Complex guests versus complex requests

‘A BELVEDERE, dry, twist of lime, super cold; a Ketel One, wet, three olives; two Bombays, one on the rocks, one with a twist and one with a blue cheese-stuffed olive; a Makers Mark old-fashioned, no sugar, add extra bitters and a lemon; and a Don Julio,” the man said without taking a breath.

“Are the vodkas up or on the rocks? And are the Bombays Sapphire or regular? And do you want the Don Julio neat?” I asked.

He turned to his assembled group and then turned back.

“One vodka up and one on the rocks.”

“Which one is up?” I asked. “And the tequila?”

“The Belvedere is up, the rocks gin is Sapphire and the Don Julio is a margarita,” he said, his words petering out as he ran out of breath.


“Sure,” he said without turning to ask.

Anyone who has ever taken an order has been through something like this. Writing down orders is out of the question for a bartender. You get used to long, complex orders and you learn little tricks to remember them, one of which is lining up all the glassware.

I began by setting out the glasses; vodka, vodka, gin, gin, bourbon, margarita. While I was concentrating another man entered into my field of vision.

Busy, I didn’t look up but said, “I will be with you in just a second,” hoping to head off the inevitable.

Twenty years behinds bars will teach you a lot of things, one of which is that people who forcefully inject them into situations rarely wait once they are there.

“I don’t understand why I have to wait. I just have a simple question, that’s all. I don’t understand why you can’t do more than one thing at a time. I … ” he said.

“Just give me one second,” I said, finishing up the glassware.

“Just a second? All I have is one little request, I don’t understand why you don’t want to help me … Can’t do more than one thing at a time … I don’t know why I have to wait. It seems to me you could … ” he continued, extending his breath like a yogi or a tantric monk, except that instead of being about infinite selflessness, it was all about him, in all his petty finiteness.

Belvedere, up dry, lime twist, super cold; Ketel One, rocks, wet, three olives, Bombay regular, olives, up; Bombay Sapphire, rocks, twist — wait; was it the other way around? I thought to myself.

“Excuse me, uh, hello, excuse me “… ” he continued, unabated.

“Sir, just give me one second,” I said, putting my hand up to physically ward off what was actually a psychological barrage.

What was that whiskey drink? I looked at the glassware, hoping that might help. It was no use. Instead of making drinks that I was probably going to have to remake later, I simply abandoned the effort and applied some grease to the squeaking wheel.

“I just don’t understand why “… ”

“Sir,” I said, using that pleasantry insincerely, “what can I do for you?”

“Can you put the hockey game on?”

“Sure,” I said grabbing the remote. “What channel is it on?”

“I don’t know.”

“Who is playing?”

“I don’t know. Can’t you just look through all the channels until you find it?”

I looked over at the guy still waiting for his six drinks.

“Here is the remote,” I said handing it to Mr. Squeaky Wheel before heading back to the first man in order to clarify his drink order.

Now Mr. Squeaky Wheel became even more agitated. He started his spiel again, but this time I completely ignored him — Mr. Six Drinks had been more than patient.

Eventually Mr. Squeaky Wheel left. It wasn’t until later that I discovered two things:

• Mr. Squeaky Wheel complained to the manager that he “was deeply offended” that the bartender handed him the remote. He claimed that he had some “medical condition” and that the bartender “didn’t properly assess what my situation was.”

• There was no hockey game scheduled for that night.

Both of which have left me with two subsequent thoughts:

• I had assessed his situation perfectly.

• When people say “just a second,” that doesn’t mean you should continue talking. Because it’s not just about you, it’s about everyone around you, too.