It was that holiday swirling kind of busy. The kind of busy that no matter where you look, you look into the eyes of somebody who wants something. Water, napkin, aioli, TV, music, fork, glass, toothpick, change, you name it. And the problem with eye contact is that often people think of it as an invitation. Just ask any lady who has ever sat at a bar: making eye contact is not necessarily a good thing.
Two spicy skinny margaritas, an old fashioned, another old fashioned and two manhattans later I happened to look up into the eyes of just such a lady. Albeit one squeezed into the little gap between a canoodling couple on one side and a fighting couple on the other.
“Hi,” said she, standing sideways.
“Hi,” I said back.
“Can I order some drinks?”
“I just wanted to make sure you were ready.”
“I can tell you are busy.”
“So, I just wanted to make sure.”
Only then did she turn to her three other friends.
“Susan, what did you want?”
“Do they have vodka?”
“Do you have vodka?”
“Yes. We have vodka.”
“What kinds do they have?”
“What kinds do you have?”
“We have 20 different kinds.”
“What are they?”
“Are you looking for a specific one?”
“Which one is that?”
“We have that.”
“OK. So, Susan will have a Belvedere martini.”
“Up or on the rocks?”
“What’s ‘up’ mean?”
“Chilled in a martini glass with no ice.”
“Yes, up. Or yes, rocks.”
“Do you have olives?”
“Yes we have olives.”
“Do you have blue cheese olives?”
“Can you make it dirty?”
“OK, so, one Belvedere, up, dirty, with blue cheese olives?”
The lady then turned to her other friend
“Karen, what do you want?”
“Do they have vodka?”
And so it went on for three more drinks. Four Belvederes, all up, all dirty, and all with blue cheese olives.
In the bar business, people often complain about drinks taking too long. But sometimes drinks take too long not because of the preparation of those drinks but rather because of the ordering of those drinks. In our highly individualized society people often think making something simple more complicated makes it special or different. It doesn’t.
But as a friend once told me, in the bar business we aren’t just selling drinks, we are selling the experience of ordering drinks. Which is true. Everybody wants to be James Bond, if even for a minute.
But there is one inescapable fact that even Bond didn’t recognize. Time waits for no one. Whether you are in a busy bar or a slow bar there are still only 60 minutes in an hour. If there are 60 people in that bar and two bartenders, then each person gets 2 minutes of time, for the entire hour, from both bartenders combined. That two minutes includes taking the order, making the order, and collecting for the order. If you take more time than that, than someone else gets less time. This is not a judgement or a condemnation, it is a simple fact.
So, the next time you are elbow to elbow in a busy bar (or department store, or restaraunt, or parts counter, or toy store) during this holiday season I hope you think about that 60 minutes in an hour thing. And if you don’t care about such things, I have another hope. That you have to stand behind someone like the lady above while they take ten minutes to order what could have been ordered in 30 seconds.
Leaving me with these thoughts:
– “Can I order a drink?” is subject to interpretation. “May I order a drink?” is not.
– “Time is a created thing. To say, ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to,” once wrote Lao Tzu.
-Not caring about another’s time, makes it very difficult for them to care about yours.
-Being called “special” is not necessarily a compliment.
-“Next!” every barista, salesclerk and bartender during the Holiday season.
-If we are all different together, then aren’t we all just the same? Just asking.