A friend of mine stopped by a recently opened brewery on New Years Day. This establishment has several large televisions, none of which were on as the puck was about to drop for the Winter Classic. He asked his waitress if she could put the game on. Initially she said the TVs were for Patriots games only. When he explained what a huge event the Winter Classic is, the server said she would talk to a manager.
The waitress gave my friend the good news, that her manager said that they would put the game on. When the game still wasn’t on around ten to 15 minutes later, he asked his server again. She said they had to “fire up” the TVs. He had to ask a third time after which they game was finally on. At that time his server made a remark about how other patrons were having “great conversations”, intimating that my friend should be doing the same.
Somewhere along the line an attitude developed that beer should be a communal experience. That if you are enjoying a flavorful beer you need to be sat next to strangers at a long table or bar, and engaging in delightful and enlightening conversation. The image is almost Utopian. It is like Piano Man come to life! Modern conveniences like televisions and smart phones are the enemy because they inhibit this kind of social interaction.
In a Beer Advocate article from 2013 one bar owner said, “Bars are meant to be social, and too often we get sucked into watching the flickering screen just because it’s on…”
I don’t understand, and don’t want to understand why this forced social interaction has to be a part of the craft beer experience. I am sure some people enjoy sitting at a long “beer hall”-style table that forces them to sit next to strangers. All it does is remind me of the cafeteria at school, and the daily terror that was trying to find a place to sit.
As an introverted person sometimes it takes time for me to warm up to people in a social setting. Making small talk can be more draining than extroverts can comprehend. There have been plenty of times I’ve shot the breeze with cool people, but sometimes I just want to get out of the house, have something to eat, and try some awesome beer. A game on a TV, or a social media feed on my phone is my way to do all of those things while being with myself. Not every trip to the bar has to be an episode of Cheers.
The sandwich board in the above photo boasts the lack of WiFi, and implores us to “live”. For me, being forced into social interaction isn’t “living”. If a bar owner wants to create a certain vibe at their establishment, go for it. Just don’t tell me how to “live”.
As a post-script, the notion that technology is making us more anti-social is a myth.
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