Bouncer: You Don't Need Money to Hang Out in a Wine Bar

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From this week's Bouncer column:

... All around me, groups of upper-class professionals were buzzing and guzzling away, seemingly oblivious to my presence. The same went for the staff. I really wanted to stick around and listen to what folks were talking about, do some people-watching, and soak up the ambiance. Whoever coined the phrase "You could smell the money" was a genius.

I decided to pull something I like to call a Victor Victoria. In the film, Julie Andrews' character is poor and starving, so she goes to a nice restaurant and orders a small feast for herself. When the last dish is presented to her, she takes out a cockroach she had brought along, places it in the food, and then commences to scream. The manager comes over and is of course so embarrassed that a bug would be in her meal that he offers to give her the dinner for free.

My plans were way less dastardly; I just wanted to hang out a bit without spending any money and not be kicked out. I decided to stake out a seat at the opposite end of an area of tables that was mostly being taken up by a large group. I found one on the right-hand side of the room. The imbibers were having such a good time that they didn't even seem to notice me take a seat. If anyone asked, I was "waiting for some friends." I figured if I said "some" friends, as opposed to one, then the management would feel better about me holding court with several empty seats around me -- seats that would soon, no doubt, be filled with people spending money. If I was to say that I was meeting only one person, waiters might ask me to go sit at the bar instead, and then the pressure would be greater to order something. I'm telling you, there is a whole science to this.

Another thing you should do is set the stage properly. It is helpful to poke around the place a bit first, as if you are looking for your phantom party. I did so, peering this way and that, politely pushing past people and gazing around intently. Finally I took a deep breath that said, "Well, I guess they are not here yet; better find a table and start perusing the menu."

At this point you might be thinking, "Wow, this is valuable information!" But then perhaps you realize that being allowed to sit in some lounge and do nothing all by yourself, with no money, is actually about as exciting as hour seven of a lecture titled "Medical Record-Keeping in the Age of Autism." Yes, this unfortunately started to sink in with me, too. The next time I do something like this, I will at least choose a place that gives you free bread or nuts.

... continue reading this week's Bouncer column.

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