It’s not what’s asked but who asks

“Finally,” I said to the new bartender. “The holiday craziness is over. At least the capital ‘K’ part.”

“What does capital ‘K’ mean?” he said titling his head.

Youth and enthusiasm can often trump age and experience. But I didn’t have time to get into that.

“JEFF,’ squealed the pretty blonde forty-something. “I haven’t seen you in sooo long.”

I calculated about seven weeks to be exact. Just enough time for the holiday tsunami to have crashed through and now retreated. In the restaurant business we are usually inundated during the period from Thanksgiving to New Years Day. Shifts increase, hours expand and patience can sometimes wear thin. It’s an odd situation because much of the rest of the working world has extra time off during the same period. These types of anomalies can often strain friendships and family relations. But, it ain’t personal, it’s just business.

As I reconnected with Miss Squeally, I reflected on another anomaly of that busy period. In spite of the hordes of people that breeze through our doors we see a lot less of the regular customers who make up the bulk of our clientele for the rest of the year. “Once a yearers” often don’t know where to stand, where to order, where to park or any of a dozen other “wheres.” This is the capital “K” part. It’s no so much all the extra people, but it is the extra people who don’t have a clue that create the problem. Krazy is what I call it.

“Can I buy you a drink?” said the man seated next to Miss Squeally after our brief reconnection.

“No, that’s all right,” she said turning to her quieter companion.

“You sure?” he said.

“I’m sure,” she responded abruptly.

“Do you come here often?” he asked uttering a bar pick-up cliché as old as bars themselves.

“No, not really,” she said.

“Do you…” he started.

“We’re moving to a table,” said Squeally as she gathered both her friend and large handbag and headed off to the dining room.

“I don’t get it,” said the man looking at me.

“What?” I asked.

“You know,” he said.

I shook my head.

“Chicks,” he said.

Chicks, indeed.

I explained to him that perhaps he might start his understanding of women by firstly not calling them “chicks.

“Oh,” he said.

I looked around the room, and for the first time in over a month realized that there was no holiday crush. As a result I had time to follow up that deep psychological insight with three more bits of advice that I have assembled over the years for talking to strange women.

1. Just be yourself. If she doesn’t like you for who you really are, she’s really not going to like you once she realizes that you have been lying to her the whole time.

2. Ask about her. People love to talk about themselves. You do, I do, and she does too.

3. Don’t use cheesy pick up lines. Real conversations are the best way to get to know somebody else, male or female.

“Hmmn,” said the man after my diatribe.

I looked around for any excuse to extricate myself from the uncomfortable silence that followed.  Suddenly I really missed the craziness of the holidays, capital “K” and all.

Later, Miss Squeally returned to the bar, her quiet friend still in tow. She quickly glanced at a different man sitting a few seats down from the man who had so endeared himself to her conversationally just a short time before.

She glanced at the different man again, before whispering something to her friend. That something manifested itself as sitting down.

“Can I buy you a drink?” said the different man, causing both me and the first man to turn in their direction.

“Sure,” said Squeally.

“Do you come here often?” said Man 2.

Soon after there was an exchanging of phone numbers and the promise of a future rendezvous.

After they left, Man 1 stared coldly at me.

“Chicks?” I said shrugging my shoulders and throwing both hands up.

What I didn’t say was that sometimes it matters less what is said, then who says it.

Turning I encountered the bemused of expression of the new bartender, who had watched the whole scenario unfold.

“So much for your craziness theory,” he said.

Again I shrugged.

While I can do without the capital “K” craziness, it’s the regular kind that makes this job so worth doing.



This story originally appeared in the Marin Independent Journal and online at the San Jose Mercury News