When I first started writing Barfly, nearly nine years ago, I received a letter. Not a nice letter, but a long letter. In fact, longer than any column I had ever written.
The letter’s author complained that everywhere he went, he received terrible service. He didn’t understand it. The letter’s author was mortified that “a bartender” — me — had the audacity to tell him how to behave. He wanted me fired from the newspaper, and he wanted to know the restaurant where I worked so he could have me fired from there as well. The irony was, of course, that I wasn’t “telling” anyone how to behave; I was just illustrating via metaphor a better way, a way I have seen firsthand gain good results.
Sometimes you can change your attitude, sometimes can change your location and sometimes you just lash out at people trying to help.
These days most of the letters I receive are positive (needless to say I wasn’t let go from either the newspaper or from the restaurant). I’m pretty sure Mr. Letter Writer has yet to gain satisfaction. Sometimes you can change your attitude, sometimes can change your location and sometimes you just lash out at people trying to help.
For metaphoric purposes, here are excerpts from two letters that I received about last week’s column:
“I enjoyed the Sunday piece on courtesy. A few years ago there’s was an ad campaign about treating ‘service workers’ as human beings not just human machines. It caught my attention. Now I introduce myself to the wait staff in restaurants and hopefully get their name. And hopefully I can remember the name and use it throughout the meal, and hopefully remember it the next time I’m in. Over time, I get called by my name when I show up and feel just so much more welcome.” A local who sounds like a true joy.
“Just wanted to say that I used to bartend (in Marin) for three years and also lived in Sausalito for almost 10 years. Now I am bartending and living in Nevada City, about an hour south of Lake Tahoe. The people here are so much kinder and authentic. They smile at you and say hello. They have conversations with you as you stand in line at the market. They wave a thank you when you let them drive ahead of you. It’s like another world up here. The air is sweeter up here in these mountains I think. Sometimes we’ve got to change where we live in order to clearly see the meanness in some parts of our society. Love your column though it helps me remember what I do not miss about Marin!” A former local.
Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Or in other words, sometimes it’s not theres who are the problem; sometimes it’s you. Changing your attitude can help, but sometimes that alone won’t make your situation clear. However, if you change locations and the problems still follows you, than surely you will have your answer.
Leaving me with these thoughts:
• “If you keep trying to do (something) and find it difficult every time, try doing it differently,” says Hans Goto, aikido instructor and seventh-degree black belt.
• “If the mountain won’t come to Mohammad, then Mohammad must go to the mountain,” attributed to the prophet Mohammad but actually written about Mohammad by Francis Bacon in 1625.
• “‘First of all,’ he said, ‘if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.'” said Atticus Finch in the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “To Kill a Mockingbird,” written by Harper Lee. The only book she ever wrote.
• “I bet you if I had met him and had a chat with him, I would have found him a very interesting and human fellow, for I never yet met a man that I didn’t like.” A quote from Will Rogers most everyone knows. What many don’t know is that the quote was about Leon Trotsky, Russian Communist leader and founder of the Red Army (from the Saturday Evening Post, Nov. 6, 1926).
• “A mandatory rule should be that everyone has to wait tables no less than 1 1/2 years. Just saying,” said Peter F., a waiter friend.