27 August 2009

A Terrifying Temporary Career Change

One night, for just a few hours, I was a bartender. It's actually more accurate to say "I spent a few hours behind a bar last Thursday." What I was doing was less like "tending" and more like "apologizing" and "wasting beer."

The ordeal was an event - a fundraiser for Mariana and I. Running buddy La'Trisha was there too, but after deciding not to run the race, she was working for fun. It was a simple enough task: make drinks for a few hours. Having spent plenty of time in bars, I felt prepared. Still, we went to the bar early for a crash course in policies and procedures. Real Bartender Casey showed us how to pour beer, mix drinks, take food orders and keep tabs. The lesson probably took 20 minutes and when we (I) said we had gotten everything, we were lying. We took a walk before our shift and shared a bottle of wine. You know, for courage.

We got to ease into life behind the bar. We started on the proper side (the side on which I belong) talking to friends while Owner Keith tended to everyone who was already there. There was little demand when we got back there, which was perfect because everything took four times as long as it should have. I couldn't find the bottled beer I wanted. I thought I forgot how to use a bottle opener. I couldn't remember the specials. I couldn't remember the price jump from that shelf to the next one. I was slow and confused. And unfortunately it was not just in my head. It was as plain as the gin I poured into the vodka tonics.

"Have you ever bar tended before?"
"Wow. You can't pour beer for $h!%."
"You do have another job right?"

I didn't give anyone straws in their drinks. Customers were telling me where to find the alcohol. Others instructed me and cheered when I poured my first proper pint. There was an instance when we had too many credit cards and not enough open tabs. To call it a mess would be to sugarcoat.

And then it was over. We made more than $300 in tips and Owner Keith told us to entertain our friends, which I found to be the best part. It's been a really long time since we just sat with friends in a bar. I mean we've been to bars since moving here, but that was back when we were new and before the height of our money preservation. We've now found people with whom we're comfortable. And we're again allowing ourselves to be social. After bar tending, I promised to put more effort into just being around people I enjoy. It's a valuable lesson. And if I takes a little humiliation behind the bar to learn it, I'm game.

Reminder: I'm running in the Nike Women's Marathon as a fundraiser to fight Leukemia & Lymphoma. Please support me by donating here. The donation deadline is October 1st.

Thank you!

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