This past Sunday I worked a double at the restaurant, from noon to about 10 p.m., and so I got to see some chunks of the Superbowl, and of the commercials, but what was more interesting was seeing how a roomful of strangers reacted to the Superbowl.
The restaurant where I work isn’t a sports bar, and it’s kinda tucked away in a shopping mall, so we had a cozy crowd of about twenty guests, all of them seated in the bar area. The restaurant is kind of an upscale place, the food’s a bit pricey and the décor is cozy and austere, and so people expect a certain caliber of service when they pop in.
We were low on staff for the Superbowl because the managers figured, rightly, that we’d have a relatively slow night.
But what I found interesting is that, when the Superbowl broadcast began, our entire staff (two cooks, two servers, the bartender and dishwasher and hostess and manager) all gathered around the bar together, alongside the guests, to watch the Star Spangled Banner, the military jets flying over the stadium, the whole affair; and, in the few minutes that it took for the whole thing to unfold, not a single guest asked somebody from the staff to please hurry and fetch them their drink, or their appetizer, whatever.
Same thing happened during the halftime show. Service came to a complete halt and all of us watched Jennifer Lopez and Shakira do their thing for ten or fifteen minutes.
I consider myself, with my writing and recording, to be something like an entertainer, albeit on a very low level, which is simply to say that, when making something that I want other people to consume, I’m giving more thought to the viewer’s experience than I am to my own.
So I’m watching these performers on screen, the players and the dancers and the singers; and then I’m looking around the room, the bar, where everybody, for a few minutes, is equal. There’s no server, no guest—only viewers. Americans.
We are all, as Americans, watching this show. We’re delighting in the show, bonding over it.
And then there are the performers, outside of it, who, in a way, are sacrificing their experience of that American communality in order to cultivate it, to make the show around which the nation will bond. They’re being hugely compensated, of course, so I don’t mean to paint them as martyrs or anything; but it did get me thinking about, like, the isolation of the creator. That it does kinda set you apart from the crowd if you’re the person behind the curtain. Once upon a time you were spellbound by the medium in which you now work as an entertainer, but now you know how the sausage is made, and you’re somewhat callused against its charms.
Anyway. It sure was pretty to see that communality around the show.