The holidays: where everybody knows somebody’s name

“Hey, Jeff,” said the guy sitting at the bar.

He comes in every week and has for a long time. He’s come in post-pandemic, mid-pandemic and even pre-pandemic. He is the definition of a regular.

“I was in here last week,” he said, which I found somewhat amusing because that didn’t really differentiate anything at all.

“I think I made a joke at your expense,” he continued.

If he had, I didn’t remember it. Jokes are made to me, from me and about me all the time. If you are thin-skinned, you don’t stand behind the bar for too long.

“I hope I didn’t offend you in any way,” he added.

And there it was. He actually cared about what I thought or felt. And he took the time to apologize for something that I hadn’t even noticed. Customer service is a two-way street, just many customers forget that. You get what you give, most of the time. Far too often, and especially during the holiday season, service people are seen as a means to an end, a way to get what you want, with little or no regard for what is happening right in front of you.

“You know me, right?” said the woman not asking.

I am not in the business of embarrassing people, so I just shrugged. Sure, why not? I know everybody. I am a veritable Will Rogers. She said it again when I told her she couldn’t sit in someone else’s seat and again when she moved the bar stool blocking the fire exit.

“We know each other, right?” she said, reaching out her hand to shake mine.

But I couldn’t shake her hand, because I had a Manhattan in one hand and a martini in the other. I wasn’t trying to be rude, I just didn’t have a free hand to offer her. Physics is physics.

“I want a 50/50 martini,” said another man, in a heavy British accent, whom I also didn’t know.

“50/50 what to what?” I asked.

“You know,” he said.

No, I don’t know. That is why I am asking. Funny how many customers take a clarifying question as a personal attack or an assault on their belief system. Not everybody has the same level of allergic sensitivity. Not everybody knows what liquor is supposed to go in a French 75, or what glass white wine is typically served in. And guess what? Not everybody agrees.

Mr. 50/50 rolled his eyes like I was an idiot.

“Gin, of course.”

“Gin and what? Vermouth? Or vodka?”

“Vermouth, of course.”

His eyes rolled again. Never mind that I have another guy who drinks 50/50 martinis with vodka and gin, or another lady who orders her 50/50 martinis with sweet vermouth and vodka or …

“You know me, right?” said that woman again, in reference to some other positioning faux pas, offering her hand for me to shake — yet again.

“Not right now,” I said, waving off her hand, directly in front of my offended/offensive Brit.

“But I know you.”

“I am right in the middle of something, give me a second,” I said.

Both now seemed offended. I shrugged, because neither one really cared one bit about my side of the situation. And I was the one with sweat running down my forehead.

“We know the bartender,” said the handshaking woman, sitting in a reserved booth sometime later.

The hostess was unimpressed, as were the people whose table she was attempting to abscond.

I finally got the 50/50 martini thing squared away, only to have that woman offer me her hand again.

“You know me, right?”

Everyone has their limits and I had finally reached mine.

“I am sorry, I don’t actually know you,” I said as gently as possible.

“Yes, you do.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Yes, you do.”

“I certainly know who I know, and I don’t know you,” I said finally.

She then wandered away. Later on, the manager told me she had complained that Tom had acted like he didn’t know her. The manager then had to explain to her that I wasn’t Tom. Tom only worked on Tuesdays. To which she had said:

“But you know me? Right?” and offered him her hand.

Leaving me with these thoughts:

• Being friendly doesn’t always involve getting something in return.

• “Humor is a great defense, and an offense, too. Usually, the recipient isn’t too happy about it, but the people around are laughing,” once opined the late Marin resident Robin Williams.

• Apologizing might be the most significant way to let someone else know that you care about them that there is.

• It is the holiday season, so before you get exasperated at all the other people, recognize that maybe you are all the other people to someone else.