Last night my husband and I went to a new restaurant that opened last week. We sat at the bar to have a drink and a few appetizers. While not a franchise, they do have several locations in neighboring states. We had eaten at one of them on a recent vacation, and we loved the food and the atmosphere. The restaurant serves Southern food featuring local ingredients, along with specialty drinks and a selection of local craft beers. As the opening of this new location was highly anticipated and was drawing big crowds, the owners had the foresight to send staff from their other locations to train the new staff.
There were three bartenders behind the bar. Two of them were moderately busy, while our bartender was a whirlwind of activity as he was making the drinks for the dining area as well. In chatting with him as he made drinks we learned that he had several years of experience tending bar at other restaurants. He was attentive and personable, even as the drink orders were coming in nonstop.
I am a people watcher by nature, and I observed the other two bartenders did not jump in to help him when they were caught up. I also noticed a woman standing by the corner of the bar watching him intently. It was apparent she was one of the staff brought in from another location to help with training. Great, except that I found her method of “training” to be off-putting. She watched his every move, and her facial expressions and head shaking were speaking volumes. She pointed out more than once that he had either mixed a drink wrong, filled the wine glasses to an improper level, or used the wrong garnish. When she was not speaking she was either curling her lip up, squinting at him and the drinks, or shaking her head as if in disbelief. When she was talking she was not using her library voice, and I could hear her clearly from several feet away. From where I sat she appeared to take great delight in pointing out his mistakes, and it came across that she was targeting him. She did not once check on the either two bartenders.
I found myself getting upset on this bartender’s behalf. To his credit he kept his wits, and his demeanor did not change. If he was bothered by her constant picking he kept it hidden well. The patron to my left at the bar must have noticed it as well, because he remarked to the woman that she must be the manager. She said that she was there to oversee the bar and make sure things were being done properly. This is where I inserted myself. In my defense, I did try to keep it light. I stated something to the effect that it was obvious she was training, but she might want to cut him a bit of slack. (I promise, I was smiling, and there was no “tone” in my voice). I pointed out that his service was great, that he had not stopped hustling since his shift began, and that we could hear her criticism. She gave me what I can only describe as a flippant response along the lines that each drink had to be perfect, and they had been far busier than this. I was dismissed.
I want you to imagine the two little Karens, one on each shoulder, each one determined to force the next move. Evil former Karen wanted to point out, quite loudly, that even though she was acting in a training position the woman was still representing the restaurant. Perhaps she should be more aware of her facial expressions and the volume of her voice. If she needed to make corrections could she not have done so by leaning in and whispering to him? Could she not keep a smile on her face as there were numerous patrons within sight and hearing distance? Would it be outside of reasonable thinking that she might offer the bartender some words of praise and encouragement? Why was she not checking any of the drinks the other two bartenders were serving? Present day
good less evil Karen realized that she probably should have either kept her thoughts to herself or addressed them privately to management. The better version of me won out. We paid the bill (adding a generous tip), thanked our bartender, and left.
I thought about this scenario last night and again today. I would guess that the trainer was left with a less than favorable impression of me. I was definitely not pleased with her. Here’s the rub, though…what if we were both wrong? What if we saw in one another something different than we see in ourselves? What if my perception of her was not how she would choose to be seen? She had been brought down by the owners so she must be good at her job, right? If she could review the situation from my angle would she want to correct her behavior? What if my outburst, polite though I tried to be, caused her to have misconceptions about me? Instead of being supportive of the bartender did I come across as being a difficult customer? I would be devastated to think so, because I go out of my way to be pleasant and friendly to servers and salespersons. I have been in the service industry, and I know the abuse they sometimes endure.
I find myself wondering how often what we think we see in people is in fact something else entirely. I should know better than to judge by my perceptions alone. I have been the victim of this myself. I have what is now commonly referred to as “Resting Bitch Face”. (For years it was known as looking unapproachable or intimidating, but now we have a name!) The point being that I learned from people only after establishing friendships with them that they were initially afraid to strike up a conversation with me. All due to the look on my face. A look that I was wholly unaware of having to begin with. I now make a concentrated effort to smile when people look my way, and I tend to start speaking first to let them know the door is open.
I am glad that I feel the need to analyze what happened. I am thankful that I have opened my eyes to the fact that I may need to give someone the benefit of the doubt more often. Iknow that I try not make snap judgements of people as I used to. I am also proud, though, that I do not sit back idly watching someone being mistreated. I like knowing that if I saw a customer being rude to that same trainer I would call him out in the same manner. I love that life will present me with opportunities to be a better person. I hope that the bartender did an internal fist pump as I defended his honor.
I am sure that I could have reacted in a different, and a better, manner. What would you suggest I might have done in this situation? Do you feel there was a time when you were misunderstood or someone else’s perception of you was not accurate?