Beating Stereotypes, Ma Brotha…


As mentioned in previous articles, stereotypes unfortunately exist for a reason, right or wrong.  People are human and as such quite often identify with people who look, eat, breath, speak, walk and think like them. That’s not the case 100% of the time obviously but looking back on human evolution and behavior, it would be idiotic not to think that does happen pretty regularly.   Stereotypes + alcohol + money = elevated, accentuated, and often comical prejudice sometimes despite what people think or how both patrons and employees present themselves.  What goes on in peoples’ minds are sometimes but not always manifested in their actions.  

Case in point, that arduous big City real estate game…  I live in NYC so that’ll be used for this example.  Back up until a couple of years ago when the economy was booming ridiculously and real estate pricing acceleration upwards was moving at a downright retarded pace, discrimination in NYC apartment hunting was rampant, rampant, and more rampant.  Don’t’ get me wrong, it still is extremely discriminatory.  Owners and their agents have established a pecking order and hate on in order (in my observations and first-hand experience) single straight men, non-Caucasians, less than stellar credit reports, pets, and finally, couples or threesomes in non-intimate relationships… <flame_on>.  So basically, if you’re a single brother with spotty credit and a cat, you’re doomed and will be relegated to the outlying boroughs’ gnarly neighborhoods unless you’re extremely lucky.  

This is particularlly true in traditionally Euro-ethnic, trendy and popular Hipster neighborhoods (think Greenpoint, WillyB, Astoria, LIC and of course just about anything outside of Uptown).  Ok, ok – I digress into non bar-speak.  It’s just that this topic invariably brings up the real estate comparison.   Before moving on, let me state that this super discriminatory environment is highly illegal yet is practiced hundreds if not thousands of times a day even at present by unscrupulous bigoted folks in the real estate game with mostly no punishment and renters have pretty much zero recourse unless resorting to 20/20, Arnold Diaz and John Stossel type of hidden video game tactics.  Nuf said.

So the other evening, a “nefarious” looking typical street hoodrat rolls up on set while I’m behind the bar.  He’s very clean cut but sporting an impossibly clung to his close-cropped scalp beanie hanging off at a perfect “XXL” angle to the side, spotless Timbs with pants-on-the-ground pressed jeans tucked neatly inside the lace-less boots in question.  His fingers are adorned with no less than 3 seemingly white gold and diamond rings of varying size with the obligatory pinky ring.  The beard and scalp are fresh from the A.M. shape-up at the local Dominican barber round-the-way.  He’s rocking an iPhone4 with some monstrous Dre Beatz headphones that should really be relegated to the studio.  Needless to say, they’re pumping out some unfathomably loud Drake or Big Sean or some shit that actually sounds good but makes it impossible to carry out a conversation.  So, you get the picture.  Big Pimpin’ proceeds with his visual and verbal assault on the senses. In the famous words of Slick Rick, “and it goes a little something like this:”

[B.P.] Yo,  you gots Don Julio, son?

[Me] Nah man, we have (tequilas 1,2,3,4, and 5)

[B.P.] What about Marquez Valencia?

[Me] No bro, sorry…

[B.P.] Lemme get umm… Cuervo 1800 Margarita rocks wif salt 

[Me] Umm…. Sorry man, we have only (again, tequilas 1,2,3,4, and 5)

[B.P] Ok, ok.  Lemme get a Patron Margarita on the rocks with salt

[Me] Sure (handing him his primo frothy delectable beverage).  Would you like to start a tab or pay as you go?

[B.P.] Lemme get a menu (following 30 seconds of ignorance and head bobbing to the rhymes)

[Me] Sure

[B.P] Lemme get the fish special but I want Mac-n-Cheese instead of the potatoes and gimme a glass a wautah (that’s water speak for you folks living outside of Ozone Park and Bensonhurst)

[Me] Sorry man but the kitchen won’t do it.  You can only substitute fries and/or salad.  I’ll ask them anyway

[B.P.] (visibly upset) Yo, but I don’t want no potatoes – just the fish and Mac-n-cheese

[Me] (back from another encounter with the kitchen guys) Sorry man but like I thought, they won’t do it. Unfortunately, they charge extra for the Mac-n-cheese.

[B.P.] Ok, ok. Just charge me. I’ll pay for it.  Damn!

[Me]  (after setting silverware, condiments and the aforementioned water) Would you like to leave me card to keep the tab open?  (B.P. forks it over with no more argument and nods in protest regardless)

So, Big Pimpin’s food is delivered and he’s chomping away.  His first Marg has gotten on the low-side so like any good barkeep, I offer “would you like another?”  Lest he and his beats be separated for even 10 seconds to verbally communicate with another flesh with a pulse, he simply nods yes.  At this point in my career, I’ve gotten pretty good at reading people – not perfect – just very good.  This guy clearly is not a free-loader just a bit brash and doesn’t pay attention.  He’s by himself at a very busy bar right as the nine-to-fivers are flooding the place in the evening.  We’re busy.  No doubt, many folks have likely not been the kindest to him in his time on the crust, neither have they likely been inclined to cut him much slack based on the initial demeanor.  Something in my heart and mind tells him to cut him some slack and make him feel good.  This is not often the case with customers who exhibit this behavior but you’ve got to feel everyone out independently and often make judgment calls.  Sometimes it backfires, sometimes not. Whatevs…

So upon making him his following Margarita, I clear the empty, wipe the bar clean, lay a fresh bevnap down and follow with the drink.  I proceed to tell him “Hey man, sorry about any kind of mixup.  This one’s on me, alright?”  He nods in acceptance but again doesn’t say a word, quietly finishing his supper and sipping his agave nectar.  So Pimpin’ finally asks for the bill after I clear his area.  Like any good bartender should, I ask him if he wants to run it all on the card or pay cash. Card it is.  I present it in a proper checkbook and say “thanks for stopping by.”  Never, I mean NEVER just plop a check in front of someone without saying thanks, have a great day or some other closing greeting and never without a check-presenter.

Big Pimpin’ leaves without a word but  upon opening the checkbook, note with a smile that he’s left a $20 tip on a $40 check.  That my friend is service but more importantly, a return customer.  Lesson? Don’t be shortsighted and don’t always pre-judge folks – something I attempt to remind myself nightly.  Furthermore, I will not forget this guy nor hesitate to treat him exceptionally well when he inevitably shows up again.

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