November 19, 2011

Have Clipboard, Will Obey

Let's reflect on a little tendency of human nature. If you act like you know what you're doing, people will follow your lead. I'm certainly not the first one to observe this facet of humanity, but I recently had a pretty nice night because of it. I found myself in DC at a random house party in Georgetown. I knew one person there, who knew one person there, who knew maybe three people there, which amounts to me knowing no one. Clearly under dressed, disheveled from a long car ride and in no way part of the scene going around me, I would've left if not for a decent bar set up in the middle of the dining room. Whoever lived there had purchased a small, portable Ikea-esque bar and simply stacked some cups, big bottles of middle quality liquors, a few mixers and some chopped up limes on it. A large cooler of ice sat behind the bar, along with a shaker and some cups. As a former bartender, it took 45 minutes before I gave in to the urge to get behind  there and ask the first person who approached, "What're you having?"

This bar is a dramatic reenactment of the one in this story
During the hour and a half I spent tending my new bar, my buddy and I managed to meet some pretty cool people, take a few shots and enjoy myself considerably. At some point, one of the guys who lived in this house came up, introduced himself and asked if I needed anything restocked--a pretty poignant moment regarding the topic of this post. Not nearly as much as the fact I walked away with $20 of tips at an open bar in a random house party, though. All of that simply because I decided to stand behind the bar and prompt people for an order. Take the lead, and people will follow.

I consider this series of events an example of the roles people are conditioned to play. Here in the States, we have bars with bartenders who make drinks we order. Then we pay them and give them a tip. Even in the absence of paying for the drink, the idea of tipping someone with cash is ingrained from youth in this country. It's a polite thing to do, and I found myself on the receiving end of it after stepping into the role of bartender. In countries and regions where the Western style bar does not exist, this situation wouldn't exist. People falling into prescribed roles will definitely still occur, though, perhaps even more so in a country with a stronger, more homogeneous cultural heritage. We're expected to play a certain role and behave a certain way, and it's much easier to go along with it than fight it. At my current age of 26, it's easy to see this happening every time I get on Facebook and see another high school classmate engaged, married or raising a kid.

What role are you playing?

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