It’s more about mixing people than drinks

“When are you going to get a real job?” my relative asked recently.

We in the restaurant business hear this all the time. It doesn’t matter if you own your own home, put yourself through college, have an IRA or manage your own health care — someone, somewhere, will say this to you. There are some people who will never view the restaurant business as legitimate. But I’ll tell you this; I have a job where people are actually really happy to see me, every single day. And often I’m happy to see them, too. But, then again, I also know that the only person responsible for my own happiness is me.

I noticed a man standing four steps back in the crowd whispering something at me. I don’t know why people in crowded bars whisper but they do, all the time. As a result I’ve gotten pretty good at reading lips. Unfortunately people who whisper are also prone to covering their mouths when they speak, rendering communication all but impossible

“I can’t hear you,” I mouthed while pointing at my ears.

“Can you describe the special pasta?” he said only slightly louder.

“I’m sorry but we are out of that.”

“So?” he asked.

“You want me to describe it to you anyhow? Now?”

I looked up and down the busy bar. People were squeezing in everywhere they could and the bar drink printer was spewing out tickets from the dining room, creating what looked like a long white jagged-edged scarf.

The words of my relative echoed in my ears.

I realized that while happiness might come from within, unhappiness can easily come from without. So, I did my best with the pasta man before finally moving onto someone else.

“I have something to tell you,” a pretty brunette said, leaning into speak to me. “But it can wait till after dinner.”

She then led her beau by the hand into the dining room.

Sometime later, the pasta man left, never having secured a seat (knowledge of the special notwithstanding) and sometime after that the brunette returned.

“You don’t remember us, do you?” she asked, indicated herself and her beau.

I was pretty sure she meant something other than our earlier interaction. When you interact with hundreds of people every day you can’t possibly remember every one of them. It ain’t personal, it’s just logistics.

“We met here,” she said, pointing at her beau.

“Nope,” I said shaking my head.

“It was a blind date.”

Suddenly I remembered. Ten years ago, maybe more, the man had come into the bar a little earlier than one might normally for a date. He had a drink or two before he enlisting my aid.

“I’ve never been on a blind date before,” he had said. “All I know is that she’ll be wearing a red dress.”

I remember how he had picked up his empty glass absentmindedly.

“If you see her, give me a heads up, so I can get a look and then decide what to do.”

I didn’t quite understand his logic, but blind dates are not about understanding, they are about a willingness to try something new.

Ten minutes after that conversation I had forgotten all about it until a stunning brunette walked through the door wearing an equally stunning red dress.

I turned to tell the blind dater, only to see that he was already halfway across the room with his hand extended.

I guess he liked what he saw.

They sat at the bar before she finally led him into the other room for dinner.

A decade later they were standing right in front of me.

“We are celebrating our anniversary,” she said holding up a sparkling ring.

Leaving me with these thoughts:

• People who say it’s just a restaurant job don’t know what they are talking about.

• In the restaurant business every day is a celebration for somebody, it is important never to forget that.

• “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” is as true today as it was when Eleanor Roosevelt said it more than half a century ago.

• I so hate the term mixologist, because it’s not about mixing drinks; it’s really about mixing people.

• One dinner can lead to the rest of your life.