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June 07, 2010

To bribe or not to bribe?

A lot has happened these past two weeks.

A lot.

I'm finally catching my breath, which means I'm back to blogging. You know, by now, how things go. Write write write, then disappear for a bit and live. Then write again. Last time I blogged, I was telling you about Thursday, May 20. Theater tix. Moving on to Friday, May 21...

There is a bar in D.C. called The Gibson, and it's what's known as a faux-speakeasy. Not actually breaking any laws in 1928, but sure as hell looking like it could. A nondescript facade with nary a sign or nameplate. Out back, a moonlit patio glimmering in a constellation of candles. Prohibition era cocktails. Vintage clad waitstaff. Antique furniture here and there, and tipplers tipplers everywhere.

The club is so secretive, in fact, that if you don't know how to open the door and end up knocking, the bouncer will scoff to anyone who will listen, "If they can't figure out the door then they should definitely not be let in." At least, that's what happened when I was standing next to said bouncer and some people outside couldn't figure out how to work the handle. Losers.

But the Gibson has a very modern reservation system: You give the bouncer your name and phone number and when a table opens up, he'll call you. Like, on your cell phone. That way there's no waiting in line or carrying around one of those hideous restaurant pagers that always give me a heart attack when they start buzzing.

So that is what we did. I was out with Pernstein and Mojojo, friends from college and high school respectively, and after waiting half an hour or so in another cafe, Pernstein's phone rang.

We were in.

We were escorted to our table, where we inspected the interesting drink menu and placed our orders. Just as we were settling in, we got word that a few more friends wanted to join us.

We asked the waitress if we could fit more people at our table and were told it's against house rules. We asked for a different table and she said no. We asked her if we could switch places with the couple canoodling at the large table next to ours, and the waitress said fine -- but the couple answered they're waiting for friends.

Bottom line, the waitress explained, the Gibson was incredibly busy -- and couldn't possibly risk overcrowding -- and there was nothing we could do but wait and see if a table opened up later. She apologized and left.

One member of trio suggested we get to the point by other means.

"You mean a bribe?" La Roxy asked, suddenly invigorated. "Wow! I've never bribed anyone before, except for a carton of cigarettes my parents made me give that customs official when I was visiting Eastern Europe in 1991. So that's how things are done in D.C."

"It's not a bribe, it's a tip," quoth Mojojo. "And it's not about D.C. It's everywhere."

"I almost want to bribe the bouncer, just to be able to say I did."

But the more I thought about it, the less it seemed like a good reason to part with $20.

Instead we just kept asking various waiters and finally the bouncer himself if they would let us move to a bigger table or attach more chairs or switch tables with another group or anything!! Because all we wanted to do was invite a few more patrons to their bar, consume their alcohol and add currency to their coffers. And our friends were 10 minutes away. We couldn't wait an hour.

The bouncer repeated: No, sorry, no can do. You have to wait your turn, or leave.

Well, guess what.

The moment the others showed up, our group was invited upstairs, to a private room, with chairs to spare. A cozy, elegantly decorated salon where we could really hear each other talk, and conveniently located a few steps away from the upstairs bartender.


Half of that floor was empty, in fact, so apparently all those concerns about overcrowding were posturing.

Which makes me happy I didn't bribe them. And even happier I asked.

[credits: first image; second image]
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