Maybe ‘normal’ wasn’t as normal, as it should have been

Listen: Vouching 1
Listen: Vouching 2

 “This glass has lipstick on it,” said the server through the drink window.

I smiled, because I have not heard that in over a year, and then I frowned, because scrubbing industrial strength lipstick off of glasses is a real pain.

All glasses in a restaraunt must be washed with detergent, usually in high heat, and then sanitized, with sanitizer. It’s the law and it’s pretty easy to do because industrial dishwashers do all of that for you. But unfortunately, industrial dishwashers are no match for industrial lipstick.

Along with the return of lipstick has been the return of chewing gum. The bottoms of tables and barstools everywhere will rejoice. But the return of those two things symbolizes the return of something else too.

“Hey Jeff,” said the man in the baseball cap, sunglasses, and facemask, his grayish bushy beard peeking out all around.

“Hey,” I said, having absolutely no idea who he was.

 “This is Carrie,” he said gesturing towards what can only be surmised was a new friend.

 “We go way back,” he said. I wasn’t sure if he meant me, or her, because I wasn’t sure if I knew him.

Covid has been hard on everybody, but it has been especially hard on some folks, physically, emotionally, and mentally.

He took off his mask and downed his Moscow Mule in just one gulp, all while she was still nursing her Cosmo on the rocks. Isolation and making drinks at home has sure changed some things.

“Can I get a straw?” she asked.

And somethings it hasn’t. Meanwhile I searched his face for clues. Maybe I did know him. I just couldn’t be sure.

Another Moscow Mule was ordered, and downed, all before she had stirred her drink twice.

His wild hair, baggy shorts, and hoodie jacket all belied a man much younger. But again, being cooped up for a year on one’s own can lead to some rather unsavory grooming habits. I do so look forward myself, to regular haircuts and dressing for dinner.

It was when he ordered his third drink in 20 minutes that he came more fully into view.

“Hey man,” I said, trying to disguise the fact that I didn’t know his name. “You’ve got to slow down a bit. “I can’t serve you a drink every six minutes.”

“Come on Jeff, you know me.”

“Maybe,” I said belaying the truth. “But you can’t drink like that here.”

He behaved for a while regaling his new friend with tales, presumably of the tall variety. And it was in the telling of those tales that I did actually recognize him. And it wasn’t a positive association.

At one point he called me back over. I steeled myself for the eventuality of having to cease service to him. Which, of course, is what I remembered about him from before.

During our Covid timeout, many people have revaluated their lives. Taking stock of what they have and weighing that against what they want. Funny how once you get off of the merry-go-around sometimes you don’t want to get back on. And the restaurant business might be the biggest indicator of this. After a year off, many people just don’t want to return. Maybe they’ve found other jobs, or moved away, or simply decided that the negatives of the business outweigh the positives. I’m not sure but take a look at any want ads and you’ll see that one industry in particular seems pretty hard hit by the so-called “labor shortage.”

“You know me, right?” he said once I reluctantly ambled over.

“I do,” I said, hoping my hesitation was clear.

“See?” he said to her. “Even the bartender vouches for me.”

I shook my head ever so slightly, hoping she’d notice.

When he got up to use the restroom I leaned over the bar and did something I’ve never done before.

“Excuse me,” I said tapping Carrie on the arm. “I just want to be clear. Just because I kinda know him, doesn’t mean that I ‘vouch’ for him in any way whatsoever.”

The next 15 minutes involved a return, a rideshare call, an argument, the ceasing of service, another argument, a declined debit card, another argument, and two people heading their separate ways.

Leaving me with these thoughts:

-Maybe the previous “normal” wasn’t as normal as it should have been.

-A bartender vouching for someone is problematic at best, because “vouching” all depends upon both that person and that bartender.

-Staying silent in the face of a lie can sometimes be just as damaging as voicing the lie yourself.

-I bet bussers everywhere are going to be thrilled about both the return of the lipstick and of the gum.

-Now, where were those want ads, again?