It’s 7:15 p.m. and all is relatively calm. Those two couples are chatting amicably off to the side. The solo business guy is still on his cellphone. That trio that announced that “we have never been here before” have by now realized that a bar is still just a bar, not a ticker tape parade for newbies. All was well. Or as well as it would be.
New bartenders sometimes ask for advice, and many are disappointed that the best advice is to wear good shoes and to make sure that you get set up properly — neither of which is particularly sexy information. Not like saying something like: “You never shake Manhattans” or “martinis are always made with gin.” Neither are true, relevant nor advantageous, but they sure sound sexy.
“I’ll have a vodka martini,” asked the first of yet another group arriving. Assembled, shaken, strained and garnished, it was presented.
“Oh, make that two of those.”
Rocking back in my good shoes, I recognized that feet that don’t hurt will carry you farther than feet that do. It was easy enough to shake out one more martini.
“Sorry, can you make that three of those?”
It was now 7:25 p.m. and the bar crowd had doubled in size. Preparedness was now becoming important. Trivial things like olives on a toothpick seem inconsequential until you have to do six of them in a row, sliding two olives on to each small sharp pick, and then washing your hands in between each briny set. When it gets busy — really busy — seconds count. Don’t think so? Remember that the next time it takes a bartender five minutes to get to you and your drink. After all, it’s only 300 seconds, or 30 picked olives, take your pick.
It was now 7:35 p.m. and the crowd had grown exponentially again. Those two amicable couples were now surrounded on all sides by people, some of whom took to leaning in between the two couples to order drinks. But telling rude people to not be rude never works. Case in point, that business guy, still on his phone, was now virtually shouting into it.
“What’s this bar made out of?” asked one of the newbies.
“Are you sure?”
Does it matter? Certainly, it doesn’t matter to me, or to the seven drinks I am making or to the seven people drinking them. And I doubt it even matters to the person asking, because asking a question like that at a time like that indicates a certain level of ambivalence.
“Sorry, I am very busy right now,” I said.
“Oh, I thought bartenders could multitask,” he replied.
Seven drinks, two complete food orders, one hand with change, another hand with a credit card and 25 other people in front of me, with a hostess waving in the background and a manager needing to talk, what part of multitasking was I unclear on?
But the problem with the rush is that while it is a mass of people to me, each person in that mass is only concerned about themselves. Some of them get it. And some of them don’t.
“Four espresso martinis, two with decaf,” said yet another new arrival.
“Two Pisco Sours, each with a different Pisco.”
“A white wine. No, two white wines. No, three.”
“Can I put in a to-go order? They are too busy to take one on the phone.”
“Can you send this wine over to that table?”
Time was immaterial now. Anyone who has felt the dinner rush in a busy bar or restaurant from the service side knows that it comes and goes like a wave, swelling, rising and then crashing, before the inevitable ebb.
I once wore a pedometer on a Friday night. I did 13 miles, back and forth like a caged panther. That’s a half marathon, except normally during a half marathon you don’t have people shouting at you the whole way.
The next time I looked at the clock it was 9:45 p.m. Two hours of my life gone in what seemed like an instant. Such is the dinner rush in a busy bar or restaurant.
“My feet hurt,” said the new guy.
Leaving me with these thoughts:
• “You can’t start at f***ed,” said Uncle Jimmy, in Season 1, Episode 2 of Hulu’s “The Bear.”
• “It’s not about the shoes, it’s what you do in them,” once quipped Michael Jordan.
• It is always better to be prepared than to get ready.
• “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf,” once wrote author and medical professor Jon Kabat-Zinn.
• There are no little moments. They all matter. Just ask that “are you sure” guy.