THE BLOND MAN stood back a respectful distance from those already seated. Patiently, he waited for a place to open up at the bar. He didn’t verbalize the fact that he was waiting nor did he jockey back and forth for position. He also didn’t harrumph or ahem. He merely stood.
When a woman came in slightly after him, he allowed her to sit first. He was, in fact, a pleasure to behold. Finally a seat became available, and in simple fashion he sat. Raising one finger at the ceiling, he gave me a nod.
The man seated next to him took notice.
“They seem to know you here,” he said.
“Yeah, I come in every once in a while,” the blond man said, grossly understating the situation.
Soon thereafter an extra chilly Charbay vodka, in a chilly martini glass garnished with a freshly zested twist appeared before him, almost as if by magic. The magic being provided by yours truly.
“Wow,” said the observing gentleman. “That is impressive.”
“Yeah, I finally got ’em trained here.”
The two men laughed. I laughed, too. But not for the same reasons.
I’ll be honest, the first time I met the blond man I didn’t like him very much. It may shock some of you but not all customers who walk into a bar or restaurant are well liked. How well the staff likes you depends on how you treat them.
And Mr. Blond didn’t treat anyone very well.
Bars are an odd province. Someone who will wait 20 minutes patiently in line at a coffee shop or 15 minutes at the deli counter, will freak out after 180 seconds of waiting at a bar. I’m not sure why, but I’ve seen it happen often.
Mr. Blond was one of those people. Perhaps it had something to do with his divorce. Who knew? But it really didn’t matter, because in the service business, you don’t necessarily have to like whom you wait upon, you simply have to wait on them. Your feelings are really irrelevant.
At first Mr. Blond never waited his turn, he pushed in front of people, he hung around behind others complaining. I had to tell him a half dozen times that people were there before him. I wasn’t rude or aggressive, I was just persistent.
There is an old saying, “Never argue with a fool, because then people won’t know the difference.” The same is true with behavior. Direct confrontation rarely yields positive results. Much like a large ship heading for a dock, one person cannot hope to stop it. But, little by little, it can be diverted into a different direction. So it was with Mr. Blond.
“I thought it was first-come, first-served,” he said.
“It is. They were here first.”
He watched me refuse service to people who were drinking too much, too quickly. He watched as I told other people the same thing I said to him. He saw that I didn’t fight with people; I just applied good reason and a smile to every situation. Now I’m not saying everyone liked everything I did, but they all knew the rules. It wasn’t personal.
Along the way, Mr. Blond also learned that ordering a martini was never enough information. He eventually started asking questions, instead of barking out orders. And slowly, ever so slowly, he began to learn.
Weeks turned into months and months turned into years. Mr. Blond eventually got over his divorce and then he met someone else, and then after that someone else. He learned patient persistence eventually yields good results.
And I’m pretty sure he learned that from me.
That’s why I laughed at his suggestion. Because the only thing that has changed about the way I’ve treated him is that when I say, “It’s nice to see you,” I really mean it.