It has been a weird week and I am fully aware that it is only Wednesday.
Thankfully, aside from running some training classes, I’m free from direct human interaction for a few days. The last couple nights, however, have been a completely different story and while I don’t normally talk about work stuff on here I feel compelled to share some of the guest interactions I had during my last couple shifts.
As a bartender, you get used to all sorts of people. Considering the nights I work on the bar, it’s usually the sport crowd whom I pity greatly because I am the soul-sucking worst when it comes to talking sports. I know nothing about it and I will flat out tell people as much when they try to engage me on the topic. I’m not trying to be mean, I just really know nothing about any of them.
Side note: I did learn about the NFL color rush jersey’s the other day, mostly because the Seattle Seahawks were super distracting in that they looked like human traffic cones. I’m fairly certain I paid more attention to that game than any other in the history of my life and that was only because those highlighter green uniforms were so damn distracting.
Anyway- as I mentioned it was a weird couple days on the bar where I managed to see the best and the worst of people. What strikes me as odd, is what people are willing to say to a complete stranger. Granted, yes, I’m a bartender but considering the overall venue, not really the place to be saying such things.
Side note #2: For as long as I am employed by this venue I will never reveal where it is on my social media for a number of reasons. 1) While our social media guidelines don’t forbid me from talking about stuff, I’d rather not test the limits of that and 2) I’ve had stalker issues before and I’d rather not deal with police and restraining orders again.
It’s also worth mentioning that I am terrible at small-talk when it comes to guests behind the bar. When you’re serving it’s one thing because you are able to escape but with the bar, you’re kind of stuck there so the options are limited. Some people are great fun to talk to and others are awkward and uncomfortable. And I’m comparing them to me, the king of awkward and uncomfortable.
This bring us to my very first guest on Sunday afternoon. I had just come in for my shift and, if I wasn’t feeling it already, my first guest of the night solidified that I was in for a weird evening.
He started off okay, though I should have been tipped off to the weirdness when he, a man in his 50’s, greeted me with a fist-bump. He ordered a drink (one of the weakest options on our menu in my opinion) and some wings. As he started drinking his personality took a bit of a 180. You would have thought he was doing shots based on how his personality changed.
I took to avoiding him which was easy until other people started to sit at the bar. He left them along but kept his focus on me, which I’m moderately thankful for.
The worst of it came when I was washing some dishes. He was sitting in front of the area where the sinks were and I sadly had no choice but to be face to face with him.
He leaned in close to me.
“Josh, guess what?”
“I’ve got this Tinder girl back in St. Luis and tonight at 10:30 she’s going to fuck the shit out of me.”
And that is how my night started. Thankfully he had to get to the airport for his flight home and I convinced him he needed to leave sooner rather than later to get to the airport. Following our little exchange, he cashed out and I actively avoided him and the bar unless necessary. I had one other guest sitting and he was fine so I hid in the kitchen and had servers check and see if the creepy guy had left.
You know, like an adult.
I’m not a bartender that wants to hear about your exploits, regardless of who you are. Ever.
I’m also not the world-weary bartender that will absentmindedly wipe down glassware while you look for sage wisdom and advice.
I have none.
I have zero advice to give and I’m terrible in times of need.
Case in point being another gentleman that came to sit at the bar later that evening. He was in town for a conference and was a good conversation partner in that he didn’t tell me about tinder dates that would be “fucking the shit out of him”.
Things did get a bit off when he received a text message that a friend of his had received a terminal diagnosis. He told me about it and then got really sad. Understandably so. I just didn’t know how to react to the whole situation. This man was a complete stranger and his friend even more so.
I could have easily spit out the stereotypical nonsense one does but that does not and never seems appropriate so I refrained. I had nothing.
I felt terrible but I really didn’t know what to do or say.
I’m really not the best in those situations with people that I do know, apparently much worse when I don’t know them.
I just kept quiet because nothing that came to mind wasn’t cliché or sarcastic.
I only have two modes.
One of the worst moments of these two days came from two teenage girls. They had ordered some food to-go and when they came to pick it up there had apparently been a miscommunication in the order. Not a big deal and quick to be fixed it was corrected but they made it weird.
They started eating the wrong stuff before mentioning it was wrong forcing me to leave it with them or start an unnecessary exchange. They then proceeded to sit at the bar for well over an hour eating the to-go food, leaving a big mess of not only the to-go bags but additional garbage from other food they had with them.
I was given .80 for my trouble.
I’m not saying that you need to tip 20% on a to-go order but leave something relatively decent. A human being had to take and put together that order. They checked to make sure everything was extra perfect knowing that a mistake would force you to either come back or miss out on part of your meal.
If you decided to sit and eat your to-go food in the restaurant- then, yeah, you’re leaving 20%. More if you’re going to leave a big mess and sit there beyond closing.
It’s not all bad as there are some decent people out there. I had a young couple sit at the bar and hang out for a while eating and drinking. They were fun though I didn’t chit-chat with them too much because I had gotten busy. Honestly the girl was a bit much and was loud so I limited my interactions because she would just get louder and disturb others, not only at the bar but in the lounge dining area.
They were both really great and the girl snagged the tab before her boyfriend and threw down $100 to cover which left a great tip. I had zero complaints.
I was busy when she paid so I hadn’t closed out the tab fully. She had wandered off to the bathroom and her boyfriend called me over.
“Did you close us out?”
“Not yet,” I answered thinking he wanted another drink.
Instead he handed me his credit card saying, “keep the bill, I’ll cover the rest.”
I was floored.
I never know what to do in these situations. Granted this particular situation was a first for me but when people are especially generous, I never know what to do, what to say, or how to act.
On that same night, I served a general manager from a nearby restaurant that not only tipped me but gave me his card with a handwritten note indicating a free $20 bar tab at his place.
He was super nice. I was super awkward.
People always ask why I call myself an awkward bartender and a lot of this is why. I don’t make small-talk. I don’t talk sports. And I’m just gonna be weird to you.
But I make a damn good margarita, so I’ve got that going for me.