Hard to hide being an amateur

The five businessmen in suits were wrestling on the ground in the parking lot. One had his tie around his head like a headband, his wrestling companion’s jacket was split down the middle and the other three were barking like dogs for some unknown reason. You haven’t lived until you watch a local “captain of industry” act like a 13-year-old.

And, that is the way they arrived. Needless to say they never entered the building and after a long talk with a man in blue, they took cabs to somewhere else.

We in the restaurant business see a lot of amateurish behavior this time of year. People fall down, they get sick, they act irrational, they get argumentative, sometimes even after only one drink.

Technically speaking, the difference between an amateur and a professional is a paycheck, but in reality it suggests a certain skill level. Sure, wrestling in the parking lot, throwing up, falling down and a slew of other behaviors easily fits the bill. But some behaviors are more subtle, and those are what we see more of during the holiday season because those are the people who actually enter the restaurant.

All the big restaurant holidays are, thankfully over — Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Maybe you’ve heard New Year’s Eve referred to as amateur night. I suggest the entire season is for amateurs.

James Bond forever immortalized the suave sophisticated professional with his meticulously ordered martini, but ironically ordering a drink today like Bond would only let your bartender know that you are anything but.

Here are a few subtle things people say that let bartenders everywhere know that they are dealing with an “amateur.”

• “I’ll have a martini.”

The days of that being enough information are long gone. What kind of martini? Vodka or gin? Up or on the rocks? Olive or twist? It really can go on and on.

• “I’ll have a Manhattan.”

Same thing, except even more choices, in liquor preference, garnish, bitters, vermouth, etc.

• “What kind of whiskey do you have?”

Really? Many bars will have 10 to 20 bourbons, five to 10 ryes, another 10 blends, a few assorted Tennessees, a couple of locals — and that’s just the American whiskies! Add the various types of Canadian whisky, Scotch whisky (blends and single malts), Irish whiskey, Welsh whiskey, Japanese whiskey, Indian whiskey (yes, there is such a thing) and you begin to see the problem. “Do you have such and such?” is a much better way to go.

• “I’ll have a white/red wine.”

The choices alone will take several minutes to recite.

• “I’ll have a beer.”

Granted at many people’s homes you might only get one choice, but in bars or restaurants it could easily number in the dozens.

“But, it’s your job as a bartender to take care of these people,” someone might say. And granted, he or she will be right. But I look forward to the day that the person who says that has to wait behind an amateur. After the third time I have to recite 10 wines by the glass to the same person, one begins to get the picture.

But then again, there’s a long time before next year’s amateur season, unless he or she plans to go out on Cinco de Mayo (“What kind of margaritas do you make?”) or St. Patrick’s Day (“Do you have anything Irish?”) or Fourth of July (“Dude!”).

For this New Year’s I leave you these quotes:

“Every artist was first an amateur,” Ralph Waldo Emerson, a true professional, said.

“A professional is a man who can do his job when he doesn’t feel like it; an amateur is one who can’t when he does feel like it,” wrote James Agate, professional journalist (presumably for pay).

“I maintain that two and two would continue to make four, in spite of the whine of the amateur for three, or the cry of the critic for five,” wrote James Whistler, professional painter and amateurish human being.