RECENTLY I READ an article in the newspaper about former Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir shushing the crowd at one of his gigs, then uttering, “Am I interrupting you? Am I bothering you?” before storming off the stage in disgust. Oddly enough he’s a co-owner of the venue, Mill Valley’s Sweetwater.
Some online comments attribute the problem to a sense of entitlement many believe has begun to permeate this county, which reminded me of something that happened many, many years ago.
It was a fine dining restaurant decked out with the best leather booths money could buy. Certainly, it was the hottest place around. All the foodies were tittering, and all the must-be-seens were there. Every other week there was an article in a magazine or newspaper about the place. I was lucky to have been hired there and was just beginning to learn the ropes.
One night there was a reservation for the guitarist-singer of a band that had its heyday in the late 1960s and early ’70s. Some of the staff were fans, and some were not.
Mr. Rock Star arrived late for his reservation, so late that at least two other parties were waiting because of the backlog. Restaurant reservations are not guarantees, they are best guesses based on the behavior of others, which unfortunately can make them prone to quite a bit of error.
The line, “overfed, long-haired leaping gnome,” by Eric Burdon in his song with War, “Spill the Wine,” popped into my head when Mr. Rock Star arrived. Also arriving was an acrid smell that one becomes familiar with when one has hippish parents and has lived through more than a few Summers of Love. Mr. Rock Star’s scent, dirty T-shirt and matted hair must have passed the dress code muster because the maître’d sat him. Amazing how the rules go out the window when celebrity is involved.
Eventually a drink order came through for two double Martell cognacs, the best hooch in the house and $160 for two drinks. And this was long before the housing-Internet-stock market bubble even began to inflate; $160 for two drinks seems extreme now, but back then it was obscene.
The two drinks sat in the service window cooling off. They had been ordered “heated,” which any aficionado will tell you destroys the subtleties of cognac; the glass is shaped the way it is so your hand’s heat warms the glass. Heating it with hot water is a novice’s mistake. Not that I was going to mention it. The customer gets what the customer wants, so in the interest of facilitating that endeavor I picked up the two cognacs and carried them over to the table before they cooled off.
I set down the drinks and noticed that Mr. Rock Star wasn’t wearing shoes. Furthermore, it looked as if he hadn’t been wearing shoes for quite some time. And now, his dirty feet were resting on our leather booths, the supplest money could buy. I mentioned it to the maître’d.
“What am I supposed to do? Ask him to leave?”
This, of course, never happened. Instead, two more double cognacs later and the two men left on their own. After holding up reservations for more than an hour, they only spent half an hour in the restaurant. Half an hour, four drinks and $320 later and I had a better understanding of what entitlement meant.
This leaves me with these thoughts:
• Mr. Weir probably wouldn’t last one minute in this county as a restaurant employee.
• The old joke: “Why does the psychologist have a bass player solo at his office?” “To get people talking,” might need to have its instrument modified.
• If you open a place of business, staff it with your employees and then play there with your band, aren’t the people hanging out there actually “your” people? Just asking.
• Leprechauns (a type of leaping gnome) have a fascination with making shoes, just FYI.
• Entitlement is not new in this area; it goes all the way back to the 1960s.
• Oh yeah, happy St. Patrick’s Day!