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

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Clocks and Spoons

A little shop talk... we go on a wait pretty early on a Friday night, which naturally backs up the bar. I'm the only bartender scheduled tonight; didn't imagine being this busy and now I'm in the thick of it, alone.

A large walk-in group parks itself at the bar, sitting out the wait, and they immediately get under my skin. They want to taste every wine in the house before committing to a single glass. It's just annoying. The lone liquor drinker orders a Citron on the rocks, and I appreciate the way he keeps it simple. I serve the cocktail briskly, with a lemon garnish.

"Did I ask for lemon?" he says with disgust, as if I had insulted his humanity, by garnishing a lemon-infused vodka with a lemon, and he slides the fruit from the glass and slaps the helpless wedge down on my bar, with all the affected flair of a failed actor. I look at him more disapprovingly than I should have, but his whole act strikes me as unnecessary, and anti-social, somehow.

Sensing their nastiness, I ease up and away from the party as best I can, and get chatty with some of the other customers. Eventually, these customers are seated, and the walk-ins become my lone bar patrons, but at least they're laughing heartily and having a great time, so I want to play along. When I find myself at the end of the bar, making espresso, I try again to reach out to them, so I join in their laughter, and ask them what they're talking about.

A woman in the party shoots me a look that says, "I don't talk to the help" and goes back to her party's private frivolity.

I'm offended, and a little bit hurt, before it occurs to me that I am, indeed, the help. It's something I should realize more readily, but it still stings, if only for a moment. It's not so often that bartenders are shocked into their own reality.

One look is all it takes.

All in all, it was a slow, depressing Friday. And there's a kicker... The Nastys tipped me $3 on a $62 check.

At least I had a great (and unexpectedly therapeutic) song running through my head all night, just when I needed it most.

Clocks and spoons and empty rooms
It's raining out tonight
What a way to end a day
By turnin' out the light
Shoot the moon right between the eyes
I'm sending
Most of me to sunny country side

- John Prine, "Clocks and Spoons"