Paulelmo's Blog

Old Bartenders and Frozen Drinks

Here’s another item from the bartender’s “I’ll bet you’ve got some crazy stories” file.

I’ll tell you, this is one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen anywhere. Had it happened today, with all of I now know about how people can act in just the most unfathomable ways when they’re off their meds, it wouldn’t surprise me as much as it did back when it did happen, which had to have been in like 1992.

I am only guessing that the guy was off his meds; to not think that would mean that he just had absolutely no regard for other people, and my general belief that people want to at least be seen as nice makes that difficult to comprehend.

I was tending bar for Damon’s in Charlotte, North Carolina, my first full-time position as a bartender. One of the other bartenders was this dude named Donny, who must have been in his late-30s or early-40s, certainly old enough to have been considered an old bartender.

Like many old bartenders, this dude hated making frozen drinks. So, this one day, Donny was working the night shift, and a friend and I had worked day shift and were having a drink in the lounge after we had gotten off.

So, we’re sitting there, when this good-looking lady comes in and walks up to the bar. Donny turns to her and asks what he can do for her. She tells him she’s there to pick up a to-go order, so he takes her name and heads back to the kitchen to see how her food is coming along.

He returns a minute later and tells her that her food isn’t quite ready, but he’ll have it out soon. She says OK, and she begins to self-consciously bide her time.

There are tables all around her, but she doesn’t want to take one of those, and there are bar stools open in front of her, but she doesn’t take one of those; so, she’s just kind of standing there in the middle of everything waiting, maybe pretending to watch the TV, probably self-conscious in that way we sometimes get when we’re in such a situation.

Now, Dave and I are young dudes, and we’re hounds, and this is a fine looking lady, seemingly classy and decently well-off from her carriage and her dress, so he and I aren’t going to miss a shot. Besides, it’s the restaurant where we work, and it seems ambassadorial enough to offer to get her a drink. (We would have done so ourselves, had either of us been behind the bar, but not Donny; Donny’s way past that point of offering any service that isn’t required.)

So, we tell her she should let us buy her a drink while she waits. She declines respectfully, “Oh no, I couldn’t” and all like that. But we say things like “Come on, have a drink; we work here; it’s the least we can do.”

Finally and agreeably enough, she say’s “OK, that’s cool; you can get me a drink.”

Dave says “Hey, Donny, we’ve talked this young lady into having a drink with us.”

Donny turns his attention from whatever he was not doing, and just as pleasantly as anybody he says, “OK, what can I get you?”

She thinks about it for a few seconds. “Hmm, I don’t know; just give me a Strawberry Daiquiri.”

And we’re both over there thinking like “Yeah, a strawberry daiquiri, get her a strawberry daiquiri.”

Donny, however, isn’t as pleased with her decision as we are, and that dude does exactly this: He turns sideways, stops, puts his hands on his hips, and, with beaten exasperation, completely, he says “Fuck.” He shakes his head as if to say, ‘Well, boy, you’ve come around to a point where this is your lot in life, so you’d better go about getting that lady a Strawberry Daiquiri,” and he says “I don’t know how much more of this shit I can take.”

That dude did exactly that.

So, this lady looks at us with a face that says, ‘Oh, my gosh, what the heck is that all about,’ and we’re like shrugging our shoulders and giving her looks to tell her that we don’t know; we’ve never seen him–or anyone, for that matter–act that way and we can’t fathom that we’re seeing it right then.

And ain’t that crazy. Another crazy aspect of that whole deal is this: That’s about all I remember; the man’s sheer rudeness pretty much stopped time for me. I’m sure he got her a Strawberry Daiquiri, and I’m sure it was on our check when we paid it later. I do have a faint recollection of her standing beside our table and passing a little time while she waited for her order, but it is faint at best.

I guess there’s a lesson to be taken from that, and that is this: Sheer unabashed and inconsiderate rudeness is such a powerfully negative force that it blots out everything around it. I hope none of us get reminded of that as we go about our lives today.

Much love and warm thoughts for a stellar day, free of rude people.

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