One bad apple doesn’t have to spoil the whole bunch

I had never seen him before. Not that it mattered. Every day I meet people I don’t know, and then I get to know them. Engagement is the key. But not all people want, or need, the same level of engagement.

“Whiskey, neat,” he said. Which in a later conversation might mean something, but in the immediate one, not so much.

“Are you looking for something in particular?” I asked.

“No, just something different. Something better.”

Different and better are relative to the person and the place. Meaning that something new to you, might be old hat to someone else. True with liquids, and truer still with people.

I handed him our liquor list and voiced a caveat.

“We might be out of something – you know supply chain stuff – so it’s a good idea to have a back-up choice, or two,” I said.

We live in a new reality. Things we took for granted just a few years ago, are now quite a bit different. But one thing that can’t be affected by price issues and supply chain issues is attitude. And in many cases, you cannot teach people that.

While the “new” guy was deciding, several old friends stopped by. A handshake and a martini for Scott. A hug and buttery white wine for Louise. Draft pilsner for Frank, draft IPA for Tony, handshake and high five.

“This place is great, it’s like Cheers,” said the new guy.

“It can be,” I said. “There’s a lot of great regulars, and that makes it a really great place to hang out.”

Two tourists in bright yellow SF sweatshirts made their way in. Two Irish coffees had them settled into a back corner.

The new guy had a few questions about the whiskey. Questions that were easily answered. One small batch local whiskey on a large ice cube later and he sat back.

“Would you like a menu?” I asked.

“No, I am meeting friends for dinner,” he said.

For some people bars are the destination at the restaurant, for others the bar is a holding area, and for some, it’s a place they have simply ended up at. We all want different things at different times.

The new guy fit in quite well. He struck up a conversation with the woman next to him about tennis, or was it golf? Whatever the topic was less important than the attitude about it. A willingness to engage, not in an aggressive way, but in that organic natural way that makes casual conversation so much fun. No agendas, just communicating about what is going on at that moment, in that space. Some people might denigrate it as “small talk” but those would be people who don’t understand that the majority of all talk is small talk, and in that way, it makes up the greater part of our existence.

Eventually other people began to arrive. Another man walked to the other end of the bar looking at bottles on the back shelf.

“Are you looking for something in particular?” I asked.

He gave me a “looking through me” stare and continued to look at the back bar.

“I have a list,” I said extending that list in my hand.

He looked at me, looked at the list, and then walked away without saying a word. I have learned that being nice to people does not automatically mean that people will be nice back. You cannot change other people, but you can change your reaction to them. And that starts with attitude.

The man went back to the other end of the bar and stood by the new guy. Apparently, he was one of the “friends.”

“What’s with this guy?” asked the newly arrived friend gesturing at me.

“What do you mean?” asked the seated man.

“He’s waving a list at me.”

“I think he’s just doing his job.”

“Just another a**hole bartender,” replied that friend, right in front of me.

The seated friend was visibly shocked. An argument ensued, followed by a paying of the bill and a 40% tip.

Later the “new guy” returned to the bar.

“I’ll be back,” he said before shaking my hand and turning to leave. He then stopped and turned back to me.

“But without that other guy,” he added.

Leaving me with these thoughts

-There’s one in every crowd.

-Just because you are being proactive, doesn’t mean that someone else might not be reactive.

-One bad apple doesn’t have to spoil the whole bunch, regardless of what the Osmond’s said.

– “Friendship is born at the moment when one man says to another, “What! You too?” once wrote author C.S. Lewis.

-Unlike family, you get to pick your friends, so if you are unhappy with your current choices, feel free to pick again.