I used to work as a bartender. Big surprise right? It was one of those gigs you just kind of fall into. I could never get a job like that again. The incident to follow notwithstanding. Usually getting a bartending job requires one of three things:
1) Be a woman, guys like to talk to girls when they drink.
2) If you don’t happen to be a woman, know someone who owns or manages a bar.
3) Just get super lucky. Someone is in desperate need of a booze jockey for the night, and you’re able to fill in. Because you happen to be sitting right there at the bar. Additionally, your extensive mixology knowledge helps them out of a jam. They’ll be sure to remember you next time. No matter how you gained said knowledge.
So that’s how it happened. Two or three times filling in one week, and I was offered a regular spot. It quickly became the best job ever. It was perfect for me. Not only was I surrounded by booze, I was in charge of it. All of it. The liquor bottles. The craft beers. The wine I pretended to be well informed about. I inventoried them. I served them. I drank them, for free.
My shift that day started commonly enough. I slid in through the back door. This is just in case an alchie is pacing the sidewalk, on the lookout for me. On my way to the front, I check the kegs and CO2 levels. Take down the stools. Start the dishwasher. Wipe down the bar. Get back ups for nearly-empty spirits. Fill the ice bins. Make myself a double. Slice limes and lemons. Check the cash drawer for change. Flick all the lights on. Then unlock the doors right around 4pm.
It’s rare that a bartender would open the day after they closed. Which makes it normal to curse the previous night’s tapster for low levels of liquor and a general disarray of the bar. It’s understandable, even expected. Part of the opening routine. “Goddamn Bill, guess you don’t know where we keep the towels. Well I’m sure you’ll figure it out sooner or later. It’s only been how many years now?” So on, and so forth muttering to yourself in the empty room.
It wasn’t long before the evening rush started filing in. Soon it was packed. Typically there’d be different regulars on different days. People have their own schedules. Today it seemed as though every patron I’d gotten to know in my short time here, was converging on the bar. I wasn’t sure why. There was no big game. It wasn’t a major holiday. Wasn’t even a Friday. Just another whirlwind of alcohol flying around the bar as I attempted to keep up.
Arnie is one of the first here. He hardly ever speaks. At least I have someone to talk to other than myself. Even if I carry the entire conversation. Arnie holds up his index finger at you when he’s thirsty. I was told when I started this means he want’s a rum and coke. A few other strangers wander in seeming lost. Which is often a sure bet they order something ridiculous. I’ll say we don’t have it, directing them towards our draft beers.
Lucy storms in soon after. Stomping all the way across the floor to take one of the last stools at the bar. I think it was actually someone else’s already. Doesn’t even phase her. She tosses their coat on a nearby table. Too bad for them they went to the bathroom. And for me. Lucy is a nasty flirt. Not in a good way either. She’ll try to gross you out.
Cameron will always encourage that. He thinks it’s funny when other people get uncomfortable. I constantly tell him he’s way too young for this crowd. That there are plenty of other bars to drink at in this neighborhood. Maybe that’s why he likes it here, but I don’t like him here. Not sure I’ve ever seen him drink what he orders. Which makes everything about him highly suspect.
Then there’s Harold, who always calls me names. He actually gets nicer the more I liquor him up. It’s a clever approach. Well thought out. I know he doesn’t ever mean it. Because he tells me so, apologizing over and over while staggering to the door. Once he had to catch his balance by lunging for the door handle. Ingrid swung it open a second earlier. It was a free fall from there.
Ingrid is a working single mother of three. Lives in the building across the street. Usually she’ll make a beeline for the bar near closing time. With the kids put to bed and baby monitor in hand, it’s time for mommy to get a few drinks down. Just to keep some semblance of sanity.
Aside from these names and faces I can identify, are your typical bar patrons. Too loud, too demanding, and they’re drinking too fast. Which means I’ll have an angry mob on my hands if I’m not careful. More ice in the glasses is the first, obvious move. I’ll claim it’s a beverage temperature issue if anyone were to catch on. Then I can water-down the beer, but that’s a bit trickier.
“Have you ever measured the diameter of your resting asshole?” Lucy asks. “Because I’d like to know what it is? Maybe we can measure each others?”
“Just measure the broomstick he’s got up there,” Cameron chimes in. His obnoxious laugh bellowing through the bar.
Arnie’s finger goes up for the third time already. I’m too busy to join this ridiculous discussion. Harold must be getting drunk. Now he wants to buy me a drink. He’s feeling guilty. About what, I have no idea. Being that I drink for free, it’s really just a big tip. Don’t ring that one up. Put it straight in the bucket. I’m way too many drinks in when things finally start to calm down. Which is probably why I get startled by Ingrid slamming her baby monitor down on the bar.
“Beer and a shot,” she says.
“You got it momma,” and I pour her usual.
It’s around then I realized that I drove to work tonight. I can’t leave my car over here. Parking is scarce in this neighborhood. Cameron wants a ride home too. Maybe that asshole can drive us? Fully assuming he doesn’t actually drink, I settle on pouring myself another.