If you can be anything, be kind

A rose by any other name is not as sweet

In the swirling chaos of a packed bar, one can often feel like a circus plate spinner, or a juggler with several balls in the air. Or conversely, like someone with their balls on the floor and several broken dishes. And it can happen just like that.

My first conscious memory of her was her coming to the bar with a handful of empty, dirty glasses cobbled together piecemeal in her hands. Which might seem like a welcome gesture, but upon deeper inspection (and more experience), usually results in a pretext to refill those glasses. And if you don’t have time to pick up the dirty glasses, just imagine how little time you have to do the more difficult part of filling them. But in a commerce driven environment, there’s never a lack of salespeople; customer service and repair people on the other hand…

But she was different, right from the start. She didn’t immediately ask for something, instead she turned around and picked up another table’s dirty glassware.

“Where do you want these?” she asked.

“What are you doing?” I asked rather abruptly, especially when considered in hindsight.

Because, almost nobody does something for a bartender without wanting something in return: attention, appreciation or, and most often, free drinks.

Few people, if any, ever wait to hear how you actually are, after, in fact, asking you exactly that. “Martini?” is often considered a complete sentence. And in some cases, just tapping a glass rim, or raising said glass, is considered more than enough of a request, regardless of whether or not you were even in the building when that glass was originally filled. These are not offered as complaints, they are merely observations, I know what I do and I am OK with it and have been for a very long time.

Which is what made her so strange, in an odd and wonderful way. She didn’t want something. In fact, she didn’t want anything at all. And when she left, she left me $20 on the bar.

You meet a lot of people working in a restaurant. Some are merely passing through, some stick around longer, some you never see again, some become regulars, others you wish you didn’t see as much and some you wish you saw more often. Almost the entire panache of human existence passes before your eyes, if only you take the time to look at it.

Working behind the stick you learn that moments count, whether they are the moments it takes to pick three extra olives, or the extra time it takes to hand wash one particular person’s special glass, or the seconds needed to individually squeeze lime juice for that other person’s cosmopolitan. People are often very unconcerned with time, as long as it’s somebody else’s.

It took me a while to get used to her. I just wasn’t used to people being concerned with my wellbeing, especially not at work. Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of people that I wait on who are genuine and caring, but I am there to do a job, and I take that quite seriously. It’s their time to relax and be taken care of, not mine. That’s why they call it professionalism. And sometimes that gets lost in the modern era of so called “mixology.” Sure, bartending can be fun, but that fun can’t come at the expense of being professional. At least it shouldn’t. It’s called work for a reason.

My new friend was someone who took pleasure in helping others. Not that she didn’t mind being helped herself. She liked what she liked, but she liked it in her own special ways. Those ways weren’t hard to understand, unlike say, someone who asks for a gin drink, only to return it three times before mentioning that they don’t really like gin.

Over the years she stopped by on her way to somewhere else, and sometimes on her way back. Other times she came in for lunch, or for dinner, or for dessert, and sometimes simply to just say “hi.” And in a genuine way, not just as an excuse to drink. Because she really didn’t drink that much.

She would often tease the bartenders by asking, “Who’s your favorite regular?” And do you know what? We could all answer her honestly.

Because she really was.

Leaving me with these thoughts:

-There’s never as much time as you think there is.

-It’s not about booze, or drinks, or even tips, it’s about people. The people on both sides of the bar.

-In a world where you can be anything you want, the easiest thing to be, is kind.

-Take time to smell the roses, because neither the time nor the roses are guaranteed.