Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Mr. Funt, can I have an MPEG of the whole spectacle?
When I first saw them through the front window, clambering from an oversized SUV, a red flag was not only raised, it was shaken with the vigor of a high school pompom.
A group composed of two men and a woman, all appearing to be about sixty, looked at the building in puzzlement and began moving slowly toward the unmarked former door that lies between the two that actually are meant to be opened.
I’ll not bore you with an inferior version of Waiter Rant, but to observe body language while watching these three enter the pub was to acknowledge that a challenge was coming, and as opposed to times in the past, I’ve become philosophical when it comes to the tough cases. The dictates of karmic redistribution demand that in such circumstances, one must be even nicer and more helpful even if all the signs are pointing to potential failure, and so in deference to their age and obvious confusion, I smiled as widely as possible.
It didn’t help that before the newcomers took their seats in the Red Room, the taller of the two men was heard to whisper, “they do have Miller Lite, right?” The other man chortled. As I finished pouring Terry’s beer and prepared to come from behind the bar and greet them, I heard this: “That’s Ho Chi Minh up there.”
Fine, except there is no picture of the Vietnamese leader on the Red Room Wall.
The woman mercifully did most of the talking at first, expressing interest in the beers brewed on site, but the men quickly chimed in with their personal concerns.
“You do have Miller Lite, don’t you?”
"The beer’s good and cold, isn’t it?”
“No,” I answered, “we don’t carry that particular brand, and the beer is served at pub temperature, just the way it should be.”
One of them shrugged. "You're the expert," he said -- unconvincingly.
After so many years, questions like these usually have me scanning the room for a hidden camera and imagining that the ghost of Allen Funt is ready to expose my subsequent temper tantrum on the Internet, and so I continued smiling and explaining the available choices, and eventually the woman asked for three half-pints of Community Dark – in keeping with the ironclad requirement voiced by the men that they be given the lightest beer possible, even if it turned out to be dark in color.
Even though I strongly suspected that the effort would be wasted, I brought the round of beers and remarked to them that I’d be back with several 4-oz samples of the other beers they were missing. In the five minutes it took to grab a tray and create an impromptu NABC sampler, the men both drank half their beers and the woman most of hers, and the three were wandering around the room. I overheard someone at the bar say to one of them, “well … okay, but if you don’t like the beer, the food’s good.”
The trio reconvened at the table to greet the sampler, and the woman was nice enough to compliment my scrawled Sharpie descriptions. Back behind the bar, I could hear just about every word as the men laughed, and one said to the other, “that’s those microbrewed beers for you.” It emerged that the whole reason for coming was for one to illustrate to the other -- perhaps in the form of a bet -- just how objectionable microbrews can be.
As the louder of the two shuffled to the bar to pay, still giggling at his cleverness, he remarked that it’s quite hard learning to like new things when you get to be older and set in one's ways. He didn’t reckon on the presence of George, one of our regular afternoon customers (he’s almost 80), who snorted back: “That isn’t true. I’ve been coming here since 1990, and I don’t drink any Budweiser or Miller any more – just good beer.”
The people returned to their SUV.
Did I mention that there was no tip?
And that the lady drank her beer and seemed to like it, even as her two male friends made fun of what they couldn’t understand?
Turning the other cheek? Easier, but still no picnic.