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Hell Of A Hat

It’s a patch-worked wool cap made in Ireland. It sit low on my head with muted-colors. It looks like a hat my Grandpa Tom wore every time we went out. It’s the kind of a hat that a gentleman would wear about town or an Irish thug would guard his head swinging a shillelagh while drinking pints of stout. Maybe that they’re the same thing. I bought the hat at Edinburgh Castle on Main Street. It’s a fantastic store. Walking into this olde world boutique is like stepping into a novelty Nostrums that doesn’t sell anything but kilts, coat of arms and “Proud to be Scottish” bumper stickers. It’s the kind of store that makes you think it’s acceptable to have quasi-jingoistic tendencies.

In the back, they have a rack of cubbyholes with flat-billed caps. I went through the copious stacks and found one that I liked. I brought it to the register and the woman behind the counter asked if I was Italian. I replied my family heritage is Irish and she followed up by asking why I was buying an Italian hat? Sheepishly, she took me back to the racks and helped me pick my eventual purchase. She is one hell of a salesman: I went from a $24 hat to a $60. What an up-sale!

The week started with a convention on Wednesday. It was a group from around the country that markets and sells outdoor living products: fireplaces, patio furniture, outdoor pizza ovens, etc&. It’s the kind of stuff you’d see on an episode of Cribs. We hosted a private party for the group as a meet and greet at Keys On Main. It was a small affair with about 100 people coming in the early afternoon to knock back beers and tip whiskeys.

Usually early functions tend to be a lot of beer and white wine drinkers, this party was an exception to the rule. I guess when you live in the outdoor furniture market everyday is a backyard BBQ blow-out. Between the shots of Southern Comfort, Mind Erasers and Tree Smackers (1 oz. Light Rum, ½ oz. Peach Schnapps, ½ oz. Sour Apple Pucker, orange juice, pineapple juice and sweet-n-sour mix), I quickly realized that this group was fully prepared to conduct their convention business with a well placed hangover.

My favorite line of the night was a guy asking me for a “taste of local.” He wanted a regional microbrew and I started listed the six locals we have on tap. After listing Cutthroat, Chasing Tail et al., I told him as an afterthought that we carry Blue Moon. He stopped me with Blue Moon and said he has heard of it before. I warned him that it wasn’t a local brew and he looked me square in the eye and told me it was. I politely corrected him and he told that I was wrong. Blue Moon is commonly mistaken as being brewed in Belgium because it is a Belgium wheat ale but it is never confused as a Utah beer. It’s brewed by Coors in Golden Colorado. After a quick game of verbal badminton, I acquiesced and ended up serving more beers garnished with an orange slices than any other on Wednesday. What a shuttlecock!

What I liked most about this group was the fact that they didn’t complain too much about being in Salt Lake City for a weekend. They were generally pleased to be spending a couple of days here and were appreciative of their experience at the club. Apart from not being able to get doubles, they didn’t complain too much about the liquor laws and were content on drinking whatever we had available. The only real problem I had was with a guest who was trying to sell me a fireplace while I am pouring drinks for a 100+ customers. He rudely stopped me in the middle of the rush and asked me, “Don’t you believe in outdoor fireplaces?” Considering I believe in unicorns this was a silly question. I graciously took his business card and told him to shove-off.

The only other problem I had that night was with some locals. During the piano show, a group of return missionaries came to the club for a bachelor party. The quorum of twelve were dressed in the standard “man on the prowl”  ensemble of untucked black dress shirts, jeans and comfortable shoes. They quickly took over the VIP section by the window and got their chill on. Because they’re young, they mistook being rude with aloof. I went over to get their drink order and the casualness they made me wait to get their Red Bull, Diet Coke and virgin daiquiri order was borderline insulting.

Because this group of Young Turks were going to make the heathen bartender wait, I shouldn’t have been surprised one of the alpha dogs got indignant when I told him I didn’t have Dr. Pepper. Instead of defaulting to one of our other selections, he actually stood up and demanded  a Dr. Pepper. This young, angry, probably still in the closet kid was getting ready to have a showdown with me over 23 flavors. It’s been my experience that it’s really hard to be a badass when your virgin strawberry daiquiris topped with whipped cream friends are standing behind you.

If I had my bachelor party at a Utah strip club, I might as well get married in the downtown temple. I’m always defending Utah’s liquor laws but our state’s policy on titty-bars is indefensible. Not that I don’t want the business but for a last hurrah, coming to Keys On Main with your boys on a Wednesday might not be best way to sow your wild oats. I promptly walked away from this maniac and let him settle down. I might serve you but I am not your servant.

All of this male chest-puffing was just a primer for Saturday night. We anticipated being busy but we were not ready for the flood of people who came through the door. I was working with the service well for the night. This means my primary responsibility is to pour drinks for the cocktail waitresses and to pick up any bar customers that come my way. With the show rocking, the beer flowing and the bar running dangerously low on glassware, me and my fellow bartenders had to find ways to push through every problem in order to take care of such a large, unruly group.

I had my work cut out for me with the cocktail waitresses. They were extremely busy with the customers on the floor. We were sending out gallons of AMFs, martinis, margarita, draft beer and tequila all night long and they were really pushing it. It was hard to keep up with them and picking up the occasional customer at the bar through the night. With the scrum of jerks that soon surrounded my well, I wish that I didn’t have to take any of the bar orders.

The bachelor party from Wednesday had nothing on this group of douche-nozzles. It was a mixed bag of pretty boys, steroid freaks, trashy whorey women and for some unexplainable reason, a guy who was 6’10” tall. If Stan Lee was forming a Super League of Peckermunchers, all he would have to do was take a picture of this motley crew. From their appearance, attitude and self-righteousness, there is not a day that goes by that I don’t pray for The Sand Bar to open back up. These guys, no trying to be too over-dramatic, encompass every bad part of the Bible. To add to the stereotypical nonsense of these  chowderheads, they were drinking JagerBombs and vodka & Red Bulls all night long.

Two of the legionaries were worth noting. One of the guys was about 6’ tall with a shaved head and bad homemade tattoos scattered throughout his arms. He was wearing jeans and a white T-shirt and had the doughy, inflated muscles of a  steroid abuser. His face looked like five-years of bad travelling and he spoke with a wispy high-pitched voice that didn’t carry in the loud club. He was making me run his credit card for every shot of vodka he had (and he had seven of them) and wasn’t tipping a cent. I wanted to say something but every time I looked at him, I kept seeing an albino version of Ben Grimm, aka The Thing. On his last drink, he asked me to get him a large shot and I asked him if he wanted a vodka shot on steroids. He did not think this was funny. I didn’t care—I took care of my own verbal tip.

The second customer was much more problematic. He was a problem not because of what he did that night but I am finding more and more young men acting like him. He was dressed impeccably. He was an averaged height guy with a dress shirt tucked into good fitting jeans with a smart cut vest. He had a perfectly manicured beard and a great Salt lake Bee’s cap. The cap, in particular, was the best part. It was two-toned grey and black. As a whole, this guy looked great and I thought his attitude would match his wardrobe. Never had I been more wrong about a guest.

His opening salvo was a round of JagerBombs for him and his friends. For the next two hours he camped out in front of my well barking (like a dog) at me to get him another round. Fortunately, I was sufficiently busy enough with the cocktail waitresses and other guests to not have to dwell on him. It wasn’t that he was demanding, it was he was an unequivocal asshole. Pounding the bar, snapping his finger and staring at me with contempt, he monopolized my time and energies.

The last straw was when I was getting ready to help this lady, he throws his hand in front of my face and yells he was next. I look at the young woman and she gave me a nod that said, “No, you weren’t. I’ve been waiting patiently.” I smile at the guy and asked the lady what she wanted. This turkey snapped, “No, I’m next and I want five JagerBombs.” Enough was enough at this point. I asked him, “You act this way at other bars? You treat women like this all the time?” He said, “I always do and I always get what I want.”

Great. I was bartending for Charlie Sheen.

I qualify myself as a classist. When you are dependent upon gratuities for a living, it is hard not to judge people. Add alcohol to the equation, I would be a fool if I didn’t profile people. On Saturday, by my best estimation, the vast majority of all of my customers were selfish, mean and dumb. The trifecta of rudeness. And this knuckle-dragger was the worst. On no less than five occasions I had to set him straight on how to order, act and treat their fellow patrons. The baseline definition of my job is pouring drinks. An added touch is that I have to act as a teacher reminding people the importance of treating others with respect.

I ask the question: is chivalry dead? Was this guy’s night going to be ruined because he had to wait one more minute for some girlie shots? Here was somebody who seemed to have the world at his feet but in reality, just kept stepping on anything in his path. My greatest concern from this guy is that he is not an isolated customer. I am seeing more and more people act with immense self-entitlement. Between Wednesday’s bachelor party and Saturday’s nights scrum of Jerks, it’s harder to find cool customers. I’m going to make more of an effort to signal out the good ones and forgetting the bad.

As I served him his last round of shots, I told him that JagerBombs were for boys. He asked me what I meant. I told him that real men drink whiskey. I forget to add that real men wait for women and treat strangers with a medium of respect. Treating people poorly and abusing the staff is a recipe not just for a bad night but an unfulfilling life. Jesus, what a waste of a great hat.

And for the record, men drink whiskey. Boys drink shots. Don’t ever try and treat a JagerBomb than anything else then an excuse for not being able to shoot bourbon.

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About Ben Raskin

Born in El Cajon, raised in Las Vegas, educated in Reno and living in Salt Lake City. I bartend, write, box and live in Sugarhouse UT.

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