*Buckle in, folks. It's a bumpy one.*
Working as a bartender is not an easy job. Memorization, multitasking, and calmness under pressure are key, and everything goes downhill if you let even one thing slip.
On the other side of the coin, you have to be okay with the idea that you won’t always be in control.
This particular night started off okay, though. It was a tranquil Monday and we weren’t busy at all. Everyone was getting individualized attention - including this rather bothersome man who sat down at the end of the bar.
“Can I sit here?” he asked.
“Of course, go ahead,” I responded.
“Are you sure I can sit here, I’m not sure if I’m allowed to,” he asked again.
?????What's going on here????
This exchange repeated itself two or three times more before he actually sat down, and when he finally did, he said, “It’s just that I know y’all think Black people don’t tip, so you might not want me sitting here. I’m gonna take care of you, though, don't worry.”
I laughed this off, but needless to say we started off on the wrong foot. Why that comment was necessary, I’m not sure, but even then I’d never exerted so much energy simply trying to assure someone that it was okay to sit at the bar.
It's important to note the way our bar worked before I go any further. As on a typical weeknight, we had two bartenders on shift: one to focus on tables and bar guests, and another to work the service well. Weekends and holidays, we would have a third.
I was the service bartender that night, so that meant every milkshake, smoothie, mojito, or mule anyone ordered anywhere in the restaurant had to come through me.
From here on out, we'll refer to the other bartender for the night as Tiffany.
Once the man settled in, I asked him if he wanted to start off with anything to drink. He said he needed more time to decide and that he was waiting for someone else to join him.
God's timing, everything else started picking up. I noticed more and more people coming in and more and more orders coming right along with them. The man remained unready to order, so I told him to be sure to get my attention when he made a decision because I would be focusing on keeping up with the well.
Tiffany checked in with him and took his order a few minutes later. #Teamwork.
- And she was one of our best; it never ceased to amaze me how easily she made connections with customers and how brilliant she was at her craft. She was warm and friendly towards the man, and per usual, seemed to be getting along very well with him and his guest (presumably his girlfriend).
After spending a few minutes making his drinks, she returned to drop them off. When she asked if he wanted anything to eat, he said he still wasn't sure. From there, she turned her attention to the many others who'd been seated since.
Picking up where she left off, I waited a few minutes before asking the man again if he was ready to order. He wasn't. No problem 🙂 - I reminded him to holla at me if he needed anything and continued plowing through drink orders in the well.
...the man starts muttering to his girl about how terrible the service was. He made comments about how "all money is money" and how he didn't understand why Black people are always treated so poorly.
???????????????????Did I miss something???????????
The next time Tiffany was in earshot, I pulled her aside to tell her what was being said. She was equally confused! Apparently she had checked on him multiple times when I wasn't looking, and he never asked any questions or said anything about placing an order. 🤨
Maybe the right thing for me to do at this point would have been to check in with him again. But not only was I trying to walk the line of being professional and respecting the privacy of his conversation, I had just asked him if there was anything I could do. I'll also add, of course, that emotions were running high. I was getting my ass handed to me in the well, and even if the man had been receiving poor service, it made me angry that he would insinuate that it had anything to do with him being Black. Ya know...since I am, too??!??
The next time we spoke to him, he did order an appetizer.
But just as it was a busy night for me, it was even busier for the kitchen. And **uncharacteristically** - I mean you'd never expect our restaurant to be packed the way it was on a random Monday. There were SO many people - the average order was probably taking at least 20-30 more minutes than usual. The man did experience quite a long wait for his appetizer, but he used that as another excuse to bash Tiffany and me.
“I just don’t understand. They’re Black, they should know better,” said the man as he continued to wait.
His complaints got worse and worse, but everything he said he just kept under his breath - never addressing me or Tiffany directly. His girlfriend egged him on. She told him they should cancel their food and go somewhere they would be respected: “Let’s go to Blue’s. They know you there, they don’t act like this.”
But did they cancel? No ma'am! They just kept griping for minutes and minutes and minutes on end. And still, there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t address them without being confrontational and making it obvious that I was listening to them talk; I couldn't leave the bar to check on their food; Tiffany was being pulled in a million directions…altogether it was just a the mess of all hot messes.
I let the man quiet down before I asked him if I could make him any more drinks, at which point he finally asked me how much longer he should expect to wait.
My manger happened to walk by at that same moment. I gestured her over and told her about the man’s concern. He seemed to calm down a bit as she spoke to him: they talked about sports and made jokes about the hat he was wearing. Curious how he didn't mention any complaints about the service, though. 🥱
Almost immediately after she left to go check on his appetizer, a food-runner came around the corner with it in hand.
The man and his girlfriend began eating and all was well again. Tiffany came by to check on them, and they all three resumed their own jokes and laughter - even singing a Christmas carol together.
But what happened as soon as she turned away?????
Same old cycle :)))))))))))))
This man said n o t h i n g when given the opportunity, yet complained about
e v e r y t h i n g whenever there was downtime - always bringing the conversation back to money and race.
Eventually, a pair of friends sat down next to him (seats 8 and 9). They happened to be Asian.
The friends waited at least 10-15 minutes before even being greeted, but were promptly ready to order. The original man placed an order for an entree shortly after they did, and of course, resumed his moaning as he waited for it to come out.
Then worst case scenario happened...