Throughout my writing of this column over the past nearly two years, I’ve used many recurring themes and worn many different hats. Some examples are: adoring father, perpetual adolescent, and recovering jackass. It seems that the most popular amongst them however is the aging, curmudgeonly, ranting bartender who occasionally rears his ugly head to spew forth some helpful diatribes at you. I’d be lying if I said that these aren’t the most fun to write. They’re also the ones that I can get away with a little more lack of structure because they are just bitter rants that hop from one poignant observation to the next. Unfortunately for you guys, I write exactly like I speak.

Although ‘angry bartender’ is probably the most popular recurring character, I tend to stray from it for periods of time for a multitude of reasons. One is that I don’t want to mistakenly convey to you all that I’m as miserable a person as I portray myself to be. Writing constant negativity, even with a humorous twist to it might eventually lead you all to believe that I’m unhappy, or that I hate what I do. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, I’m probably the happiest guy you know. My home life is amazing, and despite what you’ve read, or are about to read, I absolutely love what I do for a living. And it’s good that I love being a bartender, because I’ve developed no other marketable skills so far.

The good news is that as long as I do what I do, and still have the capacity to remember many years worth of it, this bitter bartender well will NEVER run dry. So sit down, strap in, and enjoy another week’s worth of observations through my eyes from BEHIND the bar. It’s a little bit of an advice column providing you with some ‘helpful hints’, and some ‘do’s and don’ts’ from my standpoint on how to behave when out in a bar, or any other public setting for that matter. Follow along; some of these things might make you a better person. Just know in advance, that I have no malicious intent. This is nothing more than a humorous take on what I see every night. I hope you enjoy.

I’ve mentioned previously that the summer of 2013 is a little, let’s just say – OFF. There has been a lot of unwanted intervention from Mother Nature, the economy, and some other outside forces; none of which I have any control over. As much as it irritates me, I have to play the hand I’m dealt, and hope for the best. Trust me when I say, that there are often times that I wish I had been lobotomized, and just plain didn’t know any better about the things that go on around me. It would make this all a lot more palatable. But, sadly, my lifestyle prior to now has only rendered me prematurely embalmed, not lobotomized.

Looking back on my 31-year restaurant career, a large portion of which was ‘fine dining’, I never dreamt that on the tail end of that stretch, I’d get excited when a good-sized group comes in, and all of them have SLEEVES. It’s a sad state of affairs when THAT is how I am forced to gauge my night. I think an ever growing portion of society has taken the “right to bare arms”, not only too far, but completely WRONG! Dude, if you have a locked up gun at home to protect your family, freaking fine! But cover up your gnarly pits so I can salvage the evening for the last person visiting this town who cannot only properly PRONOUNCE foie gras, but knows what it is and is willing to order it and appreciate it. I’m not strolling into your section at the Home Depot dressed as the Mardi Gras Queen while you’re working messing with your livelihood, so don’t mess with mine. Please!

I don’t shop very often for clothes for myself, but do they even still make shirts with sleeves? If they do, I don’t see much evidence of it any more. Oh how I long for the days when the tank top was a garment never worn outside of the gym, or off the beach. Now, at least in my little corner of the world, it’s considered ‘evening wear”. And the end of the last paragraph has helped me segway to my next point. How is it that my two-year-old has firmly established that she won’t get what she wants without using the words “please” and “thank you” but to anyone between the ages of 16 and 80, those words have become OBSOLETE?

It’s a pathetically sad state of affairs when I hear the words please, or thank you and instinctively assume: wow, this person must be a bartender somewhere. That’s what it’s come to. I’ll now leave that point and move on because I could jump on my soap box and write for weeks about how manners and courtesy have disappeared.

Now I haven’t dined in many of your homes, but when you drink a glass of water at home, does it have a lemon and a straw in it? I’m guessing probably not. So why then do you give me that look as if you are sinking in quick sand, and I am the only person witnessing this and I happen to be holding a large tree limb, if you get a glass of water that is not already accessorized with these 2 items? They ask me for a glass of water while taking up valuable time of mine, and prime real estate at the bar. Then have the audacity to stare at their free beverage receptacle as if they have absolutely NO idea how they could possibly get the contents of that glass inside of their face without the aid of a lemon wedge, and a straw.

Every once in awhile, I like to throw out a little public service announcement to our readers, and subsequent bar customers, so I’m going to gear these next two towards our wonderful friends from the great state of Pennsylvania. Look, we love you guys, we count on you guys; we even accept the fact that some of you may not get out much. BUT, once you’ve left the boundaries, you have to accept that there really is life outside of PA.

For example, once you have exited the Quaker State, walking into a bar and simply saying: “I’ll have a lager”, does not necessarily ensure that you will be receiving a Yeungling. Once outside of the region where people still actually believe that Terry Bradshaw was a great quarterback, you may find that there are other “lagers” out there, and if you travel far enough, there are even people who have never heard of Yeungling. I know, it’s a harsh reality to accept, and this is not how I wanted you to find out. But I felt it my duty to let you know and spare you from one day getting that look from another bartender. That head cocked to the side, befuddled look like a dog hearing a fart for the first time. You may thank me later.

And from another region of the same state, here are some helpful hints. This one is for our friends from the greater Philadelphia metropolitan region. When you venture outside of that area, it is no longer acceptable behavior to walk into a crowded restaurant or bar and demand that the Eagles, Phillies, or Flyers be put on whatever TV is pointing in the direction that you decide to sit. You come bounding up to the bar upon entering the establishment, before being greeted or making a purchase, stand right behind all of the people happily and comfortably enjoying their meals, drinks, and whatever they (who have been here much longer than you) are viewing on the television. Then you throw both arms up in the air, look at me angrily and ask with complete shock, “where’s the Philly game?”

You ask this in a manner as if I was sitting in YOUR living room and you had just returned from a trip to the bathroom to discover that I had changed the channel. Then you have the audacity to get mad at me if I give you an answer like, “I believe they’re in St. Louis tonight”. I’ve been doing this a really long time, and I’ve concluded that with the possible singular exception of soccer fans in other countries, no one else, from anywhere else does this!

With that, I’ll wrap it up for the week. I hope this was helpful. Thanks for playing along.

Until next week,

Syd Nichols