If you can't stand the heat -- get in the kitchen. On Thursday, June 13, at 6 p.m. at the Lounge at Crescent Ballroom, Chow Bella writers are warming up for summer with "Fried," an evening of true stories. Admission is free; food and drink will be available for sale.
Today: JK Grence Puts Out a Guest
You can have your 8-to-5 desk job. I've been there, done that, and I don't know how all of you people do it. Your career is exactly the same mundane deskwork day in, day out? I'll pass. Give me the endless variety of things that happen in a restaurant or bar. You truly never know what's going to happen next. Some nights, I've had to ask a lady to not accompany her boyfriend to the restroom. Others, I've had to play janitor for unspeakable messes. But nothing will compare to the time I had to put out a guest.
I know what you're probably thinking: Bartenders have to 86 guests all the time, what's such a big deal about that? I didn't say 86, I said put out. There's a big difference; let me explain. No shit, there I was...
It was a lovely Scottsdale evening, with a good amount of people socializing on the patio at the now-shuttered Trader Vic's. The dinner rush was over, so I had a chance to step out from behind the bar and ask guests how they were enjoying their cocktails. At the piece of bar countertop that extended on to the patio, there was a tiki aficionado. Those guests, of course, were my favorites. They'd come in looking like they just got off the plane from Honolulu, with huge grins and wearing their finest aloha shirts. And they were the most appreciative of the alchemic art of tiki bartending.
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He and I were both casually leaning on the bar top, exchanging tales of making and drinking various libations. Then, he shifted positions a little bit. He moved just enough that the loose sleeve of his shirt dipped into one of our numerous votive candles. Within seconds, the top half of his sleeve was alight in a most impressive fashion.
Due to the fact that heat rises, the only clues that he had something was wrong were: A) Everyone else in the bar suddenly got really quiet, and B) My eyes were now open as wide as saucers. Since I was the closest staff member to the mini-blaze, I had to do something about it. But what? Since there was a cocktail tray right next to me, my first instinct was to grab it and beat out the flames. It's probably a good thing that I stopped myself before actually doing that. I can only imagine the disaster that would have been.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a water pitcher that was much better-suited to the task. I turned, grabbed the pitcher, asked him to hold out his arm, and doused the flames. The whole thing from start to finish couldn't have been more than three seconds. To me, it felt like at least 10 times that much. To him, I was the hero who saved the day. In my eyes, it was just another day at one hell of an office.