Awkward, unsure but exciting, just like a first date

Your first dining in experience is going to be like a great big first date. It’s been three long months; you are excited, and we are excited. You are ready to go, and we are ready to go. You are uncomfortable, and we are uncomfortable. You will look into our eyes with hope, and we will look into yours too. Sure, we’ve both done this before, but things are going to be different, and some things might have changed altogether. But we won’t know until we get started, and there is no time like the present. We all actually do live in the moment whether we want to or not. And that moment is now.

There are going to be some missteps and some missed signals. Your surefire go-to move might not work on us this time, and our clever witticisms of the past might just fall short. And let’s not even talk about grooming and prophylactics, because that is sure to be quite a bit different than it was. Bottom line, this is not just all new for you, it is all new for us too. 

I was in line at the grocery store the other day. The kid bagging my groceries was in full regalia: gloves, mask etc.

“Would you like bags,” he asked

I had an entire cart of groceries and signs everywhere read:” You may not bring in your own bags.”

Of course, I wanted bags. What was I going to do? Carry 75 items out in my hands? So, I made a joke about it, and the look on his face made me regret it immediately.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “It must be hard enough without people making jokes.”

“I’m sorry too,” he said. “But sometimes people say things that sound like a joke, but they aren’t being funny.”

I get it. I once laughed when a woman asked, “Don’t you have fresh ground salt?”

You see, salt, sodium chloride, is a compound, a rock for all practical purposes, it is not a plant like pepper. So, fresh grinding salt only looks cool, it doesn’t actually change the taste of anything. But she wasn’t kidding. She was dead serious.

I recently read, with some dread, the post on Facebook warning bartenders about the oncoming deluge of Corona beer jokes. If people still laugh uncontrollably about “shaken not stirred” and “just look at the bottle of vermouth” 70 and 80 years later, respectively, I will certainly be hearing that one for the rest of my bartending career.

Here are a few suggestions you might want to take into consideration before venturing out this week. Because like it or not, things are going to be different. Sorry in advance.

-Bring a face mask. A restaurant (or grocery store, or health clinic) is not the place to make your stand. Do you think we really want to be wearing them? And taking the fight to some poor server who can’t do anything about it and can’t fight back, will just show what a colossal jackass you are.

-Reservations are probably going to be absolutely necessary. Especially at peak hours. Make them.

-Your favorite restaurant is going to have different hours. It’s not personal, it’s the law.

-Don’t just show up. Restaurants will only have enough space for people six feet apart. And trust me, that ain’t much. Call ahead.

-There might be a time limit. If you only can seat a portion of the people you used to, those seats are going to have to be maximized. Welcome to the new normal.

-Be kind, we will really be trying. But all the things that worry you and make you uneasy, are also worrying us and making us uneasy too.

-Please, please, save the Corona beer jokes for later, because just like James Bond jokes they are only sadly cute after about 45 years.

“Heigh ho, heigh ho, it’s home from work we go,” goes the song from the 1937 Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It is often incorrectly rendered as “off to work we go.” But, in the current situation, I will certainly take the latter and not the former.

So, I and the various Bashfuls, Happys, Grumpys, Sleepys and Dopeys that make up the bar/restaurant industry are going to be back at work this week (Sneezy, probably isn’t) and it is sure to be a whole new experience for us, just as it will be a whole new one for you too. But don’t worry, we will all get through this together. How can we not? After all, Doc will still be behind the bar! Just be gentle.