The Path of the Bartender: How Very Dare You?June 15, 2010 By: Gary Regan
There are times when I find myself getting really angry. Know what I mean?
Why the hell does that idiot have to keep telling me about the ball game? He knows damned well that I couldn't give a damn about sports, but he just keeps droning on and on. Makes me want to slap him.
Who the heck does that woman think she is? I asked her a simple question about her drink, and she gets right in my face. Jeez, lay off wudja, lady? I got enough to deal with.
That guy treats me like I'm his personal bloody servant, and he never damned well tips more than five bleeding percent. He makes me so damned mad.
We all get upset from time to time, even if we know, intellectually, that we'd be far better off if we just shrugged our shoulders, raised our eyebrows, smiled a little, and went on our merry way. It's part of the human condition.
As bartenders, though, if we can do our best not to get upset, we'll be doing ourselves, our bosses, and our customers, a huge favor. Remember that the bartender is the one person in the bar that everyone counts on. If we lose it, if we fail to understand what's going down, if we get irrational, or out of control in any way, shape, or form, then we're not doing our job properly.
One way to stave off anger is to try to understand what anger is. Anger is always based on fear.
Deep down, he guy who bores me by insisting on talking about sports, makes me afraid that nobody ever listens to me. The woman who got in my face when I asked her a question makes me afraid that people think I'm stupid. And the guy who treats me as though I'm his servant makes me afraid that people think that I'm not as good as they are. Once we understand that anger is based on fear it becomes far easier to let it subside.
I know damned well that people listen to me, for instance, so the guy who goes on about sports turns out to be just another lonely soul with nobody to talk to, and sports is the only thing he knows much about. He's afraid of being on his own, and I'm the only guy around he can talk to. If I give him a break, and perhaps ask him some questions about sports, I'll be making him feel good about himself, and that can't be a bad thing, right?
The woman who got in my face when I asked her a simple question is, herself, afraid. She's afraid that she doesn't make herself understood. That's why she bit my head off. When she does this, if I apologize for not understanding what she wanted. If I make it sound like it's my fault, she won't feel bad about herself, and she probably won't yell at me.
And the guy who treats me like I'm his servant is scared stiff that people will discover just how insecure he is about himself. If I give him a break, and play Jeeves to his Wooster, there's a good chance that he'll appreciate the fact that I make him look good in front of the other customers. Whatever he does, though, it won't kill me to play along.
All this anger, then, from both sides of the mahogany, has been based on fear. And as bartenders, we have the power to make it all go away, just by showing a little love and understanding. One jigger at a time, then, we can make this world a better place. What a great way to use the power that our customers give us, huh?