“Do you have any Merlot?”
My roommate’s mom looked down at the small wine menu printed on thick paper. I was sitting next to her at the bar of a trendy, high-end restaurant near Dumbo, Brooklyn—along with my roommate and one of her friends. We’d just beelined from Manhattan to my roommate’s poetry reading nearby; she was a finalist in a writing competition.
The bartender paused for a fraction of a second too long. “No, we don’t serve that kind of wine here,” he said, giving an obvious look over her tailored black suit dress, which stood out from the crowd of jean shirts and leather jackets. “But perhaps you’d like to try the Saperavi from the Republic of Georgia. It’s somewhat similar.”
We saw the gears in his head in action. Book club wine, he was thinking. Of course she’d ask for that. Bet she’s from the Upper East Side.
“Are you folks staying for dinner or just dropping by?” he asked.
“The hostess said she might have a table ready for us in about 15 minutes. But if she doesn’t, we’ll definitely eat at the bar,” I said.
“Whoa, too much information!” he said, pouring my roommate’s mom the Saperavi (which tasted nothing like Merlot), then scurrying away to the other end of the bar.
So he wasn’t going to take the rest of our drink orders? I felt like a small child who’d been put in a time-out.
We’d been judged—based mainly on our wine order and clothes—as basic, uptight Manhattanites. Not quite cool enough for the off-the-beaten-path establishment.
This, my fine readers, is exhibit A of cool shaming. It’s happened to me before on occasion, when a waiter takes my order and gives off the super-cool, can’t-be-troubled vibe practically like they’re the customer.
One might point out that maybe our waiter was having a bad day or that being a waiter or bartender is one of the hardest, most trying jobs. I don’t disagree. I’ve worked in service before, and damn, it makes your feet feel like they’re going to fall off. I also learned that truly excellent service means putting away all of your baggage, assessing each table and delivering what they want practically before they even realize it.
When it comes to dining out, I’m the first to argue that the quality of the food trumps ambience. Candlelight is cool and all that, but how’s the little gem salad?
Still, service that makes you feel like you don’t quite belong completely ruins a meal. Even if I’m now low-key trying to buy a bottle of Saperavi so I can tell everyone it’s from Georgia—no, not the state, the country.