Home > The Rosie Effect (Don Tillman #2)(9)

The Rosie Effect (Don Tillman #2)(9)
Graeme Simsion

Wineman was approximately twenty-eight years old, estimated BMI twenty-two, with a black goatee and heavy-framed glasses in the style that had once marked me as a nerd but was now fashionable.

He had replaced the small tables with longer benches, increased the intensity of the lighting and shifted the drinks focus from cocktails to Spanish wine to complement the revised menu, which consisted of paella.

Wineman had recently completed a Master of Business Administration, and I assumed his changes were in line with best practice in the hospitality industry. However, the net effect had been a fall in patronage, and the consequent firing of two of our colleagues, which he attributed to difficult economic conditions.

‘They brought me in just in time,’ he said. Frequently.

Rosie and I held hands on the walking component of the journey to the Flatiron neighbourhood. She seemed in an excellent mood, despite her ritual objection to the black-and-white uniform that I, personally, found highly attractive. We arrived two minutes ahead of schedule at 7.28 p.m. Only three tables were occupied; there was no one sitting at the bar.

‘You’re cutting it fine,’ said Wineman. ‘Punctuality is one of your performance measures.’

Rosie looked around the sparsely populated room. ‘Doesn’t look like you’re under any pressure.’

‘That’s about to change,’ said Wineman. ‘We’ve got a booking for sixteen. At eight.’

‘I thought we didn’t take bookings,’ I said. ‘I thought that was the new rule.’

‘The new rule is that we take money. And they’re VIPs. VVIPs. Friends of mine.’

It was a further twenty-two minutes before anyone ordered cocktails, due to absence of clientele. A party of four (estimated ages mid-forties, estimated BMIs between twenty and twenty-eight) arrived and sat at the bar, despite Wineman attempting to direct them to a table.

‘What can I get you?’ asked Rosie.

The two men and two women exchanged glances. It was extraordinary that people needed the advice of their friends and colleagues to make such a routine decision. If they insisted on external counsel, however, it was best that it came from a professional.

‘I recommend cocktails,’ I said. ‘As this is a cocktail bar. We can accommodate all known taste and alcohol requirements.’

Wineman had taken up a position to my left, on the client side of the bar.

‘Don can also show you our new wine list,’ he said.

Rosie put a closed copy of the leather-bound document on the bar top. The group ignored it. One of the men smiled.

‘Cocktails sound good to me. I’ll have a whiskey sour.’

‘With or without egg white?’ I asked, in line with my responsibility for order negotiation.

‘With.’

‘Straight or over ice?’

‘On the rocks.’

‘Excellent.’ I called to Rosie, ‘One Boston sour over ice,’ slapped my hand on the bar and started the timer on my watch. Rosie was already standing at the liquor shelves behind me, and I knew that she would be sourcing the whiskey. I put a shaker on the bar, added a scoop of ice and halved a lemon as I solicited and clarified the remaining three orders. I was conscious of Wineman watching. I hoped that, as a business-administration graduate, he would be impressed.

The process I had designed and refined makes best use of our respective capabilities. I have the superior database of recipes, but Rosie’s dexterity level is higher than mine. There are economies of scale in one person squeezing the total lemon juice requirement or performing all of the pours of a particular liquor. Of course, such opportunities need to be identified in real-time, which necessitates an agile mind and some practice. I considered it highly unlikely that two bartenders working on individual cocktails could perform as well.

As I poured the third cocktail, a cosmopolitan, Rosie was tapping her fingers, having already garnished the mojito. She had kicked my arse, at least in the first round. As we served the cocktails with the simultaneous movement of our four arms, our clients laughed, then applauded. We were accustomed to this response.

Wineman was also smiling. ‘Take a table,’ he said to our customers.

‘We’re fine here,’ said Boston Sour Man. He sipped his drink. ‘Enjoying the show. Best whiskey sour I’ve ever had.’

‘Please, sit down and I’ll organise some tapas—on the house.’

Wineman took four wineglasses from the rack. ‘Did you see Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom?’ he said.

I shook my head.

‘Well, Don, you and Rosie just reminded me of the scene where Mr Jones’s assailant shows off his skills with a sword.’ Wineman pointed to our clients drinking their cocktails and made some moves that were presumably meant to simulate swordsmanship.

‘Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, very impressive, four cocktails, seventy-two dollars.’

Wineman picked up an opened bottle of red wine. ‘Flor de Pingus.’ He poured four glasses and made a sign with his hand, holding his index finger and thumb at ninety degrees with his remaining fingers folded. ‘Bang, bang, bang, bang. One hundred and ninety-two bucks.’

‘Jerk,’ said Rosie as Wineman delivered the drinks to a group of four who had arrived during our cocktail-making. This time her tone was not affectionate. ‘Check out their faces.’

‘They look happy. Wineman’s argument is valid.’

‘Of course they’re happy. They hadn’t ordered anything yet. Everybody’s happy when the drinks are on the house.’ Rosie put a highball glass in the rack with unnecessary force. I detected anger.

‘I recommend going home,’ I said.

‘What? I’m okay. Just pissed off. Not with you.’

‘Correct. Stressed. Creating cortisol, which is unhealthy for Bud. Based on experience, there is a high probability that you will initiate an unpleasant interaction with Wineman and be stressed for the remainder of the shift. Restraining yourself will also be stressful.’

‘You know me too well. Can you cope without me?’

‘Of course. Numbers are low.’

‘That’s not what I meant.’ She laughed and kissed me. ‘I’ll tell Wineman I’m feeling sick.’

At 9.34 p.m. a group of eighteen arrived, and the table that had remained reserved and unused for the entire evening was extended to accommodate them. Several were noticeably intoxicated. One woman, aged in her mid-twenties, was the focus of attention. I automatically estimated her BMI: twenty-six. Based on the volume and tone of her speech, I calculated her blood alcohol level as 0.1 grams per litre.

‘She’s shorter in real life. And a bit porkier.’ Jamie-Paul, our bartending colleague, was looking at the group.

‘Who?’

‘Who do you think?’ He pointed to Loud Woman.

‘Who is she?’

‘You’re kidding me, right?’

I was not kidding, but Jamie-Paul offered no further explanation.

A few minutes later, with the party seated, Wineman approached me. ‘They want the cocktail geek. I’m guessing that’s you.’

I walked to the table where I was greeted by a male with red hair, though not as dramatically red as Rosie’s. The group appeared to be made up entirely of people in their mid- to late-twenties.

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