As the afternoon went on, this was going well. One of the biggest difficulties in the restaurant business is getting someone else to take over. It can be like passing a stick in a relay race. Too much too soon and feels compelled, too little too late and you risk dropping everything. The main difference is that track and field athletes rarely take to social media to complain. Maybe that’s why some customers might miss lunch, but most of the staff don’t.
Which made the couple who arrived in the early afternoon not only my first couple but also my first couple of the day. They weren’t much different from the hundreds who sat in front of me on several different sunny days. baseball caps? check. Her designer yoga pants, her designer cargo shorts? Check, check. Expensive shirts for both? Double check.
“What will happen?” I asked. Thin and old-fashioned Margarita later, the couple settled.
By the way, changing the old-fashioned whiskey and bitter, or the proportions of tequila and soda into a skinny margarita, doesn’t change the overriding fact that they are two very popular drinks. We’re not unique by arranging them this way, we’re just more of the same.
“We’re new to the area,” she said, her long platinum blonde hair pulled through the adjusting hole on the back of her hat.
Some people are easier to get on with than others, which is certainly welcome in an industry where the act of sharing is crucial.
Her scruffy, half-shaven companion nodded in agreement.
I said “that’s nice”. “welcome.”
“Do you get many celebrities here?” She asked.
Well, that didn’t take long. Usually, people wind through the bush for a while before they get to a question like that.
“It’s Marin County,” I said.
“We heard Lady Gaga was hanging out,” said Mr. Scruffy.
“I heard that too,” I replied.
“Have you seen her?” she asked, her intricately manicured eyebrows clearly arched above her hazel eyes.
“You know, I wouldn’t recognize her if I did. I’m in the era when I watched the Grammys, and not only did I know the artists, I didn’t even know the presenters.”
They both laughed. I wasn’t sure about me or me, but at least they were laughing.
What followed was a conversation about the Gratefull Dead, Huey Lewis, local bars, celebrities, and of course, Lady Gaga. She shared a story with them about a famous Uber musician who once sat in a bar. I had pretended I didn’t know who he was, until he actually introduced himself by his real name.
I said, “What an unusual name,” and I didn’t even hesitate.
Later, when he asked me to make him a margarita with my favorite tequila, I arrived, grabbed a bottle, looked at it, and made it back.
“What’s wrong with that?” Asked.
“Well, this bottle doesn’t have enough tequila to make a margarita,” I said, “and I don’t feel like running downstairs to get more.”
The look on his face clearly told me that he was not used to such honesty. In its industry and on the level of its fame, people will run all over town to get the exact color of the hard candy they prefer, just because. He certainly wasn’t used to someone saying they didn’t feel like doing something for them. To his credit, he seemed to appreciate it.
I ended that story by telling the young couple that I had never before understood that I knew exactly who he was. I was tempted to say something at the end, but I didn’t. I told them, “Let him think he’s just another guy sitting in a bar, even if it’s just for one night.” They seemed to appreciate it.
When they got up to leave, I stood up and somehow looked shorter than I expected.
“Next time,” I said, “put on a meat dress.”
She looked at me and shook her head coquettishly.
“Maybe next time I will,” she said and laughed.
Later, I searched for a picture of Lady Gaga. Let’s just say three things may have just happened.
First: Lady Gaga sat in the bar and I didn’t recognize her. Second: Lady Gaga sat in the pub, now not sure if I recognized her. Or three: Mike and Stephanie – new in town – aren’t quite sure what to make of that bartender telling stories on the street.
Jeff Burkhart is the author of Twenty Years Behind Bars: The Spirited Adventures of a Real Bartender, Vol. I and II, Barfly Podcast host on iTunes and award-winning waiter at a local restaurant. Follow him at jeffburkhart.net and contact him at [email protected]