Don’t reward bad behavior

It was a busy night, not so busy that the man didn’t have time to tell me that he was looking for a seat at the bar, and not too busy for me to acknowledge that.

In an environment where every second is accounted for, there are some people who want even more of it, abdicating all their responsibility to someone who already has a dozen things to do. Luckily this was not one of those times, and he was not one of those people.

I served him a beer.

“It will probably just be a second,” I said.

More than a second later two people got up to leave. I motioned for him to make his way over.

A couple I had not seen, or served, had somehow come between him and the two seats. It was a race against time. And the couple won. They plopped themselves down into the two vacated seats.

“I am sorry, I was waiting for those seats,” he said.

“So were we,” the seated man said.

I don’t know exactly where he was waiting, but people aren’t always honest when their best interests are on the line.

“We were here first,” his date said looking at me. “Right?”

“I believe he was here first.”

“But, we have reservations for bar seats,” she said, clearly unhappy with my answer.

“That’s interesting,, because we don’t take reservations for bar seats.”

“Well, we have reservations for the bar tables then,” she said, reconstructing her lie.

“We don’t take reservations for those either.”

“Well, we aren’t moving.”

Finally a truth. It was now an awkward situation for all involved.

There are some people who flout the rules and then hope the social grace of others will protect them.

I once watched a man kick a car’s fender in a supermarket parking lot, attack the driver physically when he got out and then scream for help when the driver started to get the better of him.

Eventually the standing man gave up. When some people go out for fun, they avoid trouble, even when they are right. Other people have no such compunctions.

“You need to tell him not to stand there,” the woman said.

“Ma’am it’s a bar, he can stand wherever he wants.”

“Well he’s making us feel uncomfortable.”

I think I shrugged. They had already gotten the seats, what more did they want?

“If you don’t tell him to leave, we’re going to leave,” she said.

Now I knew.

“It’s up to you.”

Recently I have noticed an alarming amount of people who want to act badly, but then want restaurant employees to protect them from the consequences of acting that way.

I had one couple tell me to tell another couple to stop complaining about that couple’s screaming child.

Another couple told me, “We don’t want to feel any pressure to leave,” when they wanted to sit and sip water for half an hour on a packed sports night while a throng of people waited.

“I’m not pressuring you to do anything,”

“Not you,” them,” he said, gesturing at the throng.

“I can’t control other people or how you feel about them.”

But, back in the present, that is exactly what was being asked.

“Maybe that’s what you are trying to do,” the woman said.

Ah, make it personal, the veritable battle cry of the righteously indignant. “I am always the victim.” Even, ironically, when that person’s in the midst of victimizing someone else.

“I am not trying to do anything. I just gave you my opinion.”

When they finally left, there was exact change on the bar.

Leaving me with these thoughts:

• The saying, “Don’t shoot the piano player, he’s doing the best he can,” can also be applied to bartenders and servers as well.

• “A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot,” said Robert A. Heinlein.

• “If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed,” noted Albert Einstein.

• “Don’t reward bad behavior. It is one of the first rules of parenting,” said Eliot Spritzer, regarding the banking bailout disaster. A pity no one listened.