Of Bars, Booze, and Bartending - Proving "Coughlin's Law" Invalid Since Feb '05

Friday, July 15, 2005

Fire!!! OK, not really.

First, allow me to apologize to my dear, patient readers for the lack of an update. This isn't a daily blog; I only write when I have something to write about.

With gracious respect for some kind of fiery muse, I offer something to write about...

A relatively snappy Thursday. Crowded bar, wait list for tables, what have you. Everyone's happy and relaxed, until the piercing whistle of the fire alarm invades their ears.

I can't describe its sound... devilish, evil, forboding. See? I can describe it, but poorly. Makes you place your fingers to your ears involuntarily. Makes you snap into action. Makes you fear for your life, by effective design, I'm thinking.

Fingers in ears, involuntarily, I run to the kitchen to see if my life is in danger. My life, first. Then, yours. See? That two-top booth by the kitchen door isn't looking so distasteful now, is it?

It's fascinating, the way you act, in a way you wouldn't predict you'd act, in times of emergency, no matter how many times you've rehearsed it in your head. Try it, next time a fire alarm goes off when you find yourself in a place of public business.

The kitchen staff appear as befuddled as I, fingers in ear. No evident smoke. No danger here.

I zip back out to the dining room, and there isn't a server in sight. I'm looking at an entire dining room of fingers-in-ears customers. I'm on stage. Involuntarily. An appropriate and much-used word, given the fire alarm, and all.

"We're all safe," I reassure the room. I'm screaming, and I sound as obnoxiously loud as your stoned neighbor trying to communicate with you while Pink Floyd blares through headphones. Where the hell is the rest of the staff, I'm wondering? What am I expected to do??

To my amused bar patrons, I recommend taking their drinks outside until we can figure out how to turn off the hideous, screeching fire alarm whistle. The speed in which they exit the area, drinks intact, is impressive. The restaurant patrons remain glued to their booths, sheepish, while the bar folk, alcohol-infused, enjoy themselves porchside.

Fire Squad shows up, engines loaded, with ambulances. The servers apply lipstick. I start to wonder if one of them set off the alarm just to get a look at hot Fire Department Boys. "How's my hair?" I goof to one of them, primping. So that's where they are, taking advantage for a smoke break... God love 'em. How apropos.

Our GM should have realized it immediately, but the squad quickly determines that someone has pulled the fire alarm. Nearest the main exit.

The restaurant must be quite a sight from the main road. At least 100 patrons, half of them with drink in hand, and a fire squad to boot, just outside.

With the coast clear, we invite our patrons back indoors, out of the sweltering, soupy heat. I've got a rather full bar, and offer free refills to everyone, in apology for their eardrum damage, and in an effort to stave off lawsuits. The entire situation has been embarrassing, but our customers have handled it well, and in a jubilant manner. It lends itself to a festive mood, strangely.

Well, except for a woman, clutching an infant, running for the door, screaming "MY BABY!!!" a la Dumbo. I couldn't blame her. The screaming alarm would have freaked any young mother out.

Now, who the hell flips a fire alarm on the way out of a tranquil restaurant? Was the veal really that flavorless?

You try to give me your money
You better save it babe
Save it for your rainy day
I have only one a itchin’ desire
Let me stand next to your fire
- Jimi Hendrix, "Fire"