Passing the Bar

How do you get a bartender’s attention in a crowded bar?

Deep in the snows of North Korea many years ago, a division of U.S. Marines, vastly outnumbered and almost surrounded, fell back toward safety. When asked about the retreat, a Marine officer reportedly snapped, "We're not retreating. We're advancing in the other direction."

The point is, of course, that no two people see the same thing in the same way. Strippers, for example, view men as hopeless morons oozing wads of cash. Men see strippers as potential dating material. It's as if people on opposite ends of a transaction come from different worlds--Mars, say, or Venus. This week's burning question seeks to ease discord of far greater importance than war or sex or the sexes: How do you get a bartender's attention in a crowded bar?

Bartenders and barflies answer this question quite differently. Bartenders universally dislike loud, brutish behavior. "Smartass will get you nowhere," asserts Megan Dennison, bartender at The Old Monk. Dennison and her compatriots at The Old Monk actually keep a "pet-peeve book," filled with annoying phrases shouted by patrons in a feeble attempt to order. "We've been called 'chief,' 'boss,' 'hoss,' 'big bandit,' and 'my man,'" says Dennison. Big bandit? "Just raise your hand," suggests Cool River bartender Jack Freysinger. "You risk pissing off the bartender by yelling or tapping your glass." All bartenders, in fact, suggest a subtle wave of the hand. "First chance I get, I'm coming to that person," Freysinger says. Cool River doesn't really attract the big bandit crowd. "Shouting gets on your nerves," adds Ian Green, bartender at The Londoner in Addison. "When we're really busy there's no way the bartender will know who's next. Just relax, we'll get to you."

Patrons, however, show little appreciation of their bartenders' feelings. A gentleman identifying himself as "Chizmo" prefers what he calls the "dead soldier" approach: laying the empty bottle on its side "and looking pointedly forlorn." Jeff Molnar confesses utter cluelessness. "I don't know how you do it," he says. "When I walk up to a bar I feel like everyone knows something I don't." Perhaps he should try the big bandit thing.

Most patron suggestions require genetic modification, attention to fashion, or silicon implants. Richard Copeland, for example, says that catching a bartender's attention is a simple, two-step process: "First, grow to at least 6 feet tall and second, raise your hand about head high. He'll notice." Either that or he'll mutter something in German.

Other suggestions exclude just under half the population, give or take 10 percent. "Having breasts helps," says Jennifer Ring. "Flirt, and wear low-cut shirts," suggests Stefani Jennings. "Then they remember your name." (Of course, if you happen to be a hairy-chested man in a kicker bar, you may find your name inscribed on a tombstone somewhere.) For Jennings, however, her tactics routinely turn $30 bar tabs into $10 pittances.

So in answer to this week's burning question, just bend over and show a little cleavage. Otherwise, raise your hand and be patient. And complain about the double standard.

 
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