I was voted “Best Bartender” for 2020. By the readers of two different publications. Great. It’s not that I am ungrateful, but…2020? Isn’t that like being voted best lookout on the Titanic for 1912? Or best airship docking pilot on the Hindenburg for 1937? Those two awards would look great on your mantle until April 15 and May 6, respectively. After that, not so much. What makes these awards so ironic, is that I received them in March, and on March 15 the restaurant world changed, perhaps forever.
Again, I am not ungrateful for the votes, and truth be told awards like that are for the previous year, but still a service business award plaque with 2020 on it, just feels like it is mocking you. But I am one of the lucky ones. Many of my compatriots in the industry don’t even have jobs anymore. A year in the restaurant industry can be an eternity. When I was younger, I worked at some extremely busy nightclubs that only survived for a year. Those individual years, filled with stories and unbelievable behavior, now seem tame when compared to 2020.
My heart goes out to all the people we’ve lost, to their families, to all the businesses that have closed, to all the people struggling to pay their bills. 2020 can’t be gone soon enough. There is light at the end of the tunnel, vaccines are on the way, but a tunnel is a tunnel, and you have to get through it first. The next few months are going to be tough for all of us, but at least now we have a little hope. We have also learned collectively, that saying something isn’t happening, doesn’t actually prevent it from happening. It pretty much just guarantees that it does. But we in the service business knew that already. Belief is a powerful thing. That is why there are $100 vodkas. If someone believes they can taste the difference, I am certainly not going to argue with them.
All of that is the cloud, but there is a silver lining in all of this, a slight shadowy one to be sure, but we in the service business are eternal optimists, if we weren’t, many of us would have punched that someone who sends their martini back three times (“It warmed up while I was telling a story”) in the face long ago. I have worked in the restaurant/bar industry in varying capacities since I was 16 years old. Which means that I have worked at least one, if not all the major December/January holidays for longer than I have been an adult. I am not complaining, just stating a fact. Working those holidays bought me my first car in high school, put me through college afterwards, financed my house and later helped put my daughter through college as well. I knew the deal when I got into this business and I have tried to make the most of it. So, it is with an odd mixture, one part sadness, and one part optimism, that I face the first holiday season since I was a sophomore in high school. A holiday season that I have not only one or two of the major holidays off, but in fact I have every single one of them off.
Many people take for granted that they will not be working on the holidays, that is why they are called the holidays. But service people know, you don’t want to take New Year’s Eve off, when you can take two, maybe three days off in January. Fish when the fish are biting, they say, and we service people know that all too well.
Add into the holiday equation, that my birthday also falls in the very middle of that holiday season and 2020 might just not end as bad as it started. Which also reminds me of the service business too. As a friend of mine likes to say, “All of our customers make us happy, some by coming, and some by going.” So, it is with that thought in mind that the popularly voted “Best Bartender” of 2020 encourages you to bid 2020 a hearty goodbye. The kind of special goodbye you would offer that incredibly “special” guest. As for the rest of you, I look forward to the opportunity to welcome you all back in 2021. I, and everyone in the service industry, will be happy to see you.
Leaving me with just one thought: Nobody will have to tell me not to go out during this holiday season, because for the first time in decades I won’t have to.
Happy Holidays to everyone, and more importantly, have a Happy New Year!