HE ARRIVED EARLIER than most. He carefully selected a seat facing the TV, adjusting his position several times. He then sat down and ordered dinner, carefully and well planned.
“In 10 minutes can you put the game on?” he asked politely.
It seemed to be the beginning of a perfect evening. He, by virtue of good planning, had a perfect seat to watch the game and a perfect spot to eat his dinner. Because of the peculiarities of our little bar, and the propensity of our chef for dramatic plateware, there were perhaps two, maybe three, spots at the bar that could accommodate the specials plate. This the man also knew, and so he had taken time and effort to ensure that he could not only be assured of seeing his favorite game, but also of eating his favorite meal while doing so.
If only all customers could be so conscientious.
Sometime later, into the beginning of the game, a couple arrived at the bar. The early man lifted a forkful of his favorite food toward his mouth only to be interrupted.
“Would you mind moving one seat down?” asked the person who had obviously spent no time at all in considering his options.
The well-timed man, purely in the interest of civility, put down his forkful and moved reluctantly one seat down, sliding first his place setting then his waterglass then his wineglass before finally abandoning his well-planned seat. Now his sports game was farther away and at an angle that caused him to turn his head just a bit more awkwardly. So much for perfectly planned.
“We have two more people coming,” said the other half of that couple sometime later, ironically just as the well-timed man was lifting yet another forkful. If timing is everything, as the Greek poet Hesiod suggested, then this couple really had nothing going.
“Would you mind moving down one more?” said the woman flipping the backs of her fingers at him.
Again, civility intervened and he moved all his accoutrements down yet another space.
Ignoring the two spaces closest to the TV, the couple’s late-arriving friends now decided that they, too, wanted to watch the game.
“These are great seats,” said the two new guests about two barstools that had both successively been one civil man’s not even 10 minutes before.
The first couple realized that value, and for the third time asked the well-timed man to move.
“Where are you suggesting that I move to?” he asked, sounding irritated.
“I don’t know. How about over there?” she asked, pointing at a seat in the far corner.
“But I came in to watch the game.”
“But, we really want to sit here,” she said.
It was like a Mexican standoff; all that was needed was the Sergio Leone music and some quick camera cuts.
“How about if I move back to my original seat and you guys move down to these seats?” he asked.
The requester stared at him for a moment with a look of confused consternation.
“But those seats suck,” said the requester.
Now it was the well-timed man’s turn to look confused.
“So, you want me to leave my good seat again just so you can have it?”
Needless to say he didn’t move.
“The people around here are just so rude and entitled,” said the other half of the couple, in a tone guaranteed to be overheard, which left me with these thoughts:
• There is indeed harm in asking, especially if the question itself is entirely out of line.
• Asking for someone else to take less so you can take more is a relatively new phenomenon around here, but one that is not entirely unexpected.
• In my experience, the really rude people are always the ones calling other people rude.
• Ditto the entitled.
• Asking another patron to move in a bar three times is at least one time too many.
• The earliest known version of the Pandora myth is Hesiod’s. In it, Pandora opens a jar accidently unleashing all of mankind’s ills. Once opened her jar cannot be closed.
• That myth and this new phenomenon certainly don’t bode well for the future, at least not around here.
Jeff Burkhart is the author of “Twenty Years Behind Bars: The Spirited Adventures of a Real Bartender” as well as an award-winning bartender at a local restaurant. Follow him at www.jeffburkhart.net and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org