It's last Friday and I enter the bar where I work around 3:45 PM. I generally don't have to be there until 4:30 but I've decided to make the extra effort and get there early to get things set up, liquor bottles out, glassware in place and all of the little things that go into setting up a bar. I've been early to every bar shift I've had for 1 month straight now for a reason. There will be four other bartenders with me tonight (Its a huge bar) and by the time one of them rolls through the door most of the "side-work", though not all of it, will be done by yours truly.
Incredibly I'm the oldest bartender on this Friday although usually theres 2-3 others who have me by a few years. In the past 3 1/2 weeks I've proven myself through my work, skills and commitment, so I've been privy to a lot of insider info like who got fired and why, or why this bartender sucks, or who is going to get fired....etc. I just keep my mouth shut and nod for the most part. I've learned the hard way, to many times, that talking about other people will generally never end well.
So its nearing the start of business (6 PM) and the manager for the night has designated me to "run the point" tonight. "The Point" refers to the bar area and POS computer nearest the bar entrance and the area that will always be the most crowded. I feel honored to be put in the most difficult spot, but I also feel like I'm about to work a lot harder than any of the other bartenders. I like staying busy and having a lot of work though, as this always ensures that the night will move quickly. I start making the first few drinks and working the computer around happy hour a little tentatively, but by 9 PM I'm a machine. Mulitple orders are taken, shots are shaken and drinks are poured simultaneously. My tip bucket gets so full by midnight that I have to put another bucket on top of it to push down all of the excess 1's and 5's.
There are multiple times that I notice other bartenders casually leaning against the bar while I see at least 4 customers near them, staring intently at me waiting for their turn. On these occasions I simply tell the other bartender to get off their ass and do some work, but never in a menacing way.
One bartender, a very cute, very young girl who I had never worked with, constantly walks to our other bars (theres three bars in the building) and speaks with other bartenders. She's clearly drinking (a big no-no) but it doesn't really faze me because when she does attempt to do stuff she usually just fucks it up anyways. For example I keep all of my open credit cards and ID's in an ordered stack next to my computer. At one point she is trying to close out someones tab and comes over to rifle through my pile. She ends up dropping all the cards (about 20 at this point) and then instead of re-ordering them or wiping the disgusting grime from them, she puts them back in my holder, out of order and sticky from being on our vile bar mats. I was not pleased, although I still had visions of her naked dancing in my head through out the night... :) She was a cutie.
Also near my side is another cute bartender, who is working her very first bar shift...ever...at any bar. I try my best to train her on the computer and help her with drinks before we get slammed. I also sidle up every few minutes when I get a second and ask if she needs anything. She works slowly and asks a lot of questions, but for a first-timer I'm impressed that she doesn't get rattled that much. In fact by the end of the shift she has improved considerably. Now if me and other male bartenders can just get her to dump her overbearing boyfriend then we're set... The bar has been on the look out for cute female bartenders lately so its great that we may have found one who is competent.
The night moves briskly and before I know it the lights are on and the bouncers are clearing people out. The manager comes up to me and tells me to gather the bartenders before we count drawers or begin clean up for an impromptu meeting. I grab everyone and we meet up in the back room. Its clear that he is not happy with us although the night ran relatively smoothly for a Friday.
Cutting to the chase, he is unhappy that some bartenders have been drinking on the job, which in VA is very illegal. In the backroom where we meet there is a machine that will give breathalizer read-outs. He basically says if anyone blows anything over 0, then they're done. I hop up first, take my straw, insert it into the machine and blow. 0.0.... I smugly say, "thats right bitches" and walk back to the bar to begin counting my drawer. Others....ahem...weren't so lucky. Bye bye hot female bartender.
After this overly dramatic scene we begin counting the drawers and the manager looks at the numbers for the night. I count my drawer and my tips then I go meet with the manager to see if my numbers match up. They do and my tips come to well over 300$...unfortunately we tip share here so everyone gets the same portion. It should also be mentioned that on "point" I outrang every other bartender by a huge chunk. This can be expected because I was getting the highest volume of customers, but I outrang everyone by an abnormally large chunk. Oh well...
Clean up is done and tips are counted (its 4 am by this point). I end up walking out with tips that aren't even remotely comparable to what I rang or the amount of work I did, but I don't complain because I know how the system works. It just angers me when you see people getting the same amount of money when you know that they don't deserve it. It makes me wonder why I bust my ass all day and night.
Then I remember why.
Don't get me wrong, I bartend for the cold, hard cash. But I also work because I like what I find out about myself through the actual work. Walking out of the bar at 4:30 AM after a long shift I feel cleansed. I feel like I pushed a rock up a hill for 12 hours and my body feels incredibly taut and strong. My head is clear and I don't have any real worries at that moment. If I don't push myself, then at the end of the shift the only person who I disappoint is me. I have enough people who disappoint me as it is...
Following my recent theme, I'm not sure where I'm heading, but being an awesome, hard-working bartender is somehow part of the equation.
Oh and meeting 3-4 new girls a night doesn't hurt either. You know its bad when you have to start asking every Nicole or Erica you meet for her last initial before entering her number into your phone... You know its really bad when you have to ask for her last initial and the following letter. My phone is starting to look like the fiction section at the local library.