So yesterday Susan and I head downtown to the Laemmle theaters on Fig north of Fourth to catch a matinee of “Casino Royale.” Unaccustomed to such gridlock-less convenience, we found ourselves with more than a half-hour before showtime and so went for a brief exploration of the Marriott Hotel, which sits atop the subterranean theaterplex.

Inside we appreciated the hotel’s expansive and well-appointed lobby space and migrated our way towards the south end where a flat-screen TV was broadcasting the Colts/Cowboys football game. To the right by the entrance to an eatery called The Back Porch was a bar with a couple smaller monitors showing the same game where sat several patrons. With time to kill Susan asked me if we should indulge in a pre-movie cocktail and I said why not. At the bar she took a seat upon one of the stools and I stood behind the other, more interested in getting our drinks and adjourning back to the center area of the lobby where there were tables and more comfortable chairs.

The initially cheerful barkeep, a tall dark-haired woman, came over without delay and asked what she could get us. Susan ordered a bloody mary for me and a cosmo for her and the mixologist went right to work mixologizing. Sometime during her efforts another gentleman came up and stood behind the empty stool to my left patiently waiting his turn to order. When the bartender delivered our cocktails I was somewhat engrossed in a nice Dallas defensive play and so when she asked if we “have a second or do we want to pay now?” I wasn’t quite clear on what she was asking and initially I was curiously left wondering why she would presume we wanted a second round before even starting our first and also why would we have to order a second round before paying for the first.

I believe I vocalized my distracted wonderment with either an “Ahh…?” or a “Huh?” or a mixture of both. Susan was non-plussed as well. And having failed to provide a definitive answer in the minimal time frame the bartender surprisingly required at the helm of an unbusy hotel bar on a lazy Sunday in an obscure slice of drowsy downtown, she followed up with a tersely clipped “Are you on the run or do you have a second so I can take this man’s order,” indicating the one standing to my left.

By now Susan and I had figured out that what she meant had nothing to do with additional rounds, but both of us were equally left agog because not only did Susan have a $20 bill out on the bar ready to go, but as far as my experience as a bar customer is concerned the bartender/drinker communication breaks down in this smple progression regardless of how busy or not a bar is:

  1. Customer orders the drinks
  2. Bartender makes the drinks
  3. Bartender delivers the drinks
  4. Bartender asks if customer wants to run a tab
  5. Customer indicates yes or no
  6. If yes customer provides credit card upon which tab is to be run
  7. If no bartender communicates the cost for the drinks ordered
  8. Customer provides cash or credit card payment for drinks at hand
  9. Bartender provides change or credit card slip for signature
  10. Bartender moves on to next customer

Certainly if a customer is seated at the bar and planning to stay the bartender may decide to move on and serve another customer after delivery of a drink order, returning later to pick up at No. 4 where they’d left off, but never in my history as a drinker has a bartender amended that format in such an inquisitional and attitude-heavy way as was being inflicted upon us now.

And the indignation only got thickerer when we still did not provide her a proper response (though I don’t quite know how Susan’s cash on the figurative barrelhead wasn’t proper enough). I instead looked at my watch to see we had about 15 minutes before the show started and Susan gave me a look that said “What kind of rare idiocy is this!?”) and rather than the barkeeper chilling she just huffed a petulant “Fine! You want to pay now!” and quite literally stomped in a bit of a tantrum over to the register to ring us up.

WHICH — HELLO! — IS WHAT SHE SHOULD HAVE JUST BLASTED DONE IN THE FIRST PLACE!

As she did this I turned to Susan and said something like “Wow! I’ve never felt so guilty about wanting to pay for a drink…” and Susan said “No kidding!”

I’m not sure what, but something happened that broke the bartender’s fever — maybe she heard my comment or maybe it was the realization that tip time was nigh. For when she came back over to announce that the total was 54 cents over the twenty that Susan had proferred (that’s right: $10-plus for each drink which is a separate yikes in itself), she was moderately calmer and certainly suddenly more personable. Susan quickly delivered an additional fiver and was ready to bail leaving her a $4.50 tip but I was more than willing to wait for the change, and in the interim toyed with the ramifications of grabbing the four dollar bills and leaving her the 46 cents as her just reward for such craptastic service.

But I’m not that big an ass so I withdrew the coins and a couple of the bills and left her with the rest and whatever conscience she has to mull over how much she sucked. Thankfully and appreciatively, her drinks didn’t.