Hands off approach often works best

I LOOKED AT the clock on the wall. It was late, later than I am used to seeing on a clock in a bar, perhaps because I have become so used to restaurant hours.

I brushed back my hair, straightened my tie and smoothed out my vest. What restaurant uniforms lack in originality, they make up for in presentability.

I stepped up to the bar, picked up a half-empty glass and set down a cocktail napkin. Habit is a hard thing to break. I sighed a long sigh before someone intruded upon my melancholy.

“Hey,” said a man in a yacht club shirt in a manner most unsuited to pleasant discourse.

“Yeah,” I said, not really flexing much conversational muscle myself.

“Where’s the manager?” he asked in a tone guaranteed to raise some ire.

“I have no idea,” I responded, hoping to end a conversation I had not invited.

“Well, you better go get him!”

“I don’t think so.”

“I don’t care for your attitude.”

“And I don’t care very much for yours, either,” I answered, my tone mirroring his.

“Look,” he said, grabbing my arm. “I am getting tired of your mouthiness.”

A threshold crossed, indeed. Common law defines assault as “an intentional act by one person that creates an apprehension in another of imminent harmful or offensive contact.” Furthermore, battery is defined as any unlawful touching of the “person” of another. Suffice it to say, I probably had a case for both.

I have seen this sort of thing many times in my work. I have seen waitresses pinched, bouncers punched and managers slapped. Sometimes, the poorly behaved person is aware that his actions are criminal and sometimes still sees nothing wrong with it. I heard of a woman who slapped the back of a hostess hard enough to leave a mark because the woman believed a table was given to someone else before her.

Oddly enough, the woman had the audacity to tell the manager on duty, “I am very wealthy, and I am never coming back here to spend any of my money.” In response, the manager told her, “Maybe you don’t understand; you are never allowed to come back here. Ever.”

Mr. Yacht Club probably didn’t really grasp the situation either. I looked at him for a second and then calmly looked at his hand gripping my upper biceps.

“I am going to count to three, and you are going to let go of my arm,” I said clearly. “Or else …”

“You just lost your job,” he said, his voice rising an octave. “Just wait till I talk to the manager about you.

“One …”

He squeezed my arm just a little.

“Two …”

Before I could get to three the manager arrived.

“Sir, what are you doing?”

“This guy,” he said, holding up my arm, “is rude and disrespectful.”

The manager shook his head in a way that indicates something hard to understand.

“I don’t care for your employee’s attitude and I want something done about it,” said Mr. Club, pleased with his perceived power over someone else. “Immediately.”

The manager looked at him for a long moment.

“Sir,” the manager said carefully, “he doesn’t work here.”

That’s when Mr. Yacht Club realized my tie and vest were of a different color than any of the actual employees. And that I was on the wrong side of the bar.

I looked at him, he looked at me, then he looked at his hand gripping my arm. Suffice it to say, he was the one who left — rather abruptly.

According to the California Penal Code, battery is “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another, punishable by a fine not exceeding $2,000, or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding six months, or by both that fine and imprisonment.”

Just a few things some people might want to consider before grabbing anyone’s arm — or slapping her on the back — employee or not.