Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Get To Know Them

I used to go drinking with an alcoholic. OK, truth be told a. this guy hadn't said that he was, though it was, I think, clear that he had a problem, and b. he was not necessarily the only alcoholic that I have in all probability had drinks with. Let's start again, there was this one heavy drinking dude with whom I used to go to bars, also living rooms, stoops and the occasional rehearsal space. He was, at least when lubricated, much better at social activities than I. He was an old movie afficionado and had taken many pages from the books of the chivalrous ranks of the silver screen characters which gave him impeccable manners and a facility with getting-to-know-you conversation that I have simply never been able to master. As a result I found going out with him really comfortable and fun because he started all the scary conversations and I only had to participate when I was ready.

At this point I should maybe say that I am a small talk bumbler. I often plan out what I'm going to say far in advance, even if that thing is, "I would like a margarita, frozen with salt, please." Yes, even when I'm talking to you. No, I'm not kidding. Almost everyone who blogs has probably had an experience in life and then on the way home begun to write up the post in her mind. Long before blogging was a gleam in an MIT student's eye I would do the equivalent of drafting the post in my head when on my way to meet people. I still do it. Yes, even with you. No, I don't find you scary but I get anxious about having something to say and having it be the right thing so I stockpile. It's like notecards, but in my head. So when I walk into your house and I have some kind of "opening line" anecdote you can bet that I've been working on that for about 10 blocks. How'd I do? Does the punch line work or should I give it another pass?

Anyway, I did manage to see these encounters with my bar friend as a learning experience and I figured I'd pass along the lesson to you: learn the bartender's name.

Now that I've said that it sounds absurdly simple and logical and, I don't know, sane so probably you already know. It was a revelation, though, to awkward, pre-planned conversation girl that if you exchanged names with the bartender and had a minimal amount of civil conversation your night would progress more smoothly. We were given drinks, snacks, preferred seating and rarely lacked for attention. Plus we met a lot of lovely people who were working their asses off ankle deep in Corona on a Saturday night.

While I have continued to try and practice this tiny lesson in social grace I have never quite matched the instant camaraderie that my friend was able to muster. I may be a hopeless case.

What's the best lesson you've been taught about the social graces of ingestibles?

3 comments:

  1. Lessons from the consumer end, learned mostly from time spent hanging out in bars with my friend Dranem Leahcim (not really his real name).

    1. Do not argue politics with the bartender, particularly if he's a right-winger.

    2. If the waitress/bartender is cute and female, she DOES NOT want to share a shot of Jager with you. Especially if you're buying. (This may also be true if she's not cute, but we've never bothered testing this.)

    3. The bartender gives you "one on me" not out of pure altruism (it's not his hooch anyway) but in hopes that you will use the scratch you just saved on a proportionally larger tip. And you should take the hint.

    Lessons from the service provider end, learned from years in the catering industry.

    1. Why on earth would you yell at, or otherwise be mean to, someone who is going into another room to get you food and/or drink? Not wise, people. Think about it.

    2. The waitress DOES NOT want to share a shot of Jager with you and wouldn't even if she weren't subject to immediate dismissal by the bride for doing so.

    3. You are not nearly as charming as you think you are and you get even less so with each shot of Patron.

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  2. I'm teaching my girls, RIGHT NOW, that it's ALWAYS a good idea to be super-nice to wait people. Smile at them. ASK for your order. Say please and thank you. LOOK at them when you're talking to them, and don't treat them like second-class citizens. As a result, we get pretty decent service and we're remembered ("Hey! I remember YOU guys!!" and in a good way). It just makes the whole experience nicer for everyone...

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  3. Show a genuine interest in the person. For most people, I think, it makes them feel good/puts them at ease to talk when the listener truly wants to hear what they have to say. For example;
    "Hi! Thats a great rack you have there!"

    "Thanks! I I really like it too!"

    "Does it work well?

    "Yeah! It sits up there nicely, it's not to big and it gets the job done!"

    I'm talking about my kayak rack, ya pig! And yes, people really do ask me about it. It took me awhile to get used to strangers telling me I have a nice rack... It's cool though because they REALLY want to know about it. More often than not we end up talking about paddling places. Before I know it I have spent 10 min talking to a stranger in the parking lot of the market. Then it dawns on me that my ice cream is melting..

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