It was busy. The kind of busy that reminds one of John Carpenter’s 1982 movie, “The Thing” — an amorphous blob of hands, arms and faces, terrifying to the uninitiated or unprepared. It was so busy that a woman had to squeeze in sideways just to find a spot at the bar to stand and order.
“Can I get you something?” I asked, not really expecting her to hear me, which is why I pointed at her.
She just looked at me. I think the fact that I was doing something else at the time might have dissuaded her. There are some people who insist on your undivided attention. These are usually the people who say things like, “I want an extra, extra, extra-dry Vodka Martini — just look at the vermouth bottle once or twice — extra, extra-cold, shaken, not stirred, with a Spanish olive or two.”
That’s cold vodka, folks. But it’s not really about the drink, it’s about the ordering of the drink that matters.
“Three chardonnays, a Moscow Mule and …” she stopped and turned to an unseen friend in the crowd, “and a Penicillin.”
“A Penicillin?” I asked.
“You do know how to make that, don’t you?”
It wasn’t phrased as a question, but more like an accusation.
It doesn’t happen often but occasionally I am asked to make a drink I have never heard of.
“I’m sorry, I don’t,” I answered truthfully.
“Look it up on your phone.” she said, struggling to hold her place sideways.
“I don’t have my phone.”
“Because I am working.”
“That’s pretty unprofessional,” she said.
My boss would disagree, as would many employers in the restaurant business. Being on your phone while you are on the floor is the epitome of unprofessionalism in most restaurants.
“Can’t you go in back and look it up?”
I looked at the hundred or so raised hands clamoring for my attention and answered the only way possible under the circumstances. “Not right now.”
But often it’s the people who ask the most inappropriate things at the most inappropriate times who are the least understanding of those circumstances.
“If you know what’s in the drink, I can probably figure out the proportions,” I added.
Mind you, I had also made all four of the other drinks she had requested while simultaneously answering her questions. But sometimes, people who cannot multitask are annoyed by those who can.
“That will be $64.35,” I said. Not only had I had the conversation and made the drinks, but I also had rung them up on the computer.
“I will be back,” she said, scooping up one of the drinks and handing it to her other hand sideways through the crowd before doing the same with the others.
I looked after her and up and right into the face of someone else who wanted to order drinks.
“Two pilsner drafts,” he said.
I poured them, rang them up and was in the process of taking the payment when she returned. She tried to hand me her phone.
“Just one second,” I said as I put the money in the register and made change.
“I can’t believe you did that,” she said.
“Waited on another customer?”
I thought about explaining our business model to her but instead just took her phone. I read the recipe: blended scotch, Islay scotch, fresh lemon juice and honey-ginger syrup.
“We don’t have honey-ginger syrup,” I said.
“Because we don’t have any drinks that call for it,” I replied.
“Can’t you make some?”
She really didn’t like that.
But they say fish when the fish are biting, and they were biting. In the next 30 minutes, I rang up half the night’s total sales and made half my nightly tips. That is how the restaurant business works. When the crowd is gone, it is gone.
I later mentioned the Penicillin to my co-worker.
“I got one, too,” she said. “I told him I didn’t know what that was.”
Later, a couple sat at the bar.
“I’ll have a Penicillin,” the man said.
Weird. Maybe there was a magazine story somewhere featuring that drink, or a Kardashian had tweeted about it. All I knew was I was going to have to do some research. One thing you learn in the bar business is that trends can start at any moment.
“That’s the third order I’ve had for that this evening,” I said.
“I know,” he said. “I am the one who ordered them.”
Leaving me with these thoughts:
• Birds of a feather do indeed flock together.
• Square peg, round hole. Square peg, round hole. Repeat.
• The only definition of professionalism I care about is my boss’, because without him I would be an amateur.
• I did make a Penicillin later that evening, at home, when I had time. It was delicious.