The Fourth Best Option

I’ve sustained substantial testicular damage from bartending at Keys On Main.

It has been a chronic injury. It is not the result of taking cocktail waitress into the liquor closet or deflowering customers into the back office. It happens when I pour a draft beer. You’re first response should be what my doctor said, “Well, clearly you shouldn’t be pouring beer that way.” I wish it was sexier or more nefarious than that. When leaning forward to pour beer, I press my legs into the glass chiller to make way for the other bartenders. Occasionally, an errant testicle gets caught between my thigh and the stainless steel cooler. It feels exactly how you think it does and it is also my own private shame. I doubt there is a support group for this kind of injury and certainly no way I can file workman’s comp and expect to be taken serious in any capacity.

I tried to be gentle while pouring a beer but I always end up trying to go faster and faster and end up hurting myself. If my customers knew what was happening and knew that I treated my testicles like a punching bag, I’m sure they would either tip 20% or quit coming to the bar.

Everytime I feel that pitch, I always grunt and start getting remorseful that I don’t already have any kids. In my mind’s eye, I feel like I am humping Johnny-Five while pouring a Cutthroat. We really should have put some sort of padding on the beer cooler.

Returning to work last week was a return to normalcy. After our trip to Missoula and last weekend’s adventure in the Uintas, I was ready for the simple pleasures of making Mojitos and Manhattans. No matter what craziness might be on the floor, there is something calming about being behind the bar. It’s my workspace and a place where I feel comfortable. Outside of the bar, I’m a little nervous or anxious about things but positioned in my well with a fully-stocked bar, I feel like King Kong, Joe Louis and Burt Reynolds all mixed to together.

Back to my balls, I haven’t had this problem of clipping my nuts for a long time. I think it is a combination of two factors: one, I am approaching middle-age and gravity hasn’t been kind to my extremities. Two, I’m getting shorter. For the last 20-years, I’ve been 6’3” or at least I thought I have been. It wasn’t until I went to the doctor’s office for a physical did I discover a troubling truth—I’ve shrunk. Granted, my mid-section is as large as ever but I never thought I would get shorter. I’m down to 6’1-5/8th. I’m not a mathematician but I think that means I need more calcium in my diet.

I bring up my downstairs man business because I had an absolutely defeating moment behind the bar on Saturday night. I thought all was right in the world. It had been a good week and I was ready to finish off the week working with my favorite cash warrior baby, Becky Bradford. Becky has finally been on the mend after breaking her foot and was back on the eastside bar. I like Becky because she is funny, sardonic and very good at slinging drinks. We have a pregame routine of verbally eviscerating people while waiting for the night to start. It’s like a batter swinging a couple of bats before stepping to the plate because when we get going, our tongues need to be as fast as our pouring skills.

Our first victim of the night was some lady in one of our VIP areas who was setting up a birthday party for her friend. She was tall, skinny and looked as if she might have had a black eye. Besides her Irish kisses, she was actually quite pretty. Imagine Meg Ryan without crazy teeth. She was a classic Type A personality trying to organize a birthday party for her BFF. She brought in balloons (full disclosure: I love balloons), streamers and gift bags. She also jawed the ear off of my cocktail waitress demanding that only the finest $20 bubbly wine make it to her group. Becky and I deconstructed her life from across the bar progressively getting more and more vicious as we riffed off each other.

After sufficiently grossing out any of our co-workers that overheard what we had said, we moved on to other guests until the club started getting busy enough for us to get to the task at hand. Customers filled in the room and the place started to bump. It had all of the makings of a good night which is to say, a night where I sweat through my shirt and wake up the next morning exhausted, hung-over and shamed that I make my living getting people loaded. There is this ever so slight energy in the air moments before the night kicks into gear that is both addicting and intimidating. I think it is the sensation football players get in the tunnel before taking the field.

Becky and I get to work making drinks. She is responsible for the cocktail waitresses drink orders while I take any customer that approaches the ball. We are a table service bar and the service bartender has the most important position in the club. I’m horrible at service bartending. I prefer talking to guests and taking care of the people in front of me. Seniority and my non-stop complaining have kept me out of the service well for most of my time at Keys On Main. My normal role of working the other well is much like the classic movie, Smokey and the Bandit. Becky plays the role of Snowman while I get to be the Bandit. She’s hauling the Coors Original from Texarkana and I am running blocker to free her up so she can keep on truckin’. My only complaint about this arrangement is that there is little to none CB chatter during the shift.

I rarely look out beyond my bar into the crowd but the lady with the shiner who was hosting the birthday party had a group of middle-aged women joining her and they were having a good time. The guest of honor had a sash on that crossed her middle-aged body and they were boogying around the room. At the end of a song, Type A and birthday girl made their way up to the bar, looked me up and down and made their way to the other bar. I thought nothing of it. I assumed they were looking for something and was too busy to pursue what it might be.

While tending to other guests, I see that they went to the other bar, talked to my other bartenders, Matt and Bradley, and made their way back to Becky. I go over to Becky to run blocker (i.e., to pour their drinks) when I heard Becky say, “Oh, I don’t think so.” I ask what can I do for them and that’s when I got asked a very embarrassing question.

“We have a dare card and will you kiss the birthday girl?”

Under most circumstances, I would politely decline but I went a different direction. I asked them why they came to me last. They clearly went through the entire staff that turned them down and I was the fourth best option. Their dare card challenged them to kiss the bartender and after Matt, Bradley and Rebecca shot them down, I was their last hope. Did they not know that I was King Kong, Joe Louis and Burt Reynolds all mixed into one? I might not be a great looking guy but I am certainly not a monster. And seriously, go to Becky before me?

I leaned over the bar and pecked her on the cheek. And like a shameless whore, I grabbed my things, took the money off the chest of drawers and called a cab.

It was like getting kicked in the balls. Unlike giving Johnny-Five the business, this was a terrible nutshot. What I do for a living is neither glamorous nor horrible but it is incredibly humbling. I’d like to have a job someday that I don’t feel like a heel half of the time and didn’t need to ice my crotch when I get home. Solution? Beef up my resume or start wearing a cup to work.

Ben Raskin bartends at Keys On Main Wednesday through Saturday. Follow or unfollow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin. Check out the podcast, SLC PubCast, on iTunes. He liked it a lot more when the bar was filled with witches.

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