Highlight of this weekend was talking with a guest at the tasting room who, it turned out, is also a writer. I asked about the work she’s doing (mostly tech writing, but with an eye towards fiction). She asked in return what I write, and I allow as how I’m a novelist with a sideline in marketing copy. As often happens, she asks if she might have read anything I’ve written.
Then her eyes got Very Wide and it turns out she’s a fan, and apparently cited me as one of her influences in her grad school application.
That will never not be surreal. For both of us, probably.
(it’s happened three times in three years, three different tasting rooms, and I always have the feeling that I’m being punked, because seriously, what are the odds? Except maybe fantasy readers also like really good wine. Hrm.)
That was the highlight of what was, really, overall, a very good, if exhausting weekend at the Tasting Room.
The lowlight… I’m still processing everything (nothing to do directly with me, I’m fine), but it was, you should pardon the expression, a sobering experience.
The thing is, I’m pretty casual when talking about my winery job – “yeah, I pour wine and nerd out a lot with other nerds and don’t-know-they’re-nerds-yet.” (leaving aside the non-public-view aspects of management, etc). But for all the joking and enjoyment, there’s a serious side to the gig.
We are liable.
That’s hammered into you when you get your permit to pour (via the Alcohol Board). You have to learn not only the signs of alcohol impairment, but what the legal repercussions are if you overserve. If they’re in an accident, if god forbid someone dies, and you were the one to pour their last drink?
Liable. Legally, and financially. You and your employer both.
(and that’s not taking into consideration the moral obligations, which hell yes are always in the back of my mind).
So when I cut someone off, I’m not doing it on a whim. I’ve determined that that person is in danger of being, or already is, intoxicated, and following legal guidelines as to how to deal with that.
This weekend, a woman came into the tasting room toward the end of the day. She was clearly intoxicated – she was swaying, her limbs were uncontrolled, her words were severely slurred, and she seemed disoriented, announcing that she was going to hang out with two of our guests, although they had never seen her before.
(obviously, I was not about to serve her; this was not an “ooops, maybe a few sips too many” grey area, and whoever served her previously has some ‘splaining to do.)
Thankfully, our guests rolled with the disruption, and we banded together to make sure she felt safe and stayed put.
She had no pocketbook, no phone, and all she could tell us was her first name. I didn’t think calling a cab would help, because we had no way of knowing her address, and I really didn’t want to call the cops (so long as she was annoying but not aggressive).
Someone mentioned hearing people calling the woman’s name, and I was able to track the other woman down, letting her know that her friend was in my tasting room. But when her friend finally arrived (taking her own sweet time, after I alerted her), there was some uncertainty on the part of our drunk lamb as to if she was allowed to leave the tasting room (we had told her to sit down and stay there, and that was what she’d fastened onto).
So that was…entertaining. In a fraught, “oh god why me?” kind of way.
I spoke at length with the friend, trying to make sure that she would be able to care for our no-longer-lost drunk lamb. I was already not thrilled with her judgement, but she was showing no signs of impairment, and the woman did seem to calm down once she’d arrived, so… yeah. Despite my continued unease with the her condition, I’d done everything I could.
So I thanked everyone else for their patience, finished out the shift, and went home and worried about our drunk lamb for the rest of the evening because hi, have you met me?
I have no personal Life Lesson takeaway from all this. I did my job as best I could, and we kept a situation from getting worse. That’s all we could do. Which, yeah, I guess is a Life Lesson in and of itself.
But, look: do me a personal favor and don’t be either of those two people, okay? Alcohol is fun, but impaired judgement gets people into real trouble. And there’s not always a tasting room full of people to look out for you (or your wandering friend).