Saturday, September 12

Outside looking in

So, here's something that happened to yours truly for the first time. After work on Thursday night, a few colleagues and I headed over to a popular new restobar nearby. None of us had been there before and it took us a while to find the place.

It was the last working day for one of the guys in my team and we wanted to celebrate it with a quiet drink and a good meal. My team-mates and I are all over 30. One of them is a father and another is about to get married in a few months. Though were dressed casually, all of us were in jeans or trousers and covered shoes. None of us looks remotely threatening.

Anyway, we get to the entrance and the guy at the door gives us a cursory glance and says "No stags allowed". I was nonplussed. And then, outraged. Because, there's two ways to look at what happened.

1. We were being punished for being single men / men not accompanied by ladies.
2. We weren't deemed acceptable enough to enter.

Indian men do not do themselves any favours. There's too many stories out there about guys getting drunk and creating pandemonium or misbehaving with other customers, usually women. So, in a way, my sympathies lie with long-suffering restaurateurs who have to deal with these assholes on a regular basis and watch their business suffer. However, I have a BIG problem with this blanket assumption that all single men are assholes. And I'm willing to bet that if we'd been single firang guys, we'd still have been let in.

Point 2, if anything, is worse. Any restaurant reserves the right of entry. And the fancier the restaurant, the snobbier the staff, particularly the ones at the door. But this place wasn't of the uppermost rung. If anything, their website claims that it's a place for artists and innovators to collaborate. And the average artist looks like a hobo. We were dressed well enough. On what basis were we deemed 'not good enough' to enter?

Is it because we weren't rich-looking? Or a few shades paler? Was it our beards? Our very normal clothes? The fact that none of us is tall and good-looking?

Needless to say, I called up the manager the next day and let him have it. Politely. Because, like I said before, I can sympathise. Single Indian men as a species is a problem. And there really is no way to separate the wheat from the chaff, of which there's a lot of. He told me what I'd expected - female patrons had complained regularly about being harassed, which forced the management to put a blanket ban on single guys. He also says that single guys are allowed but it's a judgement call. I wanted to ask how this worked without the potential patron being completely insulted but gave up. The guy then offered an apology and assured me that I'd be let in on my next visit.

But is this really the way to go? Instead of letting the doorman take arbitrary calls on who should be allowed in, or completely banning single guys, would it not be better to employ some extremely efficient bouncers who could deal with assholes? I'd suggest that the cops be rung immediately too, except for two problems. The cops usually hassle the restaurant. And the troublemaker can whip out the classic "Do you know who I am/my father is?" line, at which point the cops take cover.

Of course, the real solution and therefore the toughest is to ensure that guys know how to behave in public. But who am I kidding? So, should I try to not remain single simply to reassure restaurateurs? No guarantees there since boors are boors, regardless of status. Also, can I be surprised that the reputation of the average Indian male makes women vary?

No wonder, guys drinking at home is catching on.

Update: Discussed this issue with the sister, who agreed that arbitrary calls on which stag gets in are wrong. But, she agrees with the management that, till such time as a viable solution is found, a blanket ban is the only way to go. However, she also points out that ladies being at the table/part of the group doesn't stop guys behaving boorishly either. What a sorry bunch of bastards. 

Song for the moment: Victim or the crime - Grateful Dead


Anonymous said...

Wow, you really bought into the story that it had anything to do with safety or decorum of any sort at the restaurant? They got you man...

It is just a big dog and pony show, this supposedly strict, but arbitrary screening BS.

Firstly, I doubt there is any evidence to suggest that places that use these methods are any safer for women. Or that guys with women cause any less ruckus. I can point out tons of instances where married men or men with female companions were just as much of a nuisance as any single guy could have been. Places that turn people away for that reason still have to deal with the same shit inside. It just has a slightly different stink, is all.

Secondly, no entry criteria ever, EVER (including supposedly sacrosanct policies like visas, institutional admissions, toll booths, security checks, even exam halls!) are about any safety measure to prevent anything at all. The security measures thing is just a story that is hard to argue with, hence brandished first up. Look around you! The real intent behind all these criteria, when you think about it, is to put up a show that enough is being done to deal with whatever the problem is. It is a theory, but it tests well, every.single.time.

You guys were just the low hanging fruit that the doorman could turn away without much of a hassle. It was about him making up his numbers, dude. As you admitted, if you were 'rich-looking' or influential-looking, or belonged to any other obviously privileged demographic, that guy would not think twice before letting you in. Because he is simply not paid enough to get into a hassle with those kinds of men. And since he has been letting in that scum heedlessly all evening, he needs some numbers on the other side to show his powers that be (restaurant owner, cops, irate customers), that he's still being discrete enough and taking enough 'security' measures. Enter you and your gang. Definition soft target.

Point being, you missed the subtext in that conversation with the doorman. Nobody, absolutely nobody, turned you away because they thought you guys would be a nuisance. You can tell that by one look at the guy. The subtext was that they had already been letting in anyone and everyone that came before you, or was expected to come after you. And his job was to make it look like he turned some people away. So it had to be you, by default. That was all there is to it. Don't sweat about what it implied to be turned away so unceremoniously. It was just another day at the office for the small guy. We have a long way to go before businesses start valuing the safety of their customers to the point where they turn down business that comes from seemingly dodgy customers. Right now, it is just about putting up that show.

Btw, notice how he assured you of an entry the next time you went? Because when you got stuck in and made that call, you inadvertently moved categories and became someone he'd rather not get in a hassle with. That's really the only criteria at work here.

Tough luck, man. Being a regular joe, single Indian guy, with no privilege that sets you apart (cosmetically at least) is quite possibly the worst hand a guy can be dealt. Suck it up, bud. If it makes you feel any better, there's probably about half a billion of us walking doormats in this country.

G said...

True, there is no evidence to suggest these moves make places safer for women. If safety is a concern, my idea of having super-effective bouncers should be a common sight by now. And yes, we were 'low-hanging fruit', not ticking any of the 'desirable crowd' parameters. I'm also familiar with the policy of turning people away. But, always thought it was common at discos, but never at a resto-pub. Maybe I was suckered into accepting the security angle, but it also has something to do with my own bias - I think guys are a problem and don't know how to behave. Which, as a regular joe, single guy with no privileges, cosmetic or otherwise, is a bad hand.

Anonymous said...

Yup, absolutely. I agree with you. As a breed, the larger culpability definitely lies with the Indian man for all the stupendous achievements he has managed to notch up historically. But using that culpability as a tool against those who are clearly the exception to that rule is just not done. And that is my grudge. If they were really worried about security, they'd have it figured out six ways to Sunday by now. Instead, we have this faux-exercise, this charade that they put up day in and day out. The joke is that they are so shoddy at both, the actual security, and the pretense of caring about it.

G said...

Agreed. Wonder if there is any significant correlation between risky/disruptive behaviour and spending. That is, on average, do those who consistently act boorishly at restaurants/in public also spend more? Admittedly, one would have to specify behaviours/actions considered boorish or disruptive. Could be interesting because it may explain why restaurants may also be willing to take the risk of letting them in.

Anonymous said...

Well, given how more money buys more alcohol, and how that doesn't exactly make Indian men more charming, I am sure there is a correlation. Maybe even causality. But at the end of the day, more than the money, it is the psychic profile of the person that determines how boorishly they act, I'd imagine. That mental makeup, of course, is greatly influenced by the experiences the person has had, among other things. Which is why you'd typically expect a person from say, a slum (but not necessarily a poor person), to make a different kind of drunk scene than you would a relatively educated, "cultured" person (but with similar economic wherewithal) even after being equally drunk. Alcohol lowers both their inhibitions equally. But simply owing to the tougher lives they live, poor, disadvantaged folks have less tasteful things to say when they're drunk than people who are better off in life. Probably because while some are drinking to forget, others are drinking to rejoice. Or wallow. Or something else troublesome.

And that really is all it is about. Psychological profiling. The day we break that ground and figure out how to keep certain mental profiles out, we can talk about a real security screening. Till then it will sadly have to be judgment calls of some sort...

G said...

Not going to hold my breath on mental profiling becoming common at restaurants. And yes, while alcohol does lower inhibitions, I am unsure if the person's background or past experience matters. I have personally heard appalling drivel come out of the mouths of educated and allegedly cultured people. Anyway, all things being equal, bad public behaviour is bad public behaviour. I favour action at the scene vs. predictive screening.