So far, the summer of 2013 has not been the most memorable of my 25 or so spent in Ocean City. By that, I mean it hasn’t been one of my more lucrative summers due to multiple forces beyond my control, not the least of which has been the weather. But while this season has lacked financial gain, it’s more than made up for it in what I like to call: “fodder for the Swill”. So, as promised, this week will just be a collection of my observations from behind the bar. For the next few minutes, you’ll be viewing the resort town bar business through my eyes. These are things that I’ve seen, or heard, or said, or continue to be awed and annoyed by. Some of these may hit a little close to home with some of you. If that’s the case, don’t take it too personal and start hating on me. Just thank me for the inside information and correct the problem in the future.

Let me first start by thanking the unofficial, unwitting, and fictitious sponsors of the summer of 2013: White Zinfandel, and Corona Light. If you are in my line of work, then that last sentence just spoke volumes to you. If not, you’ll figure it out over the next few paragraphs.

If the first words you ever say to me upon our first encounter are, “So, can you make a good Mojito?” then our relationship is already established and there’s NO bouncing back from that. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still be cordial and professional but your opener was wrong on so many different levels. First, you insult me by questioning my ability to perform the job that I’m clearly here to do. Then, you follow it up by ordering the drink I hate the most! Nobody drank a Mojito outside of Cuba and Miami for like 60 freakin years until somebody mentioned it on Oprah or something. Every time I make one, I want to exhume Ernest Hemingway’s remains, sprinkle them with mint leaves and simple syrup, and ritualistically stomp them while burning a copy of Old Man and the Sea and screaming “Muddle this!!” at the top of my lungs. Maybe that’s a little extreme to most of you, but I’m not a big fan. I should start just answering the initial question with “no”. Because I’m pretty sure the one I’m about to make you will pale in comparison to the ones that ‘Skip’ always makes you at the Applebees in Erie. Any bartender who tells you they love to make Mojitos has been doing it for less than six months and still watches Cocktail at least once a week.

Anyone who stops at the host station on their way IN to the restaurant or bar and grabs a whole fistful of mints and immediately proceeds to chow them all down before sitting, being greeted, or spending a nickel, may as well have just carried a giant red flag through the door with you because THAT particular behavior is on the top 10 list. You’re also the same person who’s going to leave a heaping pile of the spent wrappers on the bar before I’ve even served you a drink. And by the way, that bev nap I set on the bar in front of you was a place for me to set your beverage. It wasn’t a bed for your smart phone with the Bon Jovi ringtone set way too loud. It wasn’t a cleaning rag for your cheesy welder’s mask looking shades. And it damn sure wasn’t for you to blow your nose in and toss back down on the bar for me to have to pick up and throw away.

When you go outside to take one of your 17 minute smoke breaks, don’t leave that stupid phone on the bar as collateral. The only time it rings is when you are away from it, and I will not hesitate to turn off that God-awful ringer. I know that keeping track of a Blackberry while trying to perform the daunting task of smoking a cig while making sure not to ash in your massive tuft of fully exposed salt and pepper chest hair hence potentially causing a brush fire is a lot to ask. But I’d much rather you took your little trinket out with you than leave it behind to prove to me that you will be back in to pay for your “Lager”, and side of fries. I feel much better having gotten that off my chest, thank you.

And now for a fun exchange that happened to me once. It doesn’t matter where, or when, just that it was me serving a couple. It was a Friday night, somewhere between 10:00 and 11:00pm, and somewhere between 1988 and now. A relatively attractive couple in their early to mid 50’s came in at sat down presumably to listen to the great Jazz band that was playing. And when I say ‘relatively attractive,’ I mean that she was. He had kind of a Gomez Adams thing going. They were dressed up for this area, and clearly had been out for a night on the town. They had already dined elsewhere, and were here for cocktails and maybe dancing.

I greeted them with the same friendly smile and salutation I’ve been using since the Reagan administration. She was polite and receptive, while he was smug, rude, and pedantic right out of the gate. I have to admit though, that I secretly love that! He made it abundantly clear to me right up front that he deemed me beneath him and not very bright because of what I do. So now, it’s on! I’m going to be even MORE polite and professional than usual and see if this D.B. continues to treat me like a mere serving boy , or snaps out of it and treats me like a human. I knew where it was heading, but it’s more sporting of me to give him the benefit of the doubt. The initial conversation went thusly:

ME: Hi! How are you folks doing tonight?

HER: Fine thanks.

HIM: Whipped cream vodka and ginger ale!

ME: (looking directly at her as if I hadn’t heard him) What can I get for you?

HER: A glass of Cabernet please.

At this point, I kind of hoped for her sake that this was a first and more than likely LAST date as the result of a set up by mutual friends. Sadly though, I got the impression she had been married to this tool for many years and was just so used to compensating for his lack of persona that it strengthened hers. Did you all take note by the way of what he ordered to drink?

I went and quickly made their drinks that I’ve done once or twice over the past few decades, and returned with a smile and their beverages. I placed the two beverages in front of their respective new owners, smiled and stepped away.

ME: Here you are, enjoy.

HER: Thank you.

HIM: (He said nothing; he just held the glass up high as if to either count the number of ice cubes, or check to see if his cute lil drink were the right color.)

I fought every instinct in my body, as this guy looked at me with one raised eye brow before he took the first sip of his WHIPPED CREAM flavored vodka and ginger, which, by the way, he drank through a straw. Not even a regular sized straw, but the little cocktail stirrer. Could he possibly make this any easier on me?!

A little while later I noticed he was just about finished with his first drink so I approached and asked,

“Can I get you another?”

To which he replied, “Yeah! And make it stronger this time!”

I should point out here, that at absolutely no point throughout the course of the evening did he ever once use the words “please”, or “thank you”. If you’ve read anything I’ve ever written, then you pretty much know my stance on that issue. So I gave him a “stiffer” pour on his second drink as requested and resisted the urge to giggle like Renfield as I set it before him. Again, he ignored me; she thanked me for him. He continued to sip through a tiny little straw, a drink not meant to be consumed by anyone who is not still actively paying sorority dues. When it came time for round three after this dude just scowling at me as he “sipped” his drink, the following conversation ensued:

ME: Can I get you another sir?

HIM: YEAH! And put some f@#$%n vodka in it this time!

Well, now everything has changed. Protocol has been breached, and he has jumped the foul language barrier. One F-Bomb and the compassion in me has clocked out for the day. “Sugar Daddy” is about to get a lesson. I looked him square in the eye with a smile on my face….

ME: OK sir, I’ll do my best. But if you’d like, we also serve MEN’S drinks here as well. I can get you one of those.

With that, his lovely bride made a quick 90-degree angle turn and nearly launched her wine from her nose. I stared defiantly into his face without ever losing my trademark smile waiting for his response and he stared blankly and defeated at me, and timidly ordered a Jack and Coke.

Ultimately, he paid the check, and she tipped (thankfully) and she threw in a wink on the way out, as if to say, “thanks, he needed that.”

That was just a glimpse at the world through my eyes. Thanks for playing along! I hope you enjoyed it.

Until next week,

Syd Nichols