Archive | |A Bartending Life| RSS feed for this section

A Lesson from the Past. Thank You, Mary

2 Apr

I had this customer years and years ago. Her name was Mary. Mary was a breath of fresh air, the customer we wish all of our other customers could be. There was a lot about Mary’s life that I didn’t know, but what I did know was that her bar friends were her family. We were her family and she, in turn, was ours. She was a light and part of that was because she always cared. She asked us how we were and then she listened, she remembered, she followed up. And we listened to her. Which is why I bring her up today, in the midst of this pandemic.

Mary lived here in New York City through the 80s, 90s and beyond and throughout all that time was a mainstay in the LGBTQ movement. My first real understanding of the ways the AIDS crisis ravished the gay community was through the stories Mary told me. One story in particular. She explained to me the fear people felt, the conflicting information that was shared and the lack of desire that companies had to do extensive R&D, all of which was brought about largely due to the anti-gay bigotry that permeated society at the time. And she told me what it was like for a woman who cared for ailing friends at home, who visited them at St Vincent’s and who went to their memorial services. She went to so many memorial services. She told me once, and this is something I will never forget, that when the deaths slowed and she looked back at the previous decade she felt as though a plane had crashed. There were so many people gone.

Today, I just sat back and imagined that: a plane full of people you know, or your friends know, lost over the course of a decade. It has always, thankfully, felt so impossible to me. Until, all of a sudden, now.  A friend of mine said to me earlier today, “This thing just keeps circling closer and closer.” She was right. I got cocky. My friends who had it were experiencing mild cases or were, after weeks of sheltering – and coughing – at home, finally seeing a light at the end of the sickness. It was terrible, they said, but they would be okay. I knew, intellectually, we were only at the beginning of this surge but still I was counting my blessings. Hoping that somehow this scourge would pass me and my friends by, leave us unscathed. I knew, also, that it would, without a doubt, effect us all. It would, in the end, reach all our doorsteps. And it has.

The thing is, and I truly believe this, that when someone we love loses someone they love, we lose someone too. It is our job to protect our loved ones from pain. We can’t always do that, of course, but we can hold some of it for them, we can lighten the load. We can hear the stories they tell and share the tears they shed. We can give them an audience, give their person another place to be remembered. And I think we are going to be doing a lot of that going forward. For a lot of people. And maybe we will need people to do that for us.

My head is all over the place. I feel like my brain has been taking cues from those news alerts my phone has been getting constantly. So much news. So much to digest. So many people to check on. How do we keep track of it all? How do we manage it?

We just manage, I guess. Right? Unless you have some ideas?

I guess before I go I will just say a few quick things. Most of us, even if we get sick, will be okay. Most people will recover. That isn’t a comfort to those who don’t, and it isn’t a comfort to those who lose people. And that is not at all to say that we shouldn’t celebrate the good things that happen, that we shouldn’t enjoy our exciting moments (like the fact that my sister Lucy got accepted to Duke’s NP school for September!). I just can’t stop thinking about Mary and her airplane analogy. I truly never thought there was the potential that I would live through something like that firsthand. Yet here I am. Here we all are. And although Mary isn’t here for me to sit and talk to like I did so many times in the past, the fact that she taught me that lesson, that she took strength and perseverance from her experiences, and that she continued on with open arms and an open heart gives me hope. So I am holding on to that as tightly as I can.


If you are enjoying my writing, and since a lot of the cafes are currently closed, consider buying me a coffee on ko-fi! It only costs $3 (or a multiple of 3 if you’re feeling frisky!) and would make my house-bound, under-socialized heart sing. To those of you who caffeinated me, I send you so much gratitude. And I send gratitude to all of you who took the time to read this piece and helped me hold some of these thoughts. 

A Ton of us Lost Our Jobs on Monday

18 Mar

And I was one of them.

A flurry of text messages, one after the other. We’re closed as of Tuesday at 9am. That was quickly changed to Monday, March 16th at 8pm when they realized everyone would go out eating and drinking. I was expecting it, waiting for it and, as I wrote a few days ago, urging the government to do it. It still didn’t take the sting away. No income for the foreseeable future. And no guarantee that I will have a job to come back to when this is all said and done. I, along with a ton of other people across the city, country and world, are unemployed by absolutely no fault of our own. And, not to raise more anxiety than people are already experiencing, I fear we are only the first wave.

I also want to say that I know restaurant folks are not the only ones being effected by this. Gyms have also been closed which means all your personal trainers, fitness instructors, front desk workers, cleaning staff members, back of house office folks are also out of work. Salons are closing. So there are stylists, waxers, eyelash extension affixers, manicurists, massage therapists who also find themselves suddenly with no income. There are bicycle maintenance people, theater performers, costumers, freelancers, janitors for shuttered schools and office buildings, landscapers, event planners, florists, DJs, musicians, dog walkers, childcare professionals, Uber, Lyft and taxi drivers and so many more people I can’t think of off the top of my head. And then there are small business owners. The people who employ the aforementioned folks in some way or another  (I know this doesn’t apply to gig workers because that is a whole other story) and all of a sudden find themselves with bills, unusable stock, taxes, rent and a complete and total halt of sales for…who knows how long. Just today I thought to myself…wait, what happens to all the perishables bought by restaurants for the coming week? What do they do with that? Can they donate it, legally, even with whatever liability issues might accompany the potential for food borne illness? Do they just, toss it, when grocery store shelves are void of all kinds of random shit people have been hoarding? (Side note, does anyone have some extra garlic they could spare?)

There are so many questions, there is so much uncertainty. There are so many people who cannot spare one paycheck. They have kids who are suddenly home from school, parents who they care for, families they send money back to. Or maybe they don’t have good health insurance, any health insurance, or they live in a high rent city, they have student loans, credit card debt, they are in the middle of a move and all of a sudden find themselves with nowhere to go. We have created this economy where people have no safety net, and at the same time there is this weird tendency to blame people for this even while we spend money on the exact same services that deny people the benefits and security we all need to survive. We blame them for not getting a college degree when those degrees are insanely expensive. We blame them for not getting high-paying jobs, or founding businesses, when so much about opportunity is tied to who you know, when so much funding is about having rich friends. The rags to riches story is the exception, not the rule, and we often forget that. There are entire sectors of the workforce where people who maybe couldn’t get a job anywhere else rely on a strong market, rely on wealthier people with disposable income, to hire them to do things. But when things get tight for those wealthier people, when the stock market crashes, that portion of the workforce is deemed expendable, they are largely invisible. And they need the money more than a lot of other people because they are so much closer to having nothing.

I am also worried about our prison population. What happens if, no when, this virus takes hold there? How about the homeless? There is a man, Daryl, who visits me at work every week. I don’t know where he stays. I am terrified I will never see him again. What about all the people in the concentration camps along the borders? What about them? Why have we heard nothing? How will we help them? Will we be able to? Will the people in charge even want to? What about people with non-elective surgeries coming up? Our medical professionals? Sanitation workers? Delivery drivers? Postal workers? Public defenders? Ruth Bader Ginsburg?!

Please trust me, I am not trying to blame any of you for this. I am not trying to make people feel guilty. I am not trying to scare anyone more than they already are. I am literally taking you on a journey through my brain over the last few days, through all of the things I have been thinking about and worrying about. About all of the people who are the backbone of our daily lives who fade away when the money dries up. But the thing is that they don’t fade away, actually. They lose their jobs. And we don’t see them anymore. But they continue to exist, to live and to struggle. If it is okay with you, I will continue on documenting what I am feeling. If I am being too preachy and annoying, or if I am causing you too much anxiety, you don’t have to read my future posts. I won’t blame you. We’ve all got enough to worry about.

I am a Bartender. I Am Begging NYC: Close the Bars

15 Mar

I have seen a lot of folks on social media griping about all the people packing into bars and restaurants in the face of this growing public health emergency. And I get it. Given everything that is happening, given what we know about the spread of this thing, this could prove potentially lethal for a lot of people we love.  We should stay home. We should self-quarantine. We should take the necessary steps not to keep ourselves healthy if we are young and low-risk, but to make the responsible choices for our neighbors, family members and high-risk friends. And on the other hand, as a service worker myself, I  need people to go out to bars and restaurants so I can continue to pay my rent and my bills, to buy food, to live. But as some one who has maybe 2-3 months of savings before I am basically scraping the bottom of the barrel (I understand this makes me very privileged compared to other workers in my position), I am begging Mayor De Blasio, Governor Cuomo and President Trump to mandate the closing of all non-essential businesses, even if those businesses are essential to my financial well-being and the financial well-being of a lot of people who I love.

Here is the thing. You can spend your time online telling people to stop being so selfish, to stop speeding us towards a very dire situation, to think about others but they will not. We have been raised not in a community-oriented society but rather one that is very individualistic, one that focuses on what is good for me not what is good for us. We cannot expect people to, on their own accord, undo all of the training that we have received over the course of our entire lives. Activists should understand this better than most. We spend a lot of our time advocating for the betterment of those underserved by society to see gains made at a glacial pace. People who are “on our side” oftentimes do not spend their time trying to be anti-racist or anti-sexist. They don’t want to make themselves uncomfortable. I get that. Being uncomfortable sucks. So I don’t know why, in this instance, so many activists are asking people to make themselves uncomfortable for the betterment of the rest of society and expecting those people to listen. Why would they start now? And I also don’t know why, in this instance, many activists have turned a blind eye to the real financial disaster looming just around the corner for those of us who will be effected by these closures.

So it is imperative that the government steps and makes it happen. And it is also imperative that the government takes steps to help those of us who will be affected by this. And I am not just talking about service and gig workers, but also small business owners who can only forego a few weeks of loss of income before they have to shutter their businesses. And with those shuttered businesses will come a huge loss of jobs. Mine very well might be among them.

It has been really frustrating and scary these past few weeks and, if I am being honest, it will only get worse. And I am angry. I am angry that while me and a lot of people I know – as well as millions of folks who I don’t – are staring down a very, very bleak spring and summer financially speaking, a lot of people working from home, advocating for quarantine and social distancing haven’t taken a step back and realized how fucking scary that is for a lot of us. It’s not that I want to go out and be in crowded places, touching things that other people are touching. It is that I have to. So while I am advocating for the closing of bars, restaurants and other “non-essential” businesses, I am also advocating for people to take a second and recognize that there are a lot of layers to this disaster. This city, and many cities and towns across the country, are going to look very different in a few months. Loss of life, absolutely. Also loss of livelihood and very different looking business districts. I am just begging you all to be aware of this fact. Ask your friends who walk dogs, work in bars/restaurants, are cab drivers, fitness professionals, small-business owners whether they are okay and what you can do to help.* Maybe just FaceTime them. All of us could use a smiling face in times like these, whether we can work from home or not. Plus it seems like we will have a lot of time on our hands. I know I will! My phone line is open to everyone.

But to get back to the original point, the sooner we close everything down, the sooner we can re-open. The less time this takes, the better off we will all be. If bars and restaurants stay open, people will go there to eat, drink and blow of some steam. That is just a given. So if we don’t want that happening, then they need to close. As I said before, we cannot expect people to make themselves uncomfortable until they are forced to. But until that happens, and mark my words it will happen, I guess I’ll just keep going to work. At this point I don’t have much of a choice.

*Super thankful to all of my friends who have been doing just this. You all are amazing and I love you.

So, About the Coronavirus….

12 Mar

I feel like I have been having to start my posts off with caveats recently. This is largely because it seems as though – in my experience – people right now are always primed and ready for a fight and, honestly, I just don’t have it in me. This isn’t an attempt to discourage discourse; rather, it is me making my intentions clear so people don’t jump to incorrect conclusions and then e-yell at me. I’m too tired for that. We all should be. So, with that being said, here is my caveat for this post:

I am not diminishing the risks of the coronavirus nor am I trying to tell people how they should or should not feel or act in regards to it. These are just my worries and I wanted to share them so, here goes.

I want to start out by saying that I, like all of the people I know, am not an infectious disease specialist. I would say that I am pretty unknowledgeable about diseases in general. We are also living in a time where reliable information seems harder and harder to come by. The government doesn’t have any fucking clue what is happening and it certainly does’t help their cause that they put Mike “My Callous Inaction in the Face of Clear Warning Signs Exacerbated an HIV Outbreak in Indiana” Pence in charge of the response. It also doesn’t help that Trump decided to make massive cuts to the CDC budget and, even in the face of a fucking pandemic, seems dissuaded from using that money to….fund a border wall? I think? And all of this while he and his cronies have spent the entirety of his presidency acting like science isn’t an actual thing that matters in the real world. And so here we are! With a gutted Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a media that seems to not fully understand what’s happening, and an entire country in a state of panic. What could go wrong?!

So, with the knowledge that I am not very knowledgable about the spread of disease, I am going to lay out what I do know, or at least what I think I know. Coronaviruses are actually super common – they are an extremely common cause of colds and other upper respiratory infections. This new coronavirus – COVID-19 – is named as such because it is a novel virus that was first found in 2019. A lot of people who are infected with the virus will have no symptoms whatsoever, while others will get fever, runny nose, coughing, sore throat. Flu-stuff. COVID-19 can also cause more severe symptoms such as high fever, severe cough and shortness of breath. Like the flu, a small percentage of people will die of this disease. Also like the flu, those more likely to die from the disease are old folks and people with underlying medical conditions. COVID-19, however, has a higher mortality rate than the flu. So we all need to make decisions to protect the most at-risk among us. This means washing our hands, not touching our faces, cleaning our phone screens, FaceTiming our grandparents and immunosuppressed friends and relatives rather than visiting them in person and not buying out all the stuff at the store that at-risk people need far more than we do. But we all know this already.

So I am not nervous about personally getting COVID-19 and dying. I am very nervous about something else, though. Money. And also people being racist idiots.

For those of us living here in NYC, we were informed that the city, as of now anyway, will not be closing the public schools. It is a last resort. Why? Because we have a homelessness problem here in New York. The NYC public schools serve more than 1.1 million students. Of those students, 750,000 are considered low income and 114,000 are homeless. These are populations who will be disproportionately effected by school closures and it’s not just because they won’t go to school for a few weeks – a lot of these students and their families rely on the public schools for free breakfast and lunch, shelter during the days and other basic necessities. If they don’t go to school, who will look after them? Does this mean their parents can’t go to work? Do those parents then lose their jobs, deepening the cycle of financial insecurity they are already trapped in? What about those people just hovering on the edge of homelessness or financial ruin? Having to arrange childcare could mean the difference between having an apartment and making rent and… not. There are a ton of unintended consequences that occur when we make decisions regarding the more vulnerable among us.

And also, we are seeing a rise in the gig economy and non-office work. People who don’t have traditional, salaried jobs and instead rely on freelance gig work. I am thinking about all the taxi drivers for UBER, Lyft and Via, tutors, music teachers, people who make money off apps like Task Rabbit, personal trainers, dog walkers who all of a sudden lose a bunch of clients because people are working from home. These people don’t have the ability to work remotely and stay away from others. They don’t have paid time off or sick leave. To all the people complaining about having to use vacation time to recover if you get sick – and you are 100% right in being pissed about that, that shit is trash and late-stage capitalism is fucked – there are also a ton of people who don’t even have vacation time. These are people who if they get sick and can’t work, they can’t earn a living. These are people who could, and probably will be financially fucked.

Also, people working in China Towns or at restaurants and businesses owned by Asian folks. You guys. Just because the virus started in China, does not mean that every Asian person is infected. In fact, there has not been a single confirmed case of an Asian person being infected in New York City AND YET Asian-owned businesses are going under. The media needs to immediately stop using photos of Asian folks in masks when reporting on coronavirus. It is racist and misleading and is having real serious impacts on the livelihoods and safety of Asian Americans across the country. Also, btw, do you know where else there is a huge outbreak of COVID-19? Do you know what country is basically on complete lockdown? Italy! But I don’t see people boycotting pizza! So if you order in, think about getting some Chinese food! It’s delicious! And tip the delivery person extra because I guarantee you they are really struggling right now.

And do you know how I know that? Because I am a bartender. I am a bartender and people are being told to avoid gathering in groups. Do you know how I make my money? By selling drinks to people gathered in groups. We are coming into springtime which is the time of year when I and many of my colleagues make a chunk of our money for the year. This is the time of year we start putting money aside to save for the slower times. A serious and sustained drop in business will ruin my budget for, no joke, an entire calendar year. And bars don’t operate on a huge profit margin. If this panic lasts a few months, my jobs might no longer exist. There are a lot of us out here watching this not just with concern for the health of our friends and families and people we don’t know. We’re watching this unfold with the knowledge that this could cause a massive disruption in our ability to live and pay our bills. This is really scary for those of us not guaranteed a salary. This is really scary for those of us whose income relies on people showing up, not self-quarantining, ignoring health officials. And I am not telling people to do that. I am just saying that while people are concerned about health, keep in mind that there are a lot of people on the brink whose livelihoods could be entirely destroyed over the next few months.

Personally, I’ll be okay. It’ll be uncomfortable but I have a safety net. I have friends and family willing and able to help me if it gets tough. I am lucky. But there are so many people who don’t have that. So while you are sharing information telling people to not leave the house, maybe check-in on the people who rely on others to leave the house in order to survive and see how they’re doing. As I said, there are a ton of unintended consequences when we deal with something of this magnitude. It’s not only about health. This is going to cause a huge economic downturn. And I know it is tempting to be excited about the impact an economic downturn could have on Trump’s likelihood of reelection, but just be aware of who you’re talking to. Maybe…don’t say that. And I know it isn’t just up to us. The government needs to step in and do something. I am just really, really afraid that they won’t.

Tip #22 on Being a Good Bar Customer

24 Dec

Aaaaaaand we’re back. You know, you would think after over a decade behind the stick I would stop being absolutely amazed by people’s behavior. But, you would be wrong. I think one of the things about being a bartender that is great is that I get to meet so many interesting people. People who have had all kinds of jobs, lived all kinds of places, loved all kinds of people. Aside from deciding if they are of legal age, you really don’t screen who walks into your bar and you don’t – aside from a libation or two – know what they are looking for. Are they meeting a friend? Are they looking to get out of the house for a bit? Needing a little quiet time? Wanting to see a familiar face or two? Do they want to talk to me or just sit, scrolling endlessly through their phone? It’s all fine, really. As long as they are reasonably polite which, to be fair, the vast majority of people are. But there are some (as is evidenced through my now 22 tips for how not to behave poorly in a bar) who just…don’t know how to live in a world with other people. They don’t know how to abide by the rules of a private business. This is a story about a few of those people.

I work in a few places, one of which does not permit strollers in the bar. This is not because we, as an institution, hate children. We actually allow children. Just not their rolling means of conveyance. Why? Because those fuckers take up A TON of space. You get 4-5 strollers in a place and you lose a ton of real estate and, with that, the potential for a lot of business. And you know strollers are like ants, where there is one another one (or 5) is never too far behind. That is not good for my pocket and it’s not good for the place I work. So, we don’t let ’em in. Period. There’s even a sign on the door. It says

NO STROLLERS. THANK YOU.

I bet you know where this is going.

Here’s the thing. Most people are cool about it. Most people, when they hear the phrase

Excuse me? I am so sorry but we actually don’t allow strollers in the bar.

Will either offer to leave their strollers outside on the avenue – totally cool with me – or shrug their shoulders and say

No problem. See you next time.

No harm no foul. But there are always a few who just will not hear it. They try to argue that no, they don’t plan to be in the bar, they plan to sit outside in the patio on a beautiful spring day. A place where basically every single other person also wants to be sitting (hence the no stroller policy). Or they will just fold it up small, and insist I won’t even know it’s there! Or they try to turn it into a bag? And in the process spew all the baby accoutrement that can no longer fit inside the stroller-turned-bag and instead it occupies the surface of like 3 additional tables. Which is not that much better than having an open stroller in the room. As it turns out, babies need a lot of things.

Over the past year or so, I have had disagreements with five people who just couldn’t grasp the no-stroller policy. And like, come on, I am the bartender. I work there. I don’t own it. I don’t make the rules. I just enforce them because if I don’t enforce them and my boss walks in and sees a whole mess of strollers do you know who he (rightfully) says something to? Me. Not you. Me. Because I am the keeper of the rules and it is my job to make sure that people abide by them. So it’s like give me a break! When I politely inform you that we don’t permit strollers, please don’t do or say the following things, all of which have been done or said to me:

  1. After I tell you I don’t allow strollers, please don’t then ask me if we permit smoking outside and then, when I answer in the affirmative, please don’t tell me that “smokings kills people, strollers don’t” while you storm out (although that was hilarious)
  2. Don’t instruct your stroller-pushing partner that “you’ve got this” when you walk into the bar full well knowing we don’t allow strollers, thinking you can bully the short girl behind the counter. Also, when I continually inform you that we don’t permit strollers anywhere in the bar, don’t first tell me I am the “hostess” and I should do what you need and then don’t call me a servant before storming out. Not a good look.
  3. On your way out the door after I tell you, again politely, we don’t allow strollers, don’t gesture around the empty bar which I had opened 5 minutes earlier and snarkily say “I guess you don’t allow customers, either.” Because being rude for no reason doesn’t help anyone. It just make you look like an ass.
  4. Don’t put your stroller into an actual bag and then try to tell me and my coworker that it is not a stroller at all but is, in fact, a backpack.
  5. When I have told you immediately upon entering that we don’t allow strollers, please don’t stand around inside and text for 15 minutes with your stroller blocking the entrance way, then when your friends arrive take all the items out of your stroller and try to fold it up (still not allowed), and then blame me about how you have to leave your stroller outside in the rain. That’s not on me. This is not a situation where you ask for forgiveness later. Just don’t do it.

Listen, I know people with kids want to go out and have drinks with their friends. And they should! Parents are people, too. They are now just people who come with other, smaller people. You can even bring your kid to the bar (as long as you don’t allow them to run around, throw things, and scream). Basically, just be a parent the same as always. Meaning, continue to parent. Having a beer in your hand does not mean all your parental responsibilities are gone unless you have left your kids with a sitter (who you are paying a reasonable hourly wage). In that case, have at it! But either way, leave your stroller at home! There’s no excuse really. They now have all sorts of baby backpacks, baby wrap things, baby front-of-the-body-carrying things. All those things are great! Bring those things! Just don’t bring the strollers. Or the attitude. Although to be fair there isn’t a sign on the door banning that.

Tip #21 on Being a Good Bar Customer

28 Mar

Wow you guys. I haven’t written one of these since this one back in August of 2016, and that one included positive reinforcement. I know they were a popular part of my blog, but almost getting fired over writing them sort of took the shine off the whole thing, you know? Well, whatever. That was then and this is now. And I still don’t actually think I did anything wrong, as long as you don’t consider hurting the feelings of a couple of arrogant, misogynist assholes “something wrong.” I certainly don’t. So, that being said, let us continue.

So this post is a lot less about someone actually doing something awful and a lot more about one of my biggest pet peeves as a bartender. And it’s not just me! I did a (very limited) survey of some of the bartenders that I know and discovered that this is a pet peeve shared by all two of them! So I will extrapolate this data and apply it to all other bartenders and voila! I declare this pet peeve universally held. What is the pet peeve, you may ask? Let me tell you a little story.

So there I am, behind the bar. A new customer walks in. I greet him with a peppy(ish)

Hey! How are you?

as I reach over, grab a coaster and toss it in front of him. He replies that he is okay, takes his phone out of his pocket, puts it down, takes his seat and orders his drink. I make the drink, engaging in polite conversation as I do it. But then when I return to his seat and make a move to put his drink on the coaster that I have placed in front of him in preparation for this exact moment I realize it’s gone. But I swear that I put it there. I always put down a coaster. That’s part of the whole steps of service thing that I am so accustomed to. So where could it be? And then I see it: his phone. He has put it on the coaster. And I am immediately reminded of the hundreds and hundreds of times this exact scenario has played itself out over the past decade and change during which I have occupied space behind the stick.

And I am left wondering, why? Why do people do this? Do they have coasters on their coffee tables that they use as resting places for their phones while they watch TV, placing their beer or whisky on the rocks directly on the wood, potentially leaving a ring? Do they always have two coasters present, one for the phone and one for the drink, just so that their phone doesn’t some how feel less welcome? Do they enjoy constantly wiping up small puddles of condensation that has accumulated on their surfaces? Is this just a small expression of their concern for the environment, and their worry of our ever-expanding landfills and its effects on the planet that we call home? Am I missing something?

I am also left standing there with a prepared drink and no pre-placed (and available) coaster upon which to place it. What is a bartender to do? Well, there are a number of different possible next steps.

  1. Shrug your shoulders and place the drink directly on the bar;
  2. Grab a new coaster, toss it either casually or angrily next to the original coaster (this is entirely dependent on the bartender’s mood and/or the number of times she has faced this exact same scenario that shift), and place the drink atop its new throne;
  3. Reach down, grab the phone (AKA coaster stealer), move it and then place the drink down on the original coaster all while making eye contact with the customer;
  4. Place the drink on top of the phone which has now become the de facto coaster after its successful ouster of the previous coaster which was not fairly elected in the first place.

Personally, I oscillate between options 2 and 3. They are direct and instructive (two things I love being!) all without putting myself at risk of an accusation of destruction of property even though, really, putting your phone on the bar is pretty dumb.* One of the two people I surveyed for this post recently made use of option 4 and told me that although it didn’t go over that well in the moment (PSA: no phone was harmed in the placing of the drink) it is pretty funny in hindsight. He doesn’t, however, recommend that particular course of action for the faint of heart. So, I don’t know, maybe I will leave that for the blessed day that I work my last ever bartending shift. Which will probably never happen. Whatever, a girl can dream.

And, while I’m dreaming, you can journey around my blog and read all the previous tip as well as all the other random shit I write about. It’ll be fun (and sometimes infuriating). But mostly fun. I swear.

*I do it all the time.

That Time a Lady Told me to Smile

7 Apr

I had a weird moment last night at work. It was this response to an interaction with this woman where I was like

Wow, Rebekah, you’ve changed!

but then at the same time

Ew, lady, aren’t we supposed to be on the same team here?

So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to recount the story and then I am going to go ahead and address these two simultaneous reactions that I had to it. Ready? Break!

Part One: The Story

It is French Quarter Fest here in New Orleans. Anyone who has been here for any sort of fest at all knows that shit is cray. There are people everywhere. There is confusion. Costumes. Glitter. Music. Tourists. More zombies* than normal. It’s a whole thing. Not a bad thing, but a thing. To add to the drama let me inform you that I work in the French Quarter which, if your powers of deductive reasoning are on point, means that I work in the exact area where the French Quarter Fest is occurring. That means that my bar is busy busy busy.

I walked in last night at 5pm to a busier-than-average Thursday night. And the thing about a busier-than-average night in my place is that we have “steps of service.” The steps of service at the spot I worked at in Brooklyn basically involved getting drinks out as quickly as possible while avoiding the limes and clipboards that miffed customers could potentially hurl at your head. No joke. At this place the steps are more involved and less potentially dangerous. I am telling you all this just so that you know that getting people food and drinks at the spot I work at now is something of a process.

Alright so now imagine this. There we are during dinner on a busier-than-average Thursday night and all of a sudden me and one of my coworkers realize

Hey, why hasn’t any of the food we ordered come out? It’s been a minute.

And by a minute we meant like 45. We then come to find out that the printer in the kitchen has stopped working and they didn’t get any of the tickets. So this might lead one to ask ones self

Self, there is a full restaurant out there and yet there are no tickets coming through the printer. Has this city declared a moratorium on food or is something amiss?

But I don’t think anyone asked themselves that. Or maybe they did, I don’t know. But either way they didn’t keep the bar in the loop and we had two ladies on a 45 minute wait for a salad and some shrimp. Anyway, I was in the midst of discussing this fiasco with my manager when I heard from the other side of the bar a very curt and impatient

Hell-loooooooo.

I looked over to see a blonde lady staring at me with what I can only describe as crazy eyes. You know the eyes.

Me: Hi.
Lady: Gesticulates wildly to the space in front of her.
Me: What can I do for you?
Lady: Well, we just got here and….. (gives me a meaningful look that invited me to read her mind but really just made her look even crazier.)
Me: Here’s a drink menu. Would you like food also?
The lady looks at her husband and they share a communal huff and make moves to get up. I shrug my shoulders and take the menu back and go back to the conversation about the broken ticket printer in the kitchen which I was in the middle of having when she sassed me in the first place.
Lady: Smile.
Me: I’m sorry, what?
Lady: Smiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiile. You would make a lot more money if you smiled. Mo-ney. Smiiii-llleee. (All the while she is using her hands to demonstrate what a smile the size of Texas might look like and staring at me as if I had somehow committed the largest offense ever.)

They then left. But not after telling me that they live in the city and would never be back to this restaurant ever again if their life depended on it. I shed a silent tear. And then I went back to doing my job. Meanwhile, all the people around this couple were shocked and could not understand what had just happened. I told them I also couldn’t understand it. They said they thought I was nice. I agreed. One guy said he thought they came in with a bad attitude. I said he was probably right. We all laughed and laughed. And then we carried on with our evenings, largely unaffected by the bad attitude cloud that had momentarily descended on the bar.

Part Two: I’ve Changed!

Have you ever had some big experience and then afterwards noticed a large change in yourself? This is totally stupid but when I came back from my year abroad I noticed that, as a result of the countless hours spent in various modes of transportation, sometimes for hours and hours longer than expected, I was completely unfazed by being stuck in traffic or being on long car rides. This is still the case all these years later. I used to get a little impatient but now I’m like

Eh. Whatever. I’m sitting here.

In the grand scheme of things that isn’t such a big thing but it certainly does make the amount of traveling I do significantly easier. AND I think it makes me a better car partner. So anyway, in the past if I had an experience like the one with the lady, I would have gone down this whole rabbit hole of emotion. I would have analyzed every single second of our interaction and tried to figure out what exactly I had done to cause her to behave like such an asshole. But sometimes, people are just assholes. Or, they behave like assholes in a specific moment for no real reason. And sometimes there is nothing you do to cause it and nothing you can do to prevent it and so your only solution is to shrug your shoulders and be like

Alright cool what’s next.

And that’s just what I did. I sort of figured if they wanted to be Bad Attitude Bears all around town that was on them and I certainly didn’t need to let it effect the rest of my night or the service I provided to other people. So, fuck ’em. I hope they went home and stewed in their own unhappiness rather than raining it down upon the rest of us people just out trying to have a good time or make a buck.

Part Three: Teammates? No?

I should have learned this already following the presidential election but a lot of white women suck. And beyond that, all us women are not on the same team. Okay, fine. But here’s the thing. Men tell me to smile a lot. A LOT. I’ll be walking down the street and hear some dude be all

C’mon, honey, it’s not that bad. Smile.

Or

You’d look a lot better if you’d smile.

I find that super offensive. It very well might be that bad. And maybe I don’t feel like smiling. But either way shut the fuck up my face is not your concern. Basically every woman I have ever spoken to about it also finds it offensive. The thing about it is I know a lot of women and none of them, not a single one, goes about life with a smile plastered on her face at all times. And I get it, work is different, especially when you work in service. You have to smile more. It makes people feel welcome and people who feel welcome have a better time and tip better. Yadda yadda yadda. The funny thing about it is that I smile at work a lot. I smile so much that some of the dudes in the kitchen call me sunshine. I smile so much that when the barback heard that some lady told me to smile he looked at me and said,

You? Jesus. I think you should smile less.

And so, yeah, I know we all don’t see life the same way but, come on lady! Get a clue! It’s like, I expect men to be condescending assholes and tell me how to live my life down to my every facial expression. I don’t like it but I expect it. I do not, however, expect it to come from a woman who has most likely had a similar experience and felt disempowered or spoken down to or whatever. It’s like, way to drink the koolaid, bitch. Way to just swallow, full stop, normalized sexism and misogyny and throw it in the face of someone 15 years younger than you because you didn’t get a menu and a glowing smile the very second your ass hit the barstool. And I’m sorry that I wasn’t willing to ignore your impatience and rudeness and discern exactly what you needed at that exact moment. I’m pretty good at my job but I am not a magician.

***

And with that, I must away. another 3 days of French Quarter Fest await and I have to do my facial exercises, you know, so I can smile more.

* Zombies, New Orleans style (n): zom-bie
(1) a. a will-less and speechless human (as in West Indian voodoo belief and in fictional stories) held to have drank too much on Bourbon Street and been supernaturally reanimated
b. the supernatural power of the Hurricane or Hand Grenade that according to voodoo belief may enter into and reanimate a dead body