Since I tend not to go negative when writing (how convenient it is the places that aren't very good usually crash and burn--take a recent example of a place that specialized in one dish of one cuisine and then didn't make that very well), and I want to today, let's say the place a group of us chose to celebrate someone's birthday last evening is called, oh, Mike Harkey*. Thursday night, 10 pm, perhaps a calm before the long weekend storm as this establishment isn't very crowded when we show up--one large group of maybe a barely drunken dozen just finishing up, a table of two, and the four of us. For awhile it's just the four of us, till a lone woman, brave soul, walks in and sips her libation at the bar.
Setting this scene in important, as this is a tale of service gone, well, wrong isn't even the correct word, but then again, neither is service. There are 3 employees this evening, so for a good chunk of it, the employee-to-customer ratio nears 1-1, but while this is one of the few businesses helping to get Obama re-elected in 2012, that doesn't seem to matter. We get our drinks pretty quickly, but the water we ask for doesn't show up. Generally you can just ask the server for it when she checks in to see how the drinks are, or when she comes by to see if you want any food, but despite the room being small, she never checks in, and it's a good thing we were saving ourselves for the Blue Owl (mighty yumminess).
We finally do get water when a person at our table does the big arm in the air hail a taxi wave (the more subtle earlier attempts of imploring eye contact had failed miserably), and the server sort of almost says sorry for forgetting, but not quite. As for the wave part, I missed this so it's hearsay but another person at the table insists the waitress did a "do I know him, is he trying to pick me up?" look before realizing the sort of business relationship we all had going. At this point several of our cocktails were at pessimist's level--that is, you could only say they were three-quarters empty and not a quarter full--but she took no note of that, or did and chose to ignore our approaching dryness, but such active negligence would imply too much of a connection to us and her job. She did look fabulous, though--there is a premium on that at Mike Harkey.
Then, for a bit after the lone libation lover at the bar left and our table was the only one occupied, all 3 staff disappeared. This should feel good, to have a spot all to one's selves, but it's actually sort of disconcerting, like you'll need to do dishes and lock up or something.
Turns out we were at Mike Harkey for well over an hour, and easily a third of that was with dry glasses, but I guess it's doing so well they don't even need to ask people if they want a second. And we all walked, so it wasn't like they were saving us from DUIs, not that they had any idea how we got there, or really, it seemed, cared we were there. I had to approach the bar to ask for our check, $50 for 4 drinks, so one hopes we were paying for something more than the liquid itself.
Sometimes it's fun to remember that tipping is optional.
*First, grant me my Pozterisk, but naming this place after a tantalizing but ultimately unfulfilling first round draft pick is actually surprisingly apt, for Harkey seemed like he'd be good--he even finished fifth in the 1990 NL Rookie of the Year balloting--but injuries, a low strike out rate, and a high walk rate all did him in. Still, I remember to this day one friend hurling amazingly profane strings of insults at Harkey as he single-handedly destroyed one of my friend's fantasy baseball seasons, back in the days before the internet and we actually met every week with our USA Todays so we could do the league stats by hand. My how the world has changed.