Saturday, February 25, 2017

We Walk into a Neighborhood Bar on Presidents' Day

Applebee’s, Clovis
Why do people have to work on December 6th? After all it’s Bartender Appreciation Day. Giving people the day off makes as much sense as everyone getting President’s Day off. Understand, having the day off made sense when people were celebrating Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays. Those were great men.

But does it make sense to have a day in celebrate Warren G. Harding and the Teapot Dome Scandal? William Henry Harrison might have been wonderful, if his presidency had lasted longer than 30 days -- and he gets a holiday? And I’m sure if you readers think hard, you might be able to think of a recent (or current) President that you’d rather not celebrate.

And really, Presidents get plenty of perks as it is. The chief executive currently gets $400,000 a year for salary, a $50,000 expense account, a $100,000 travel account and $19,000 for “entertaining.” I know for some this is a pay cut, but most of us could figure out a way to squeak by on that. And when Presidents get out of office, they can charge a million for a speech.

I’d argue that a number of bartenders have brought more joy into the world than a number of Presidents. And some bartenders could really use armed guards, but they are not supplied.

I bring all this up because we went to our final Fresno-area Applebee’s on President’s Day. We had already gone to all the Applebee’s in Fresno, but Clovis is right next door -- a slightly posher Fresno, if you will, though these terms may have a slightly different meaning in the Central Valley -- among Clovis’ claims to fame is their annual rodeo. (Because I’ve just started working at a motel in Clovis, next month will be dedicated to bars in Clovis so I’ll be able to give more informed recommendations when guests ask.)

As we sat down at the bar, we noticed a table of men who seemed to have already enjoyed several rounds of adult beverages, but there was still a call from someone at the table for “another round, bar keep!” People seemed to be enjoying their day off. I heard someone say, “Tomorrow will be like a Monday.”

On one of the big screen TVs, Bilbo Baggins seemed to be battling Smaug the Dragon. (I’m not sure which film in the Hobbit trilogy was playing, since I happily missed them all, though I loved the book.)

Since one of our goals this month was to gauge the consistency of the Applebee’s product, we ordered our fourth Mudslide and our fourth Long Island Ice Tea. For the first time the bartender asked whether we wanted a big or a regular sized mudslide. Also for the first time, the bartender (thank you, Jamie!) made a little bit more ‘Slide than would comfortably fit in the glass, and she offered us the extra. We took it.

We were sitting near a couple enjoying their beers and each other's company, but they seemed willing to talk to us as well. I introduced Mindy and myself, and he introduced themselves as M & M. (I asked to clarify he was not saying “Eminem” but the candy was closer to what he was saying than the rapper.) He was Mike and she was Margie.

M & M seemed to be regulars of a sort at this Applebee’s -- they’d been coming since the year 2000. Mike felt that the place had lost a little through the years; it had become more and more “corporate.”

We asked them if we could ask what makes for a good bar and what makes for a good church. They jumped at the church question first. Mike said he used to go to church and that he is a Christian, but he has his own business and Sunday is the only day he has off. Margie grew up Catholic but now feels that church is just a building where people gather, and church can just as well be in your home.

As for what makes for a good bar, Mike said “a real attentive bartender, friendly.”

Margie said, “For me, I like a full positive bar, full of people and full of energy. I don’t like a quiet bar.”

One of the employees seemed to be having a hard day, and a manager came alongside her and gave her a side hug. Melony, the manager, said that was the best part of her work, encouraging co-workers on a tough day. “There has to be fun and love when you come to work,” she said.

I guess we’re all looking for some fun and love wherever we go… Work, bars, churches. Just don’t expect it from your Presidents. You’ll too often be disappointed.

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