If you’re standing on my side of the bar, invariably you hear someone say, “I wish I could do what you do.”
After wincing, my response is usually: “Stick around for a few hours.”
The wincing is because the customer has just called down the Wrath of the Gods on my bar, my coworkers and I. Guaranteed, before the end of the night, there will be:
¤ A fight large enough that the door guy needs my help to contain it,
¤ Vomit somewhere that I have to clean it up, or
¤ One of the neighborhood crazies engaging myself or one of the others in an hour-long, entertaining-in-a-suicide-gone-wrong-sort-of-way conversation about the way things used to be around here.
These aren’t the kind of things that are cool about being a bartender.
I won’t sit here and say that bartending isn’t in my top three list of jobs that I’ve worked (and over the past twenty years, I’ve dabbled in a lot of types of work to make ends meet). Most of the time, it’s great: stress-free, perfectly suited to my personality and my body-clock, and financially rewarding in the same way as burglary. You meet cute girls, cool guys, drink while you work and become semi(in)famous in your neighborhood.
This is what all of you see.
There are nights filled with violent drunks who are looking for or have found trouble. There are nights with so much business that you almost forget that the air-conditioner has broken, except that the morons you’re serving keep complaining about the heat (try working in it, folks). There’s the crime that floats all around you, the gambling you try to keep away from your pool tables and the drugs you try to keep out of your bathrooms. There are the nights that you don’t leave until it’s become day again.
This isn’t even mentioning cleaning up after a day’s worth of drunken frat boys and their questionably female companions. Seriously: when the girls’ restroom is the contentious point in the cleaning list between the door guy and the barback, how could you even consider going home with one of it’s occupants?
This is what few of you see.
Sometimes I don’t wince when I hear about that wish — usually, then, it’s closing time, and I’ve already taken my game face off. And I don’t invite the speaker to hang around a few hours; you’ll all be gone shortly, and I’ll be drinking a beer and a shot and counting my money.
My brain is already half-drunk when I respond to that dreamer, “No, you don’t. Because then you’d have to deal with people like you all night, and I’m pretty sure you don’t have it in you.”
In a Flesh Aquarium, indeed.