The two spots opened up right in front of the bartender. It was a miracle. A veritable Cecil B. DeMille parting of the Red Sea. And much like the film, the two frothing walls of people on either side welled up and then prepared to crash together.
“I’m sorry guys,” said the bartender, there are several groups of people who have been waiting for seats for longer than you.
“I thought it was first come, first served,” replied one of the men who had just sat down.
“It is,” replied the bartender. “You weren’t here first.”
“But we got here first,” replied the other man.
Years of dealing with people, literally crowds of people, will yield some universal truths:
- The most self-righteously indignant of people, are usually neither right, nor dignified.
- He who complains the loudest and the most often usually has the least to complain about
- The educated legal scholar who just two minutes before was tossing around statements like “constitutional rights,” “by law,” and “legally” will suddenly not be able to understand even the most rudimentary of concepts. For example: you ordered it, you consumed it, now you must pay for it.
- The most easily offended of people will quite often turn into the most offensive when they don’t get what they want.
- A person too shy to voice any complaint while at the restaurant, will somehow be able to write three withering letters and a scathing online review immediately upon getting home
- When you catch someone cheating the system (any system) that person will then often become unbelievably combative, up to, and sometimes including, physical violence. Which is undoubtably why bars are just over an arm’s reach in width, just saying.
Mr. and Mr. “first come first served” finally acquiesced when the person on crutches along with his pregnant wife appeared through the crowd. It would seem that trying to make your point under those circumstances might have some adverse consequences.
“We call ‘dibs’ on the next seats then,” said one of the two men.
“I’m sorry,” said the bartender. “But that is not how it works.”
“How does it work then?” asked his friend indignantly. [see #1 above]
“It’s first come, first served. Remember?” said the bartender.
“We were here before them,” said the man sweeping his arm towards an entire group of people who had been there when both of them arrived. [see #3].
“You passed all of these people to get here,” replied the bartender.
“I can’t believe you are speaking to me like that?” [#4]
“If we don’t get a seat, we’re leaving!” bellowed the second man. [#6]
The bartender just shrugged.
Half an hour later, when their turn arrived, the two men sat down. One overlooked aspect of the service business is weathering the storm. Storms don’t last forever and when they are over you want to be one of the standing. The bell curve of any given evening only reaches its apex for a short while, if you can hold it together for that moment, everything will fall into place. If you can’t, well then there’s always sobbing in the bathroom, crying in the office, or fleeing out the back door. All of which most service professionals have seen, if not done, at least once or twice in their careers. With the latter usually, but not always, leading to a change of careers.
The two seated men were nothing like the two standing men. Suddenly it was as if they and the bartender were best friends, at least from their perspective. Funny how someone who just caused a scene five minutes ago wants to pretend like it didn’t happen once they’ve gotten what they wanted. Maybe “funny” isn’t the right word.
The bartender played along, but anyone with an attentive eye would have noticed his laugh had a hollower ring and his attention, while not completely lacking, wasn’t what anyone would have called warm.
The bar cleared out as the bell curve began its descent and just as the two men readied to leave a young woman sat down. This led to an argument between the two men.
“I saw her first,” said one of the men.
“No, I did,” replied the other.
“Well, I’m going to buy her a drink,” said one of the men.
“No, I am.”
While all this was going on the bartender walked over to the young woman.
“A gentleman who wants to remain anonymous bought you your drink,” he said.
The woman, and the two men, looked around. There was no gentleman anywhere to be seen.
Proving that along with the power to do much good, comes the ability to do a little harm. Just saying.