mean never!!! This is bullshit!” And before Nick could respond, which he did and in full agreement, Stanford was back on the screen before the next snap. But clearly and without question, here’s what was really going on there under the surface. Since Nick hadn’t really been watching the game as he and I had been talking, this was all about a woman making this request. No doubt about it. (A women deciding what game? What’re ya’, nuts?) And if you don’t believe me, check out this final act.
After the meal and after the game Nora then called for the check, and handed Rob her credit card to pay for the damage. It had been accepted by all at the outset of the evening that Nora would do the treating, and now it was clear to Rob as he held her card. But what do you think he did after running the card through? You guessed it. He handed the printout to Nick to do the signing. (A “girl” deciding the tip? What’re ya’, nuts?) And that was the straw that broke the Dromedary’s back! All she could do was sigh at this point and quietly repeat her mantra, “For she has no name.” Then she smiled and said, “That’s it, let’s get the heck out of here.”
But that wasn’t “it”.
For once we got outside and made our way past the large picture window, the one which framed the scene inside like a movie, we could see that Rob was still trying to plead his case. Based on his exaggerated body language, his strutting and know-it-all expression, he was trying to recapture his manhood in front of the Carolina guy. It was gesture and expression that said, “Do you fucking believe this broad?” And when he suddenly turned and looked outside and saw that we were watching, caught in the act which his sheepish grin revealed, Nora flipped him the bird for she has a finger!
Case closed… and another joint bites the dust!
See ya’ next week-end.