I had just delivered a birthday cake complete with its sputtering candle to a delighted couple at the end of the bar, cleaned up the post-prandial discards from two people in the middle of the bar before listening to a joke from a regular one seat over, and finally arriving to attend to my newest twosome at the bar.
Recently I received a letter that asked, “Doesn’t anyone just come for a pleasant evening and enjoy themselves?”
The answer is, of course. The vast majority of people at a bar are there to enjoy themselves. But what while you might be enjoying yourself, someone two seats down might be miserable. And the bartender, who is so friendly and engaging to you, also has to deal with the miserable one, sometimes at almost exactly the same time.
“Challenging” is the word that you are looking for.
There is a saying — “There’s one in every crowd” — and while any member of that crowd can just walk away, the bartender or waiter has to deal with him or her. That is the one big downside of the restaurant business.
“You have steaks here, right?” asked the man who couldn’t be bothered to actually open the menu.
“We sure do.”
“I want a T-bone.”
“Sir, we don’t have a T-bone,” I said, pointing out the steaks we list on the menu.
“I can’t believe that you don’t have a T-bone.”
“We have a New York, and a filet mignon,” I said, knowing full well that the T-bone incorporates both. The porterhouse, the T-bone’s cousin cut, usually has more of the filet portion.
“I hate those.”
I was perplexed by how he could hate both sections of the cut that he claims to like.
I don’t typically correct people. I find it to be counterproductive. If I am asked I answer; if I am told I usually just listen. “No man has ever been convinced by argument,” Thomas Jefferson once said, and who am I to argue that?
Eventually he chose the New York.
“I want it rare. You can do that, right?” His tone was decidedly condescending.
“Sure,” I said glancing nostalgically down the bar at the birthday couple.
“And when I say rare, I mean rare,” he added.
“I want it rare.”
This time I just nodded. Here was the one in my crowd.
Consider this, if just 5 percent of the population acts like this, on any given day a bar with 20 seats will have someone like him. I know that is not exactly how statistics work but trust me on this; it certainly feels like they do, especially when you are on the receiving end.
The business of my business carried me back down the bar to happier environs. Eventually his steak came out and I placed its crisscrossed goodness down in front of him.
Two seconds later he called me over.
“This steak is raw,” he said.
I looked at the grill marks making a perfect diamond pattern on the top of the steak, knowing full well that it would be impossible for a raw steak to have them.
“You asked for it rare,” I said already surmising his response.
“This isn’t rare.”
I once had someone complain about an appetizer she had ordered. “It wasn’t A1,” she said. However she had somehow managed to eat every single piece of it. I knew she was angling for something free, but once you eat every single bit of something or drink every drop, then you are going to have to pay for it. It’s as simple as that. If you really don’t like something, return it. Once you finish it, it is hard to fix.
I had the man’s steak cooked more, rendering it more medium rare than the rare he had been so adamant in requesting.
He ate the whole thing. But when he left I noticed he had left the tip part blank on his credit card bill.
Leaving me with these thoughts:
• “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” — Anne Lamott.
• You may not have your cake and eat it, too.
• If there is one in every crowd, look around — it may be you.
• The difference between chimpanzee DNA and human DNA is only 2 percent.