Gentlemen Shake Hands.

And we're back.

Allow me to rant, briefly.

For those of you that don't know, I work in a restaurant as a bartender.

As a Bartender I'm proud of three things:

1) I know the Abalama law as it applies to any liquor-serving establishment.
2) I can pour an 1.25 oz shot, or a 2 oz shot, freehand, consistently.
3) I can make a damn fine martini.

There are lots of things that I still have to learn as a bartender. I need to get faster. I need to improve my knowledge of drink lingo and recipes. I need to be more pro-active in my transactions with the customer, etc. But those three things above are things I am proud of, and I can prove to anyone willing to pay attention.

Tonight I had a girl who has worked as a bartender/waitress for years tell me that I couldn't fit 2 0z. of liquid and ice in my rocks glasses. I measured her a 2 oz. shot on the spot and proved her wrong.

But that's not what I'm ranting about.

Where was I?

Oh yes.

First I will quote, in its entirety, Section II, paragraph 4 of Montgomery City ORDINANCE NO. 23-2004(PDF) (ORDINANCE REGULATING SMOKING IN FOOD AND BEVERAGE ESTABLISHMENTS REQUIRING THE DESIGNATION AS SMOKING OR NON-SMOKING.) which went into effect on the first of January, 2005:

"For establishments designated as SMOKING, smoking by patrons shall be allowed throughout all enclosed areas generally occupied by patrons. No person under 18 years of age shall be admitted on the premises of an establishment designated as SMOKING as a patron or employee, and it shall be unlawful for the owner, business agent, manager or other person having control of any such establishment to admit any minor under 18 years of age to the premises as a patron or employee."

Now, allow me to speak briefly about the restaurant where I work. We have two completely seperate rooms, with seperate HVAC units, a full wall, and self-closing doors seperating our 'Bar Section' and our 'restaurant section'. We are entirely non-smoking during lunch. At 3PM each day, after lunch is finished, we close the doors between the two sections and operate the bar-side of the restaurant under a seperate, secondary business license, which allows it to be a smoking establishment that is an entirely seperate legal entity from the restaurant itself.

Under ordinance 23-2004, quoted above, this means that no person under the age of 18 may set foot in the bar side of the restaraunt during dinner hours. Period. The first violation of the ordinance by us would result in a $100 fine. Any second violation occuring with 24 months results in a $500 fine.

Tonight a group of about 6 or 8 people entered the restaurant and asked a waitress to be seated on the smoking side. The group included one boy in his early teens, probably 14 or 15. They were told by the waitress that they couldn't be seated in that section since their party included a minor.

All of this happened without my knowledge. I was asked by the waitress, after a man in the party got insistent, to come speak to them. At the time my manager was in the deep freezer, and I didn't know where he was, so I went to talk to the party.

I walked up to the man making the most noise and introduced myself, extending my hand, using my full name, and explaining that I was the bartender and asking how I could help them.

The man refused to shake my hand, and proceeded, with great bluster but very poor dignity to insist that he and his party be seated in the bar area. I turned him down, as politely as I could, and after a great deal more bluster on his part, as well as some digs at our level of business and mention that we were "turning away a 250 dollar ticket" he rounded up his party and they left. During this time I was told several times that there "was no such law" (It's not a law, it's a city ordinance) and that I "didn't know what I was talking about" (My Owner/Manager was on the committee that drafted the ordinance and I have read it personally, thank you).

They seemed like nice people. He was frustrated because it was late, and he had wanted to treat his son and family to a nice dinner, and have a smoke, and he was being turned away. Certainly I can empathize with his frustration. However, he was also completely ignorant of the ordinance, and instead of accepting information about it, he denied it's existence and insisted loudly that he was a lawyer and I was wrong.

This is not a time that I will plead for people to act with more tact or humility in the future. People will always be tactless assholes when they want to be. That's humanity. I've met very few who don't qualify for that title on some level at least once in a while.

But that is never, ever an excuse to turn down a chance for a civilized handshake. This is America*, and even during conflict, Gentlemen shake hands.

That, more than any other part of the interaction with him, irked me. Simply put, it is incredibly poor manners to refuse a handshake offered by anyone, let alone someone who has gone out of his way to speak to you and attempt to resolve a grievance you are expressing. It is undignified and poor form.

*I very much want to insert a "dammit" at this point.

Saturday, January 22, 2005


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