Our job, we were told at frequent intervals, is about making people happy. An unremarkable and not particularly unique aspect of the business we have chosen, but it’s a useful reminder. Being away from everything for a week probably helps it stick.
There was a panel, “Bringing Service Back”, that was not much more than five people telling everyone for an hour and a half that the key to success is “don’t be a jerk”, and I don’t know what it says about me that this was the most important insight I took away from a five-day conference, but they’re not wrong. It’s not even service, really; that’s a technical skill (promptly refilling your water glass, refolding your napkin before you return from the restroom) which, not unlike making a decent drink, is not particularly difficult to learn and is ultimately tangential to the overall experience.
Hospitality is closer to what we’re really talking about, a sort of formal warmth and stylized intimacy that I imagine is not unlike throwing a large dinner party at Downton Abbey (fewer cravats, though.) It’s easy about 3/4 of the time. That last bit is the trick.
All of which is to say that the half hour we spent in an empty bar at 1 in the afternoon on a Sunday with a bartender who spent most of the time sitting on a stool smoking a cigarette telling us about the weird party she went to that weekend was probably the best time I had the whole trip. So who even knows.