As follow-up to our popular March post, What Makes a Good Bartender, it’s time to give the customer some helpful tips on making friends in an Adirondack tavern. With 84 bars under our belts in the past year-and-a-half, we’ve learned a few things. We’re two venerable ladies that don’t look like we belong anywhere; yet we almost always manage to fit in. While most Adirondackers are not, by nature, predatory, they have been known to be territorial. Following some simple rules should help in acculturation.
RULE NUMBER ONE. Don’t be an a$$#@*! It will only raise hackles. (Note that rule number one applies to both a good bartender and a good bar attender.)
2. Be observant. Remember, you are an invasive species. When encroaching on an unfamiliar habitat, be considerate of the dominant life forms and prevailing climate. From biker bar to bistro, behavior will vary. The old adage “When in Rome…” applies here.
3. Smile (not to be confused with baring your teeth) and make eye contact with the bartender (usually the alpha) as quickly as possible. It’s her job to be nice to you, so take advantage of that. Keep in mind, however, the bartender can quickly turn on you (see rule #1). Acceptance by indigenous residents is an important aspect of socialization among the multifarious visitor. Once you have the approval and trust of the bartender, as demonstrated to patrons through body language or otherwise, you’ll be a member of the pack in no time!
4. Not sure what you want to drink? Look for signs or a beverage menu listing drink specials, or ask your server for suggestions if he isn’t too busy. If you need a few minutes, don’t be afraid to tell the bartender, but do let him go while you decide. If it’s obviously a beer joint, don’t order a foofoo drink like a frozen daiquiri or a pina colada. You’ll just irritate the bartender and you won’t be happy with his rendition of the drink. If you’re not a beer drinker, keep your mixed drink to a few simple ingredients.
5. If you’ve just walked into a tavern and really just want to turn and run, DON’T! They can smell fear. Just smile, confidently approach the bar, and order the strongest drink you can handle. It might turn out to be the best time you’ve had in the Adirondacks!
6. Make small talk with the nearest patron. Remember, they’re just as afraid of you. If you’re new in town, ask about a local landmark. Then LISTEN to the response. If you’re not interested in the topic, don’t ask in the first place. At all times, avoid controversial topics. At all costs, avoid religion, politics and even sports. If staff or patrons bring it up, smile and nod agreeably, then change the subject. Your two safest conversations are the weather and a Happy Hour in the High Peaks review of their tavern. The latter is likely to warrant a more interesting and lively conversation!
7. Keep your small talk to a minimum. People love to talk about themselves. Let them. Don’t monopolize, don’t interrupt, and remember to listen. Again, when in doubt, see rule #1.
8. Be a good tipper. Leave your money on the bar, indicating to the server that all of this could be hers, if treated properly.
9. Don’t talk on your cell phone. It’s a clear indication that the people around you aren’t important enough for your attention. If you must make or receive a call, take it outside. Once outside, give the smokers some distance. That is their sanctuary, so don’t make them uncomfortable too. It is, however, perfectly acceptable to use your smart phone to look up Happy Hour in the High Peaks drink recipes and reviews. See rule #3 about the drinks and #5 for conversation topics.
10. Don’t stay too long. The bartender and patrons have been waiting for a new topic of discussion and you will most likely be it. They can’t talk about you until you leave, so get going! Furthermore, the longer you stay, the more likely you are to break rule #1!
Whether you’re alone or in a pack, discovering a new pub doesn’t need to be a stressful experience. You can hunker down in low conversation stealing furtive glances, earning mistrust and suspicion, or you can use your social skills to meet new people and learn about them. The most important fact we have discovered in all our wanderings is that you get out of a place what you put into it.