Taste is simply a matter of taste

I GLANCED UP from my conversation, subtly, and then made my excuses before heading down the bar. It wasn’t that I had one thing in particular to do, more like a few particulars.

I call it the pub crawl, and unlike a boozy self-indulgent trip involving every bar in a given area, a bartender’s version involves a slow wander down a particular bar — without personal beverages — to make sure everyone is enjoying himself or herself. On my slow wander I passed a couple engaged in conversation.

“Can you stop interrupting me for just one second?” the woman asked.

“I’m not interrupting you,” her companion said, interrupting.

“You just did,” she said. She lifted a wedding ring- burdened hand to her forehead, which caused her to shift in her seat uncomfortably, accidently bumping the woman who sat immediately beside her.

The two women exchanged a glance and a half-muttered apology. Sometimes, the world is not out to get you; sometimes it’s not as personal as so many people seem to want to make it.

“You made this wrong,” the man said, directing his comments toward me, perhaps making something impersonal a touch personal and, ironically, interrupting the person whose order I was taking.

“I just followed your instructions,” I responded, remembering how he had peered intently at me while I tried to follow every complicated step as uttered, one by one, in slow and agonizing fashion.

“Ice in a tall glass, less than that, a little more, one less, no one more, no one less,” he had said. And that was just filling the glass with ice.

“Well it doesn’t taste right.”

I might have shrugged. I know for certain I shrugged mentally.

“Don’t you have anything good?”

I hate questions like that. Taste is subjective, and as such is unassailable through logic. What I think is good might not be what you think is good. Furthermore, no one is going to convince you — or me — that we like something we don’t.

Everything on a barshelf is good to someone, somewhere. That is why it was made, marketed and ultimately bought.

People ask me these types of questions all the time:

• Is shaking better than stirring?

• Is rye better than bourbon?

• Are gin martinis better than vodka ones?

The answer is: It depends. It depends on you. It’s my job to try many different things, partly just to try them and partly so I can accurately describe them to someone who might want to try something new. In the service business, it is not about what I like; it is about my ability to provide you with what you like.

Nobody appreciates a server at steakhouse who says, “I don’t eat meat.” That is not the question. The question is: Are you knowledgeable about the product you sell?

“Please just let me finish my …” said the ring-encumbered woman.

“I already know what you are going to say,” her partner responded.

“I was going to say stop interrupt … ”

“But …,” he began. Just then the elbow attached to the hand that wore the ring accidently bumped the other woman again.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“I’m going to the restroom,” he said, getting up and leaving.

“If you don’t mind me saying,” the elbowed one said, “He doesn’t seem to get it.”

People often bond over shared negative experiences. I’ve seen people click because they hate the same movie, or only agree that they hate their food server or that they can’t get along with their boyfriends.

This was not one of those times.

“Mind your own @#$% business!” she demanded.

This left me with some thoughts:

• People like what they like because they like it; logic has nothing to do with it.

• Oscar Wilde said, “It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious,” to which I might add actions and inanimate objects to people as well.

• Unsolicited comments on someone’s likes or dislikes (relationships in particular) can often end with hurt feelings or expletives. Sometimes both.

• I never really liked Oscar Wilde, just FYI.