The System Worked

“He has always feared for his safety.”

-Robert Zimmerman

I resisted writing about the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in Sanford, FL when it happened seventeen months ago, though I had plenty to say about it.  I grew up in Altamonte Springs, which is a couple towns over, closer to Orlando, and though I never spent much time in Sanford (there was rarely any reason to), I knew where it was, knew people from there, knew enough to know it was another one of those redneck towns that litter Florida’s sweltering interior, with gun-racks and Dixie flags on every pickup truck and a black folks’ part of town, where they stayed if they knew what was good for them.  The notion that a lighter-skinned man could gun down a darker-skinned man without being arrested there was not surprising to me, given the racism embedded in Florida’s political and social culture (and, it now appears, legal precedent, but we’ll get to that later).

I used to joke, growing up, about Florida being the last state in the Confederacy to surrender.  It was funny because, while technically true, the rest of the southern states do not consider Florida to be a part of the South, and neither do most Floridians.  And, panhandle aside, there are plenty of cultural distinctions.  Florida, as I think most people have figured out by now, has its own distinct brand of the crazy (click here for examples).  But there are plenty of similarities between Florida and the South, and institutional racism is one of them.  The main difference, as I remember it, was that in the South they were open, hell, even friendly about it sometimes, but in Florida we weren’t the South, and so no one talked about segregation or the rampant poverty and crime in black neighborhoods, because the consensus was that their problems were their problems and also their fault.  We didn’t have to do anything about it as long as they kept to their part of town.  Hell, they had to bus black kids in from across town so my lily-white high school could make diversity quotas and field a football team.  We also had the requisite posse of skinheads, like every other high school in O-town.

The middle school I went to was a different story. Continue reading “The System Worked”

Dealing with Aggressive Drunks (and, to some extent, everyone else) Part 1of a Series

One of the less-than-wholly-awesome upshots of alcohol’s disinhibiting effect is that it makes people who are angry on the inside angry on the outside, too, and one of the lesser joys of the mixological craft is that you’re going to have to deal with those people face-to-face.  I’ll give you an example.  This happened to me last night.

A fellow came in and sat at the bar near the end of the dinner rush.  The other bartender (a woman) got him water and a menu.  She ID’d him, as I’ve taught her to (see here for why).  I was in the main well filling server orders when she came up to me.  She told me he vibed a little weird to her, and showed me what he’d given us for ID, which, while it had his picture and date of birth on it, was not one of the six forms of ID that Washington state liquor law says we can accept (it was, in fact, issued by the Department of Corrections, for what that’s worth).  I told her to follow her intuition and refuse him service, on the grounds we can’t accept his ID, and she did, quite graciously, I later gathered.  From what she said, he was gracious in turn, and declined a seat in the dining room, where we would serve him food but not alcohol.

On his way out he stopped by my well, fixed me with a rage-filled let’s-fight glare, and exchanged the following words with me (as close to verbatim as I can remember, and not edited for content): Continue reading “Dealing with Aggressive Drunks (and, to some extent, everyone else) Part 1of a Series”

Why I ID You (even if I know you’re of age)

I’ve been helping to train up some people at the bar lately, and in the course of my discursions on the subject have gotten to thinking about why I do some of the things I do behind the bar.  One of those things is I ID any- and everyone I have even the slightest question or hesitation about, usually right at the very beginning of our interaction, as I’m saying hello and dropping off water and/or menus.  I do this for a couple of reasons.

First, though I work in a nice place now, I haven’t always, and sometimes even nice places get customers who are or are going to be trouble for whatever reason.  It’s certainly much rarer, but it happens.  People who are trouble have to be dealt with carefully, and are much more easily handled before you’ve served them any (or, as is often the case, more) alcohol.  They also have a higher incidence of not having valid ID, which is a great (and impersonal) reason to tell them to leave, which like as not you’ll have to do anyway.  It’s also, for what it’s worth, illegal to serve them, at least in the state where I work.  Sometimes you’ll get a regular person with expired or no ID, and then you make a judgement call.  In Seattle it’s not unheard of for the Liquor Board to do sting operations, so I tend to skew conservative on those calls, but it’s up to each individual bartender to decide whether letting a particular individual stay will have a positive or negative impact on everyone else’s good time. Continue reading “Why I ID You (even if I know you’re of age)”