Tag Archives: tending bar

This is Me, Trying not to Give a Fuck About Assholes

21 Oct

I originally learned to bartend from a guy I used to date. He had just opened his own bar and had been in the game for awhile. I had done pretty much everything Front of House but bartend, save for pouring a few beers here and there. So there I was one night, having a glass of wine at his bar after coming back from a shift of my own in the West Village, when all of a sudden he got busy. I hopped back behind the bar to keep him ahead of the quickly mounting piles of dirty glasses and, while I was at it, I poured a few pints, giving him time to make all the carefully crafted cocktails he was known for. I decided right then and there that if I was going to continue in the service industry, I didn’t want to be anywhere but behind the bar. It felt safer, more in control and, dare I say it, a little bit cooler. So he started teaching me. He set me up with a speed-pourer equipped liquor bottle full of water, a jigger and a rocks glass and set me to work pouring out glass after glass of perfectly counted neat waters. He gave me a book of drink recipes and went through, X-ing out all the drinks he didn’t think I would ever have to know, and telling me to memorize the rest. He also gave me a piece of advice that I held on to, tightly, until, well, now. He said, and I am paraphrasing here, that bartenders are like a community, and it is each of our responsibilities to educate people how to behave, and how to tip, so that other bartenders don’t have to deal with the crap. But today, October 21, 2014, something like 7 years after I was initially given that advice, I am calling bullshit. Not on the community thing, or the fact that in some way or another many of us are in this together — we warn other neighborhood drink slingers about dickheads and problem customers, call each other when there’s an incident, send our friends good customers when they decide to drink in another bar. I am calling bullshit on the idea that a lot of people are open to learn how to be, well, human.

Here is the thing. I have a super strict standard of behavior for myself. When I deviate from the standard, I am sent into an incredibly intense moral hangover that involves long walks, sulking, ill-fantasies, maybe some tears, apologies and, on more than one occasion, the purchasing of small (admittedly unnecessary) gifts. I really don’t like to act like an asshole. It doesn’t agree with me. And I operate under this misconceived notion that other people also don’t like acting like assholes. Or, perhaps more specifically, that they shouldn’t like acting like assholes or, even more specifically, that they actually don’t think they are acting like assholes at all. They are just being themselves. But realistically sometimes “themselves” actually just means “assholes.” Did that make sense? The point is that some people are just dicks. They are dicks and they don’t care. Well, you know what? As of today, October 21, 2014, I no longer give a fuck.

So here’s the deal. My dad once told me, and this is one of my favorite pieces of advice, that we can only have expectations of people that are in keeping with what they have previously demonstrated is possible for them. Like, if someone is a liar all the time, we can’t expect them to just randomly start telling the truth and we can’t really be that mad at them when they behave the way that they have always behaved. They are doing what they always do, I am just placing my unreasonable, in context, expectations on them. So I get to make a choice. I can either be cool with the fact that they are a liar and deal with it to whatever extent is necessary, or I can get myself all bent out of shape about it. But then who’s the chump? Me. I’m the chump all bent out of shape about an entirely predictable situation. And I don’t like being a chump just about as much as I don’t like being an asshole. So now let’s put this in conversation with bartending.

I like to think that when I go into a bar and order a drink I am pretty polite. I sit in my stool, I take out my $20 and place it on the bar (especially if I don’t know the bartender), I know what I want to drink, I wait my turn, and then I ask for my drink, book ended with pleases and thank yous. I love please and thank you. I might make friendly conversation, I might just read a magazine. I rarely, if ever, tell people I bartend unless they ask (sometimes the 20 gives it away) because to me that just reeks of asking for buybacks which is something that polite people just do not do. In the process of drinking my drink, I do not rip up my coaster or stir up shit, and when I leave I tip. Plain and simple. I like to think that I am a good bar customer more often than not. I even think that if I were serving me a drink I would like me and I might even say to myself,

“Self, that girl drinking the Powers sure is polite.”

And there are plenty of people who drink in bars that are polite. Or at least well-behaved. Or maybe they just don’t offend me in any way. But then there are lots of people who just down right suck. They also seem to travel in packs. They are rude, demanding, condescending, sexist, messy and all sorts of other things. Bartenders can smell them when they walk in the door. I don’t know what it is about these people but you just know, from first sight, or first order, that they are assholes. And in the past, I would want to let them know they were assholes, to educate them, or to prove a point, but not any more. Because you know what? That is not my job. It is not my job, or really my right, to force my own moral compass, my own standards of behavior, on other people. They want to be dicks, to a point, then fine, let them be dicks. That’s cool. They want their drink strong? “Okay,” I’ll say with a smile, and I will make it the same way I always make it. They want less ice? That’s cool, they can just get more mixer. They want to wave their glass at me, snap their fingers, flash their cell phone screen? I won’t tell them they did anything wrong, I will just send them to the back of the line. They might think I’m a bitch. They are welcome to their own opinions. Because here is the thing:  I am doing this for the foreseeable future. Maybe not forever, but for now. And the name of the game is self-preservation. And you know what makes it easier? Not letting it in. (Also, the fact that the new bar I am working at comes staffed with security. At a certain point, shitty behavior actually stops being my problem and that is a luxury I am happy to accept.)

So all you people who are awesome? Come see me! It’ll be fun. And all you people who suck? I will gladly take your money. And I’ll turn all the negative energy into creative motivation for my book. Because, yea, I’m doing that.

Please don’t ask me what else I do

24 Sep

Mostly, right now, I want to explode. I don’t actually know a more accurate way to put it. You know how sometimes you just go about life and realize that everything is just sort of, wrong? Or that you ended up somewhere entirely different than where you thought you would be? And then people say stuff like “oh, maybe that’s not so bad” but it is. It actually is so bad. So the other day at work this thing happened. So just to preface, I think maybe some of you people think I am really sensitive. I’m not, actually. I get mad about things but they don’t tend to penetrate through to anything, you know? Like, I get pissed off when people go through life acting like entitled little shits, but it doesn’t make me feel worse about myself, it just makes me feel a little worse about those people and the people who raised them. And also their friends who never call them out on their bullshit. Oh, and also the society in which we live that seems to think it is better to placate people because they have money than tell them that they suck at life. Because, obviously, money > respect.

Anyway, I can tell that I am in a spot when things people say to me at work actually get through. Generally what it is is some well-meaning person who just doesn’t get it. This is a perfect example. You wake up one morning and you have this HUGE zit on your forehead. Right in the middle of it. And you are aware of it and super self conscious and all that and you do whatever it is that you can to try to get it to go back to where it came from. You put on toothpaste to dry it out, some sort of zit cream, makeup. But nothing helps. It’s like a third eye. And you go out in the world and you know everyone sees it but there is nothing you can really do and then one person, one stupid person, is like

“hey, there’s something red on your forehead. Did you bump your head?!”

And you’re like


and then you go home and cry and wonder why everyone is so mean.

That’s not what happened at work. What happened was the following. I was at work, you know, working, and this lady who has lived in the neighborhood who I have known in passing for a long time came in and ordered her drink and sat down right by the service station and the following conversation happened:

Actually, let me preface this real quick by saying that I have spent the better part of the past 5 months feeling like a waste of space. Okay, so keep that in mind.

Lady: So, are you done with school?

Me: Yup, graduated a year ago May.

Lady: what was the degree in again?

Me: Master’s in International Affairs.

Lady: So, are you working?

Me, standing behind the bar, I look around: Um…yes? Right now?

Lady: No, like, somewhere else.

Me: I work at another bar in Crown Heights.

Lady: But not in your field?!

Me: No.

Lady: Well, are you looking?

Me, wanting to scream MIND YOUR BUSINESS: No.

And then I stormed off and didn’t make eye contact again. It’s like, I know she meant well and was taking interest and couldn’t possibly know that the fact that I am doing nothing with my degree except paying it off is the equivalent, for me, of having a massive goose egg-sized zit on my forehead but still. It made me mad. So, a word to the wise, please don’t ask your service professional what “else they do” as if doing what they’re doing isn’t enough. For some people, it’s what they love and they have made a career out of it and that is fucking awesome. For many others, we are trying to figure it out and putting a lot of pressure on ourselves. Your questions, well-meaning or not, might not have the desired effect of making you seem interested in our lives. It sounds as if you think what we’re doing isn’t good enough. And the thing is, it is good enough. It just might not be our passion and that is something we are all trying to figure out and deal with. So, ask us how our day was, but please please please for the love of god, don’t ask what else we do.

Tip #10 on Being a Good Bar Customer

22 Oct

Here it is. Your favorite FranklyRebekah series! To be honest, the only FranklyRebekah series but that doesn’t make it any less exciting, it just perhaps decreases the level of competition involved. If you missed them, or you want to be reminded of them, here are the other 9 previous bartender tips. Read, enjoy, share: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight and nine.

This entry actually has an alternative title: My NEDmesis. I generally try not to call people out by name on my blog, but that alternative title is just too clever and funny to pass up. No one really knows who this guy is, anyway. Except for him. And he doesn’t read my blog.

Personally I am an adherent to moderation.  Well, generally speaking.  Every now and again we all get a little too crazy, don’t eat enough snacks, and end up toppling over while trying to crouch at the subway station.  It happens.  And I won’t begrudge people the occasional sloppiness.  Or even regular sloppiness so long as said sloppiness doesn’t result in someone (a) becoming an asshole or (b) vomiting everywhere.  I think I have addressed people being assholes before.  Vomiting, however, is an unfortunate mainstay at any drinking establishment and also something that totally sucks, both for the vomiter and for the people responsible for cleaning up said vomit.  (At this point I have to give a shout out to my friend and co-worker, Sasha, who always cleans up the vomit.  You are my hero.)

Sometimes, as I mentioned before, drunkeness creeps up on a person.  By and large the older we get, the less we allow ourselves to get to the point of vomiting.  We come up with tricks.  We figure out our own signs.  We know when to stop. We drink less.  That or we drink enough that we train our stomachs to keep that liquor in there no matter what.  Not everyone can be so skilled in such an important, and pride-inducing, arena.  Sometimes, though, people vomit.  It sucks but it happens.

So here’s the thing.  If you vomit in the bathroom, or anywhere else in a bar, it is best to leave afterwards.  This is not to say you can’t come back another day but just that maybe the vomiting should be a sign to you that you have already had too much.  Also, vomiting is a sign of weakness and no one wants to be seen as weak.  (That’s sort of a joke.  Maybe it isn’t a sign of weakness but it IS embarrassing.  It smells bad and everyone knows what you had for dinner.)  You should not do what my Nedmesis does.

Okay, so we have this one customer.  He is a short guy.  I am 5’4″ and I would say I have an inch or two on him, easy.  I only mention this because, due to his diminutive stature, and the fact that he only graces us with his presence on days when the bar is absolutely packed with law students (these are my favorite days), he is able to sneak in.  He literally appears out of nowhere.  One second the coast is clear, and the next second, there he is, with beer in hand.  He never orders his own beer so I never know when I am serving him.  I really think he might like, phone in his order to one of his friends and then do a military-style crawl through the door and across the bar in order to avoid detection.  The reason why I like to know when I am serving him is because he oftentimes walks in shit-faced, he does not know when to stop, and once I stop serving him he is really difficult to get rid of.  He’s like a house fly, always buzzing around and nearly impossible to catch.  He also does those three things that people do when they get cut off that drive me crazy:

1. He argues
2. He tries to get other people to buy him drinks as if I won’t notice and is if I won’t snatch the drink from his hand if I catch him with one
3.  He takes drinks off the bar that don’t belong to him and don’t belong to his friends and starts drinking them as if he is the governor of drinks.

All of that is annoying enough but the worst of it is that he drinks enough to end up vomiting on the regular.  And he doesn’t make it to the bathroom.  Nope.  He just stands there, in front of the bar, turns his head to the side, vomits, and then looks at you as if nothing happened.  Sort of like a puppy who just shat on the floor but is trying to let his cuteness make you think that maybe it wasn’t him.  Then when you call him out on it he denies it ever happened as if the evidence isn’t just to his left and also dribbling down his chin.  And then he tries to order another drink!  Like, what?!  Don’t you realize that I will have to clean up that other, regurgitated drink in less than one minute?  But no, he doesn’t think about that.  He argues with me and it goes something like this:

Nedmesis: Ca-I have anooother ber?
Me:  Um, no.  And also I think it is time for you to go home.
Nedmesis: Buh why?
Me: Because you threw up the last beer I gave you.
Nedmesis: Thah wasn meeee.
Me:  So someone in a Ned suit threw up on the floor in order to prevent actual Ned from getting another beer?
Nedmesis: (confused stare) Ca-I have anooother ber?

Rinse and repeat.

I know my logic is perhaps a little bit beyond the abilities of a drunk person, but I sort of can’t help myself.  I also know that I shouldn’t mock someone in a diminished state but when someone gets so fucked up over and over again the only way to not get angry or feel pity is to poke a little fun.  Also, I sort of consider it revenge for the cleaning that I (or Sasha) will have to carry out.  So yea, if you vomit, just leave.  Or if you feel like you might vomit, do it on the street.  Or maybe stop drinking a little earlier.  Don’t vomit on the floor, pretend it wasn’t you, and then try to order another beer.  Don’t also get agitated when, the next time you walk in, I take pause before serving you.  In my mind, once a floor vomiter always a floor vomiter.  As professionals, we have to take certain precautions.