From the Mailbox: “Dear Ed, I've been reading your bartender column for over four years now. I've always wondered, is bartending as exciting and fun as it seems? Does it pay well? If so, how do I get a job?” -Dan, La Jolla
Yes Dan, it is as fun and exciting as it seems. A world where peppy, bouncy party girls burst out of their tank-tops like a microwave popcorn accident-but there is a flip side. Bartending is also a dirty stinking grind. It takes a certain type of person. The question is, Dan, are you the right person?
There will be adjustments, you know, a turbulent transformation of lifestyle and worldview. For instance, when you are a bartender, your social life is the bar. You go out to bars when you're not working. Your friends and acquaintances are primarily other bartenders, waitresses and ever-boozers. And you all become this enormous, deranged, dysfunctional family. Your co-workers are alcoholics. Your customers are alcoholics. Your lovers are alcoholics. You are an alcoholic (that's why you want the job right, to be just a little closer to all those shiny bottles?)
How can this not mangle your worldview? You live inside a dark comedy. The job is to poison your customers, and it's just so wrong it's funny. Funnier still because you adore it-despite the fact that a party girl is puking in the bathroom because of what you served her.
Oh yes, bartending pays well. Oh sweet flatulence of Jesus-you can make crazy monies. You just wish there was some sort of future in it.
So you dream of owning your own bar-a fabulous bar-where drinks are cheap as chicken spit; where happy, bouncy, peppy party girls arrive in droves; where patrons spontaneously erupt into theme songs (with blubbering choruses about how everybody knows your name); where the jukebox is filled with all the Sabbath, Zep, Public Enemy and Johnny Cash you can get your clammy hands on. And best part about your jukebox?
Creed is verboten. Oh Bliss! In fact, Dan, your nightclub is a place to seek asylum from the Creed onslaught outside-where Creed songs just seem to rain from the sky. And in the absence of Creed, all the happy, jumpy, peppy party pretty girls will finally discover Mr. Johnny Cash, and he will drape his songs around them like a long black coat, and they will hear what it means to sing with emotion-without being a pompous asshole; and the bouncy party girls will stand semi-circle around the jukebox, hold hands, sing and sway, and tear off their tank tops... and... er, uh... anyway, there's no future in bartending.
So you want to be a bartender, eh Dan? People are going to see you differently.
I've heard it said, “If a man and his reputation were walking down the street, they would not recognize each other.”
If a bartender saw his reputation walking down the street, he would duck into an alley and hide. Because a bartender's reputation can kick a bartender's ass.
Mavericks and ever-boozers and college kids will regard you as noble or Knightly-a sentinel of some magnificent Brewtopia. Yet, adults-the type with families and careers-acknowledge you with pity or contempt.
Of course, you are none of these.
Your father regards you as some sort of pinko subversive. Your mother wants you to grow up and give her a grandchild, godammit. Your sister will interrogate all your girlfriends. And your brother will try to steal your shifts.
As for your sex life, yes Dan, oh yes there is plenty of sex. Sometimes even with beautiful woman-sometimes, so beautiful you think them divine-that they were accidentally discarded from Heaven when God was throwing out all his Creed CDs.
Yes there is sex. But after time you notice a trend. You notice the only women you sleep with you meet in bars. Though you know there is something terribly wrong with that, you are not quite sure what it is.
So Dan, are you the right type of person? Do you like people but still wish you could go through life with three feet of wood between you and them? Can you look into a person's eyes longer than they can look into yours? Can you tell a joke? Can you take one? There is nothing in this universe fouler than a jaded, humorless bartender with a delusion of authority. Do you prefer the night? Do you drink with dignity? (Sloppy drunks need not apply). Is your skin callous enough? Is your chin sturdy enough? Is your back broad and are your feet hurting enough? Hey Dan, are you man enough to be our man