It’s the most headachy time of the year

I MADE my way over to the large group blocking the main entrance to the bar. I don’t know why people like to congregate in doorways; I just know that they do.

Pick any high-traffic area, and leave people to their own devices. Sooner or later people will block it. Sometimes, I wonder how humans actually made it to the top of the food chain.

The host of the door-blocking party signaled his readiness to order in the time-honored fashion of waving his hand like a 7-year-old wanting to answer the only classroom question that he actually knows. But I knew one thing for certain. He probably had no idea of what he wanted; all he knew was that he wanted it right now.

“May I help you?” I asked.

“Suzie wants a white wine. Tom wants a martini. Timmy needs a soda. Louisa wants something red. Bob needs a beer,” he paused before grabbing one of his doorway-blocking compadres. “What do Henry, Clay Jr. and Sissy want?” he asked before turning back to me.

“What are you waiting for?” he said, looking at me.

“Sir, what kind of white wine does Suzie want? What kind of martini does Tom want? What kind of soda does Timmy need? What kind of red does Louisa want, and what kind of beer does Bob need?”

I didn’t even address the upcoming order for Henry, Clay Jr. or Sissy.

He looked at me dumfounded.

“I don’t know. You’ll have to ask them.”

Very helpful.

Black Friday has now come


and gone, which means all those very same once-a-year shoppers are now out in force. This means that they’ll soon be coming in, also in force.


You’ve perhaps heard the term “wrench in the gears”; well, I live it every November and December. Service is a participatory event. I can only guide you; if you don’t follow, well, then you can’t really complain if things really go astray. Picture following your Google directions but only every other prompted turn, it’s unlikely that you are going to get anywhere near where you want to be. Such is the holiday restaurant business.

Now, I don’t tend bar only during the holidays, I do it year-round. Come the holiday season, however, I go through episodes like the one above every few minutes.

In the interest of keeping those holiday gears turning smoothly I offer up these humble suggestions:

• I don’t know you, and you don’t know me. Asking for your “usual” means nothing to me. Just tell me what you want, and I’ll go get it.

• If the waitress has asked you to move three or more times, you are probably in the way.

• Every single bar on the planet has more than one beer, and more than one wine. Narrowing it down to, say, one of the wines on the list you’ve been handed might help.

• Once you order your drinks, and they are made, you are probably going to be asked to pay. Don’t be shocked by this, it is called commerce. It might also be a good idea to have your method of payment somewhat handy. That way everyone else wanting the same service you just received doesn’t have to wait an extra five minutes for you to fumble through 10 credit cards finding exactly the right one.

• If you are not actually sitting at the bar but milling around in the crowd and you want to run a tab, you are probably going to be asked for a credit card. If you don’t want to give them one, you are probably going to be asked to pay right away. It’s nothing personal, so don’t make it.

• Don’t try and save seats for people who haven’t arrived yet. A bar is not going to make 10 people stand so that 10 people who haven’t arrived yet can sit 20 minutes later. Time is money in a bar. First come, first served means that you actually have to be there to be considered “first come.”

• Just relax. Remember, it is not just about your experience but also the experiences of all the people surrounding you.