Tuesday, December 6, 2011

15 Life Lessons Learned Behind the Bar

2012 will mark 10 years I've been slinging drinks and wrangling drunks.  It might surprise you to know just how much booze can teach you about humanity.  Or maybe I just view life through rose colored cosmopolitans and green apple martinis glasses.  Either way, here's my 15 cents - because 2 just wouldn't cut it.

15.  People show their true colors when they are drunk.  I've found there are 5 types of drunks.
       The Happy drunk - loves everything and everybody and usually laughs the loudest.
       The Storyteller - "You think that's bad... I once jumped off a train going 500 miles an hour."
       The Pessimist - usually mean, rude and the most likely to fight.
       The Sloppy drunk wild child -  The most likely to end up shirtless, on top of a table.
               The Sleeper - any of the above after their 10th Jager bomb.

14.  Hold the judgement.   Just because a dude is wearing a $500 suit doesn't mean he will tip you well.  Just because a dude is wearing grease covered overalls doesn't mean he's broke.  Treat every one equally and with kindness.  It will serve you better.

13.  Have compassion for that grumpy old man complaining about your wine and snarling insults.   He may just have lost his wife of 50 years and is terribly lonely.  You never know what cross another person is carrying.

12.  Trust your instincts.  If that dude is creepin' you out, don't walk to your car alone.  Sketchy Dave, anyone?  He still gives me the heebie jeebies.  Finding sketches of you and your fellow bartenders, naked, will do that to you.

11.  Don't be squeamish.  At some point, you will be cleaning up puke and, no, it won't be your own.

10.  Be tolerant. Even of the lady who says she can see your aura, read your future in the wind, and believes in sextrology.  Resist the temptation to duct tape her mouth shut when she goes on about how your dad must be into bondage because he's a Pisces.  

9.  Be observant.  Catch that spat before it becomes a fight.  Yodeling or otherwise acting stupid is a great way to defuse tension.  Flashing your boobs works too, but I would recommend trying yodelling first.

8.  Be patient and keep a smile on your face with the ones who can't make up their mind what to drink or who tell you the same story over and over and over.  Or when you have to explain for the 100th time why you have to close at 2 and, yes, it applies to everyone.  Think of it as basic training for parenthood.

7.  Be prepared.  Nothing is worse than being 5 people deep and having to fill the Jager machine or change a keg.  And it's a fact that people are terribly impatient.

6.  Multitasking is what separates the good bartender from the rest of humanity.  Yes, I did remember all 7 of your special orders and no I don't need to write it down.  I also remember that the last time you were here, you ended up pole dancing and left with someone other than your husband.   Be nice to me.

5.  You'll be invited to tons of parties... and put to work as soon as you get there.  Everyone loves a bartender.  They also think sleeping with a bartender will get them free booze.  My favorite crappy pick up line, of all time, is, "you're like a loaded baked potato just waiting for a thick, juicy steak - like me." Really?

4.  You learn to keep a straight face while saying things like: how many - pink pussies, muff divers, leg spreaders, buttery nipples, naked girl scouts, purple hooters, liquid cocaine, screaming orgasms, or crackhouses - do you want. You learn to laugh when people order things like:  The 4 horseman, b-52's, cement mixers, and mexican whores, because someone will be puking later.

3.  Keeping business and pleasure separate is difficult when alcohol is involved, but it is a worthwhile skill to cultivate.  Trust me.

2.  You get a really, really, really thick skin.  No, it's not from that dish sanitizer whose dust particles could kill Chuck Norris from ten feet away.  It's from being called every name in the book.  In fact, the last time someone called me a bitch for cutting them off, I actually laughed and said, "Is that the best you got?"

1.  Have fun.  Laugh.  Don't be afraid to talk to people.  You never know who your going to meet.  I've met famous musicians, athletes, actors, politicians and my husband.  You never know how who you meet may change your life.


  1. About 12 years ago I attended a bartending school, intending on becoming a bartender.
    I wasn't cut out for it from the start, and now I see I never would have made it if I had even gotten started.

  2. Ahhh, you just made me miss bartending. Maybe I should have stuck with it, I made more bartending than I did my first couple of years of teaching. Thanks for the walk down memory lane.