Continued from Part II . . .
[B]A BARTENDER HAS AN AURA[/B]
Have never quite figured this out, but Bartenders have this mystical messianic aura about them. Bar people THINK bartenders 1) know everything about everything, and 2) are good looking, even if, in reality, they are ugly. In the image that people have created in their minds, bartenders are people that you would want to have stranded with you on a desert island because they would know how to make fire, get water and food, and build a shelter. They would always win “Survivor”. They are the ultimate alpha-male (or female, depending on the case).
[B]But this bartender worship cult can only be found in the “bar people” subculture. In business and industry, bartenders are about one notch above pond scum.[/B]
I did an informal experiment (very unscientific) on this bartender hero stuff when I was a bartender and wondered about it. On one of my days off, I went to a few bars in another town, where people wouldn’t recognize me as a bartender. Women there hardly gave me a second glance, much less talk to me. But back in my own town, where I was recognized as a bartender, and in my own bar, I could hardly keep the women from gushing all over me. I looked the same in both the out-of-town places and locally, but the difference was that locally, I was known as a . . . BARTENDER.
When I would close the bar, there would frequently be several women sitting at the bar and waiting for me. In fact, one time I remember that there was an older gal (probably in her 60’s - at least 30 years older than me at the time - and she was remarkably well preserved and attractive for that age) who sat at the bar all evening and stared at me. When it came time to close, she was the only one left - and still staring at me. She said something like, “I’d like to take you home with me”. Clearly, she was putting a move on me.
So I politely told her that I was closing and that she would have to leave. She said she would wait for me down in the hotel lobby. About 15 minutes later, I asked my Cocktail Waitress to go down to the lobby and see if she was still there, not to say anything to her if she was, and come back to the bar and report. The Cocktail Waitress came back and said, “Yup, she’s waiting for you, so now what are you going to do??” I decided that I would stall a while longer and stay in the bar. About a half an hour later, I sent the waitress down there again, and the old gal was STILL waiting for me. So I decided to stall some more. After about an hour or so, the old gal was finally gone. When I left and went out to the parking lot to get into my car, at about 3AM, I had the eerie feeling that some old gal stalker was going to leap out of the bushes and stab me. Of course, nothing happened, and I never saw the old gal again.
To this day, I still wonder whatever happened to her, and now feel kind of sorry for the lonely old gal. I’ve always wondered what somebody as old as that, and somebody as attractive for that age, was doing alone in a bar . . .
One night I witnessed a bar fight. I was working the “Western Bar” in the hotel, and it had swinging double doors, an appropriate backdrop for the scene.
There were some visiting Irish tourists in the bar, along with a group of (fake) cowboys, with the usual rhinestone shirts on. The Irish folks thought the “cowboys” were real, were fascinated with them and the bull stories they slung, and the double doors and the Western Bar decor contributed to the fascination. The Irish folks invited the cowboys to come sit at their table, so the cowboys moved their table over to the Irish folks and about a dozen or more cowboys and Irish folks sat at the joined tables.
As the evening wore on, the Irish folks drank heavier and the cowboys did the same. The cowboys took advantage of their perceived celebrity because the Irish folks bought all their drinks throughout the night. I could see that they all were getting toasted.
Eventually, toward closing time, I heard their voices getting louder, and it soon became apparent that they were arguing and things were getting nasty - I had no idea what the argument was about.
When I turned around to look at them, I saw a cowboy and an Irish guy standing up and grappling and punching at one another. The gal that the Irish guy was with (his wife, I presumed) got up and tried to break the fight up by restraining her husband. In that effort, though, the wife held her husband’s arms so that she enabled the cowboy to haul off and slug the guy right in the chops.
At that point, the rest of the Irishman and cowboys got into the fray, and the whole scene looked like one of those cartoon fights where all you see is arms flailing and shoes and legs up in the air and star images. The mass of entangled people migrated to the double doors, slammed through them (right out of a Western movie), out into the hallway, down to the lobby, and on out into the parking lot.
At first I was going to try and break it up when they were in the bar (having seen the wife hold the Irishman husband in a similar attempt to break it up and then seeing that her hold enabled the cowboy to slug the Irish guy, I wasn’t sure how I was going to go about breaking it up), but by the time I was headed toward them and making a plan, they crashed through the double doors and down the hallway. It all happened so fast that all I could do was send our old security guard after them. I don’t know if he ever caught up with them, but he came back to the bar and said, “Last I saw them they were in the parking lot”.
I remember two fire incidents in the bar where I worked. One involved a drink and one involved the sprinkler system.
First, the drink. A guy came in the bar and ordered a “Harbor Lights”. That’s a drink served in a pony glass where you 'float" (pour gently and slowly on top of the base booze, which for a Harbor Lights is Galliano) Bacardi 151 Rum and light it.
A hundred and fifty-one proof Rum burns and gives off a dim blue flame, barely visible. I lit the Rum and placed the drink in front of the guy. He had a beard.
He downed the drink in one swift motion, holding the rim of the glass to his lips and throwing his head back all at one time. (That’s pretty much the way you have to drink Bacardi 151, because it burns if you sip it).
But shortly after he drank it all in one big gulp, I noticed that his beard was . . . smoking!!!
Some of the lit Bacardi 151 had dripped down to his beard as he tossed the glass up.
I was about to douse him with water from the bar gun, but he had felt the heat of his beard being on fire, and he pounded it out quickly with both hands.
Then there was the time there was a fire in the restaurant kitchen (which is adjacent to the Western Bar, where I was working at the time).
We had a group from the Lions Club in that night, and one of the members was a guy named MacDonald - we all called him “Mac”, of course (I don’t know that I ever heard him called by his real first name - which I never knew anyway).
Mac was a nice old fellow but he was also a non-stop talker. That night he was sitting at the bar, talking away to anybody that would listen.
When the kitchen caught fire (a small fire, and I think it was some kind of food heating on the gas burner stove), the sprinkler system went off. Unfortunately, the sprinkler system in the bar went off too (I guess the kitchen and bar sprinkler systems were all piped together as one). But it wasn’t water that it sprayed, but rather something like Carbon Dioxide. Whatever chemical it was, it came out as a white powder-like substance.
And it really spit this stuff out, so much so that within seconds the whole bar top was white with it.
And so was Mac!! He was covered in white powder from the sprinkler.
Everybody else was running out of the bar, the alarm claxon was sounding . . . and Mac was still sitting at the bar, covered in white powder, but still talking away as if nothing was happening.
He had a handlebar mustache, and I can still picture his face and mustache all covered in white powder, but Mac still talking away and apparently oblivious to the entire situation.
He was certainly a colorful character (and a big tipper too!!)
Around 1985 or so, I decided I’d had enough of the bartending aggravation, so I quit. Actually, I quit a few times before then, but I always came back. But that last time I was done for good. Besides, it was supplemental income anyway . . . I had a regular day job.
I use the word “aggravation” because in the last year or so I was always in a bad mood behind the bar. And a bartender in a bad mood is always a temptation to customers to “aggravate” even more. If you’re in a good mood, they always want to talk. But if you’re in a bad mood, they seem to want to talk more. And since you’re a captive audience of one, you can’t get away. When you’re in a bad mood, you don’t want to talk and you certainly don’t want to listen. But as a bartender, you’re a listener “on demand”, whether or not you feel like listening.
So I had had enough. I wanted the freedom to be in a good or bad mood while on the job. Bartending is not the right kind of job for that.