The drink ticket clacked out its printed output, barely audible over the holiday music although the holiday had come and passed, and immediately caused problems. It read: “Tequila, soda, chilled, up.”
“What does this mean?” asked my co-bartender.
“What does this mean?” I asked the server.
“That is what he said,” she replied.
The issue was two-fold. First, “up” means shaken with ice and then strained into a cocktail glass, and second, you never shake a drink with carbonated water because it loses its fizz almost immediately.
“He says he gets it here all the time,” the server added.
I looked at the server and the bartender and recognized that among the three of us, we’d worked every shift in the restaurant. Anybody who passed through those doors passed through us, so the likelihood that we had never heard of that drink was slim to none.
But there are still some people pining for “the customer is always right” restaurant business. This year’s holiday celebrations clearly demonstrated that. The holidays are still amateur hour, but thankfully, this year, instead of amateur hour on steroids, it was amateur hour on mute.
Technically speaking, we are smack in the middle of the 12 days of Christmas (even though it’s after New Year’s Eve), which means that a Dickensian Christmas/holiday carol might still be appropriate. With that in mind, let’s break down the 2021 holidays Dickens-style.
• The ghost of Jacob Marley:
Marley is Ebenezer Scrooge’s miserly partner who warns him to change his ways or risk wandering the spirit world draped in chains lamenting his choices. Apparently valuing money over people was a thing even in Victorian times. The impetus for Scrooge’s nighttime “ghostly” visits is that Scrooge doesn’t want to give Bob Cratchit, his clerk, Christmas Day off with pay. One hundred-eighty years later and not much has changed. Nobody in the restaurant business gets Christmas Day off, much less with pay. In fact, few people anywhere do. So, I ask you, are things getting better or are they getting worse?
• The ghost of Christmas past:
Remember a time when there were serious repercussions if somebody punched or pushed a flight attendant or service worker? Now it is a weekly occurrence. Where is the outrage that was directed Zsa Zsa Gabor’s way when she slapped a Beverly Hills police officer back in 1989 after being stopped for a routine traffic violation? Or the legal wrath directed toward Jim Morrison 20 years before that, when he drunkenly “interfered with a flight crew” on his way to see a Rolling Stones concert, and faced up to 10 years in prison for it? I don’t know what is happening these days, but it sure doesn’t seem to be getting better.
• The ghost of Christmas present:
According to the Associated Press, unemployment claims for the United States just dropped below 200,000 nationwide, down from 1.7 million in March of last year, which means that 1.5 million people are no longer getting benefits. Can we please stop hearing about how unemployment insurance is fueling the worker shortage? Every restaurant I know of is still looking for people. Clearly something else is going on. Maybe it’s that people just don’t want to work for people like Scrooge anymore. Just a thought.
• The ghost of Christmas future:
“People everywhere confuse what they read in newspapers with news,” journalist A.J. Liebling once wrote. And that is even more true today. Everything has become celebrity-oriented. Instead of Julia Child we now have Gordon Ramsay, instead of Walter Cronkite we have Tucker Carlson. Bravado and volume make up much of the news these days, and it’s embarrassing to watch. Instead of real stories about real things, it’s all clickbait. Social media sites have led many people into thinking that they are more important than everyone else. And once you think that, anything is possible.
However, there are still bright spots for the future. I applaud the man on that airplane who confronted the so-called “Delta Karen” and got slapped for it. (She got arrested.) We need more people like him.
Leaving me with these thoughts:
• “The only thing that we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history,” wrote German philosopher Georg Hegel.
• “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!” spoke the ghost of Jacob Marley, as written by Charles Dickens in “A Christmas Carol.”
• Saying “I come here all the time” rings hollow to those who are actually there all the time.
• Here’s hoping for a good new year. I think we could all use it right about now.
Jeff Burkhart is the author of “Twenty Years Behind Bars: The Spirited Adventures of a Real Bartender, Vol. I and II,” the host of the Barfly Podcast on iTunes and an award-winning bartender at a local restaurant. Follow him at jeffburkhart.net and contact him at [email protected]