An espresso martini, a wince and an apology

I’m sorry. I really am. I apologize for physically wincing when you ordered an espresso martini in the middle of the holiday rush on that weekend night.

I know it was not the most professional of behaviors, and for that I am sorry. It didn’t matter that I was sick, or that my co-worker was sick, or that we were shorthanded, or super busy or that in order to make that one drink I would have to physically leave the bar, and all the people in it, to spend five minutes making it. Five minutes in which I could make 10 to 15 other drinks.

Nor does it matter that there was no place to set it down, seeing how you had ordered it from three people back, standing sideways in the crowd, at a spot that I would be hard pressed to even hand it to you. None of that matters. All that mattered was that you ordered it and it was up to me to figure out how to make it happen.

At a recent bartending event there was a Q/A portion in which I and several other bartenders were asked what drink we least liked to make. At the time we all struggled to answer. Because really no drink is all that difficult if you have all the ingredients handy. It’s when you don’t have all the ingredients handy that things become a problem.

For many years a local celebrity would come to our restaurant. He always ordered hot tea. Not a problem, we offered hot tea, it was on our menu. But he didn’t want that. He wanted hand picked mint tea from the mint bush we had growing on our patio.

“Just go grab a big handful of mint, stuff it into the teapot and add hot water,” he would say. As if that was no big deal.

And sometimes it wasn’t. But sometimes it was. Because it meant that the food server/bartender would have to abandon all their other responsibilities and all the other people they were responsible for, leave the building, pick the mint, stem the mint, clean the mint, all before making the tea. Which then had to be served: cup, saucer, spoon, lemon, sugar, sugar substitute, honey, etc., all of which takes time to assemble, inspect, and then carry out. In fact, hot tea is one of the most labor intensive of all beverages in the beverage industry. And ironically, one of the least expensive. It is offered as a courtesy; it does not generate any revenue at all. Much like free bread. Free bread isn’t free (and neither is free water), someone has to pay for it, just that someone isn’t you, the customer. People often forget things like that. Especially people who just order hot water. Eventually that celebrity moved away with much fanfare. I don’t know a service person who misses him.

But back to my apology. Regardless of any and all circumstances, servers are never supposed to react. Even when what is happening feels like a slap in the face. It doesn’t matter that your request is going to compromise my ability to provide service to everyone else. That’s my problem, right? I once worked in a nightclub where a “guest” was berating the bouncer mercilessly. Calling him every name in the book. He kept it under control and bore the brunt of her assault with dignity and detachment. But he made the mistake of saying at the end, “It’s not my policy, it’s the company’s policy. Don’t b***h to me about it.” And in that moment, he lost the battle. Her ten-minute tirade of insults now boiled down to one thing. “He called me a bitch.”

I once had someone complain because they felt that I was “acting” like something was a pain in the ass. Just an FYI, I wasn’t acting. It was a pain in the ass. I knew it. They knew it. Everyone around us knew it. It didn’t matter to them that they were still getting what they wanted, at the expense of all those around them. What mattered to them was that the person having to deal with that PIA wasn’t doing so with a spring in their step and a smile on their face. They wanted to overload the draft horse and then criticize it for not being “jolly.”

And that is the problem these days. People want to inconvenience, berate, cut in front of, talk down to, insult, demand, monopolize, cheat, demean and use others. They just don’t want any of those others to react unfavorably. At all, under any circumstances.

So again, I apologize for my involuntary act. It wasn’t the most professional of things to do. I certainly do hope you enjoyed your espresso martini. Because really, that is all that matters, isn’t it?