What you learn about the human race when you work behind a bar
It’s always easier if you’re a bit tipsy
When you serve from the “wrong side of the bar”, you learn a lot about the human race and how annoying they honestly are.
Behind the glitz and glamour of cocktails there is a bitterness stronger than your G&T. Bartenders are some of the sassiest people you will ever meet and it’s because they’re either drunk, or have had enough of you pondering what berry-flavoured intoxicant you’d like. Or both.
These are the thoughts of that bartender you “forgot” to tip. Yes, they noticed.
Drunk people are annoying
Everyone’s been there: showed up at a party ‘fashionably late’ to find everyone is already smashed.
Well, imagine you started the party, you’re serving the party, and you’re watching them have the time of their life, while you’re just sitting there like a sour lemon. As you line up shot after shot and try to catch the change lobbed across the bar, you can already feel a migraine coming on.
You can have fun at any age
Although no bouncer is going to let you in with a crappy ID, as soon as you pass the legal drinking age you are free to party whenever you want. People of all ages come into bars, and soon you’ll learn that fun has no age limit. Whether it’s your 90th or 19th birthday, all ages are more than welcome to let their possibly silver hair loose.
If you’re not going to get ice then no one is
The biggest lesson you learn is that people are bloody lazy – even some of your colleagues. As if lugging a tray of glasses out of the steamy machine isn’t bad enough, you will find you are regularly running out of ice (crushed and cubed) – and no-one else is going to go get it.
So go grab your buckets and scrape whatever’s left from the bottom of the machine: it’s the only breeze you’ll be feeling all night so you might as well make the most of it. You’ll be sweating one out lugging the next load up the stairs soon enough.
You can drink for any occasion
It doesn’t have to be a landmark birthday or anniversary to get off your tits. As you try to make small talk to distract yourself from the ticking clock, punters will declare they’re out for the biggest night of their lives.
You’ll ask: “Oh, is it your bachelor party?”, “No, the wife’s got the dog for the night”. Oh, right. You gotta have fun when you can, I guess. Now, where’s my tip?
You’ll never hate life more than during ‘happy’ hour
You will run out of glasses, ice, straws, napkins, and every single spirit you have, as customers queue to buy a round of four drinks just for themselves. As you shake each cocktail individually you can feel the tears springing in your eyes. Or is that just stinging from the limes?
Either way, this is one of the suckiest points of the shift: people pile in from the street and then shout at you when Happy Hour is only an hour long. The clue is in the name.
Working pissed will make your life easier
This isn’t something to be proud of, especially, but it’s very, very true. You try every cocktail you send out anyway, so you’re going to be tipsy by the end of the shift. You might as well go the whole hog and get smashed.
If you “accidentally” fill a glass up with the wrong mixer or pour the wrong pint, you put it aside to down quickly, hidden from the camera. The buzz will hit you and you’ll be much friendlier to all the sodding customers who are having a much better time than you.
Flirting is the only way to make a good tip
It’s shameful, but it’s necessary. With your minimum wage you’ve bought a Primark push up bra, stuffed it with socks, contoured your boobs, and are ready to flirt your way into a better wage.
You put on your best babygirl voice, pout to your heart’s content and tease customers into thinking they’ve got a shot – all for their measly leftover change.
Don’t judge – girls do it on the other side of the bar too. Where do you think we learnt this nifty trick from?
Customers will check out your arse
A skirt is just a no-go in this type of work. As soon as a customer, usually male, clocks that all you’re in is a tight H&M skirt and black tights, you’ll be reaching for whatever is on the bottom shelf (even if it is just Big Tom’s tomato juice).
So, instead, you wear your black jeans and sweat off your attempts at make-up, your last weapon of dignity in this terrible job.
Regulars don’t care if you’re busy
They can see the queue down the other side of the bar and can feel people crowding them as they clutch their fourth Long Island with a twist. But nothing will make them budge, so you have to stretch round the pumps and knock over the Boston tins to reach the other customers.
They’ll be giving evils to the old soul who is intent on having a conversation and occupying all your time, despite your sighs, dead eyes, and despondent responses.
Managers hate the customers more than you
Contrary to popular belief, you are not the most hated person in the establishment. Managers hate customers.
Behind all the smiles and “the customer is always right”, they know that being right doesn’t make you any less of a twat.
Service employees are expendable
Despite the manager’s gratitude that you’ve struggled through a 12-hour shift on what you swear is the worst hangover of your life, you are still expendable, replaceable, and of no real worth to the company.
They can pull any semi-cute or handsome person from their stack of CVs and replace you if you call in “sick” for the third time when they know you had a mad one last night.
Yes. They saw you stumble past the window and don’t believe your half-arsed attempt to sound ill on the phone. Treasure your job unless you want the sack.
No one knows anything about wine
No, you don’t. No, I don’t. Stop pretending. Now, would you like red, white, or rosé sir?
Regardless of your choice, I’ll convince you to get a large of the most expensive one. Don’t think I don’t know the game you’re playing when you order a small Chardonnay. I know no one really likes it, it’s just cheap.
If you hear a song enough times you will dance
All the best songs of the Nineties and Naughties will be playing and you will learn every single lyric and create a team dance routine. From shoulder shuffles to a bum wiggle, you can’t help it. Bars use the same playlist for every single night, so what else are you meant to do? You might look like a tit, but who doesn’t love JT and a cheeky bit of 50 Cent?
As a customer walks away without leaving a tip you’ll be singing, “now you tell me you love me, but why did you leave me, all aloone” in a power stance with an outstretched hand. It’s compulsory, and it’ll be the only chance in your whole life you get to dance since you’re working on all the good club nights anyway.
Your arms will be hench
I’m not joking. The muscle you build from shaking cocktails for hours on end builds a monumental amount of muscle. I would not start a fight on me after a shift: I’ll be drunk, pissed off, with muscles twitching ready to swing.
No longer will you be able to wear a cute little halter neck because your arms are bigger than your boyfriend’s, but at least you can walk home after your 4am close knowing that you’re marginally safer.
Sport days are the worst days
The only saving grace are the legally enforced plastic glasses which save you from being bottled. Regardless, everyone will still complain and you’ll explain 100 times that it’s the law you can’t serve with glass, despite all the signs your manager made you put up earlier.
Not only are you ducking from pints being thrown in roaring screams, the whole event is made infinitely worse as your mates cruise in the sunshine with a cold bottle and their betting tickets in hand.
Meanwhile you’re sweating behind the bar, crowded by old men in nasty rugby shirts cheering and stinking the place up with their sweaty pits. I don’t mean to be rude, I’m just tired and it’s been a long day. What would you like, sir?
Bank holidays are shit
Bank holiday? What bank holiday? No matter how hard you plead with your manager they will laugh at the very thought of you not working Christmas Eve, New Year’s Day, and those two lovely ones in the Summer.
They really couldn’t give a shit and are quite happy to watch you frown at the rota, so don’t even try unless you want to be disappointed.
People never know what they want
It’s as if people go braindead as soon as they approach the bar. Bars are designed to display everything they have on offer but instead you would rather grill me on the selection of everything before choosing a classic Cosmo. Could you not just look at the menu rather than standing here wasting my time for five minutes?
I know its’ my job to know the menu, but it’s also your job to look. Trust me, it just makes everything a lot easier.
You can convince anyone into having a shot
You know you want one. And if that’s not enough, a wink and a smile should be. Plus, you know you want to give me one too, right?
Nothing beats an end of the shift drink
It’s over! Clean down is done. You’ve finished scrapping all the napkins and sticky cocktails from the floor. The trays and trays of glasses will be washed and cleaned.
The washer is shut down and sanitised, along with the stations and speed racks, that’s where we keep all the spirits you think we pull out of no where. Lights off.
You’re sitting on the right side of the sparkling bar. You have the freshest, coldest, pint of the night and can feel it soothing your soul. All ready for tomorrow’s painstaking morning shift, in which you will slice your thumbs and boxes and boxes of fresh lemons and limes.
Better sneak in another, then.