In The Weeds: Lowering the Bar
Alright, alright. Go ahead. Say I told you so. I heard all the reasons why I shouldn’t be a bartender at a west-of-the-state-line establishment. Things like 1) you’ll be the oldest person working there 2) you won’t make enough money 3) it’s a long commute 4) you hate serving ranch dressing 5) you suck at bartending (well, we weren’t sure about this one until we tested it out). But yes yes yes yes and, now we know, yes. I quit my job this weekend.
I tried. I really did. After a few weeks on the job, I started whining to my husband that I wanted out. He told me to wait until football season. “Just wait until football season. You’ll be in a groove. You’ll be busy. You’ll make money.” Well, I’m no SportsCenter fanatic, but I think we are a good seven weeks into football season and all I can say is….lies, all lies.
Half of the bar was taken up by the same group of guys each Sunday. They would sit down at 10:30 in the morning and stay until my shift ended at 4:00. Most days, they were too hung over to drink. “I can’t drink anything but water. I drank too much last night.” Well, could you kindly recover in your own living room? Good Christ, do you take a booth at The Olive Garden for six hours and tell them you couldn’t possibly eat anything because you had too much spaghetti last night?
Even if the bar was busy and people were drinking, the cockamamie tip share structure made it nearly impossible to make money during the night shifts unless you were the closer. Seriously, get this. If I clocked in at 3:30 p.m. and was scheduled to be the first person cut when things slowed down, I would split whatever money was currently inside the tip jar with the closer…who was in charge of when I got cut. So the closer had every incentive to get me out of there as soon as possible because she keeps any tips that come from checks closed out after I leave. Most guests arrive after 5:00 and sit for a few hours to eat and drink. She would almost always cut me by 6:30 … long enough to let me do most of the work, but before guests would pay their bills. She was a real peach, let me tell you. In addition to robbing me during the weekly shift we shared, she also didn’t talk to me because, as my manager put it, “She’s territorial.” If that’s the case, I would rather she just pissed her boundaries around the bar. That would have been less awkward than the silence.
Outside of the bar itself, there were a few more things that finally pushed me toward the door. First of all, the babysitting problem has been looming large. I was mostly working the weekend day shifts. So instead of paying a babysitter for 4 or 5 hours at night, we were paying for 8 or 9 hours each day. This put a serious dent in the profit margin. Most days, after paying the babysitter, she walked away with double what I had left. That hurts. Secondly, my stress level reached its peak this weekend when my sitter sent me a text less than two hours before my shift started Saturday morning saying she wasn’t coming to work that day. I haven’t heard from her since. The thought of starting over on a babysitting search, doing interviews and getting the kids comfortable with a new person just to go to a job that I didn’t like and that didn’t produce enough money for the effort was what really prompted my resignation decision.
Like every job I’ve ever had, there are some things I will miss. I’ve gotten to know several regular customers who remind me of all the reasons I love to serve. There was the older Coors Light guy who always called me sweetheart, but not in a creepy way. There was the younger couple who always stayed for hours talking, laughing, holding hands, drinking vodka and reminding me of my own relationship in more carefree times (i.e. before kids). There was the funny guy who always insisted each drink was his last. It never was. And there were my two most regular regulars . . . two guys who were always good for a laugh, a piece of advice, or a drink at the end of a long shift. Like all good customers, they quickly became, and remain, my friends.
So, so long sports bar. It’s not you, it’s me. No wait, maybe it’s you. Either way, I learned some valuable lessons. Like, nobody washes the fruit going in those drinks. Don’t get me wrong, it won’t kill you or anything and I’ll probably still ask for a twist in my martini (since it’s straight alcohol). But when you ask for a lime wedge in your Bacardi and Coke, just make sure you are okay with the field worker’s hands, the factory worker’s hands, the truck driver’s hands, the kitchen worker’s hands, and the bartender’s hands all going in your mouth.