The Blue T-Shirt

It started with a T-shirt—a stupid $12 T-shirt.

Football brings out the worst in people and I didn’t help matters last Saturday wearing a BYU t-shirt to the bar. The staff was allowed to wear U of U gear for the last Holy War match between the local rivals. I, thinking I was going to stir the pot, settled on a baby blue old-style Cougar shirt thinking the average customer in the bar would not mistake the foul-mouthed, wild-eyed bartender as a BYU fan.

Man, was I wrong.

There takes a certain intestinal fortitude to bartend. Finding the balance between being generous with the customers and protective of the owner’s investment is a tightrope that needs to be gingerly walked. The booze is not mine to give away but it doesn’t stop people from trying to get extra pours or free beers. But because I am dependent upon tips from customers, I spend my entire night championing the customer while acting like a hooded executioner for the boss.

With this attitude, it gives me a wild amount of freedom to say what I want behind the bar. Because I sell and drive sales, the bosses give me latitude to take liberties with the guests. I believe it is because they know that I am not crazy enough to cut my nose to spite my face and they appreciate the energy I bring but in four years at Keys On Main, I was unprepared for the onslaught of taunts, insults and physical danger.

It started with a group of military guys threatening to rip my shirt off of me during the pregame. That wouldn’t have been bad if they hadn’t paid $250 to sit in the VIP section and weren’t pounding Fireball and Captain Morgan shots. They treated alcohol like oxygen but were quickly creeping towards oxygen toxicity syndrome, also known as becoming complete assholes. One of the ranks told me he was going to take my shirt off and I asked if he was coming on to me. This sparked a heated debate about homosexual relationships in modern America with no clear winner.

Statueque blonds told me to disrope immediately not because they think the fat man has a special purpose for them but they would rather look at my nude torso than the BYU T-shirt. Think about that. My chunky, hairy, mole covered and freckle laden body was preferable to the blue shirt. People tried grabbing the shirt from over the bar, nearly securing it. The highlight was a guy who waited patiently to order a drink tell me that my shirt sucks, I suck, my team sucks and my mother sucks. Oh, thanks. What can I get for you?

In fairness, Utah and BYU was a turkey of a game and BYU nearly tied the thing up in the last minutes. Think about that, Utah, that you barely won.

At the end of every Saturday, we burn all of the ice in the bins by dumping it on a tree on Main Street. It stops bacterial growth when we’re closed down for a couple of days. As I lumbered with a full can of ice to the front door, I saw 30 or so people waiting for cabs and loitering after we shut down. Immediately, the air got hostile. People were accusing me of inappropriate relationships with my mother, why was I killing the tree with water and what’s up with the shirt. After the abuse I’d had taken from people who might tip me, there was no way I was going to sit back with non-tipping turds.

Engaging them with some choice words, I quickly realized how quickly this was escalating. Having been in 11 fistfights (winning won and losing decisively ten—I got the holy hell beat out of me seven times, I just left busted up on the other three), there is an atmospheric ratcheting one can feel when the blows are about to come and I quickly noticed I was painfully outnumbered. So, I did what anyone would assume from Utah’s baddest assed bartender—I ran inside and locked the door.

Hopefully with BYU defeating Middle Tennessee (aptly named—Murfreesboro is pretty much dead center in the Volunteer State) will calm some of the tensions in the state—probably not. The fact that I escaped a whipping for that silly T-shirt is both a miracle and yet another example of insanity bartending has forced me to witness.

In other news, the Utah DABC met last week and they were trying to determine new ways to make the state more friendly to visitors. The goal was normalize the state and I have absolutely no idea what they are talking about.

What exactly is normal? To be New Orleans? Las Vegas? Or Chicago? The lack of pride people take in this state is astounding. Oh sure, for a Utah v BYU game, people come out in droves to defend the state but when it comes to liquor laws, people act as if you can’t get a drink. I spend the majority of my week defending the state’s laws and trying to make sure guests have a good time within the confined of our liquor laws and I have rarely had any problems.

How drunk do people have to get? Is the point of going to a bar to get trashed? Why is it the people so angry at our liquor laws always are the ones that are cutoff and carried out of the bar at the end of the night?

I guarantee drinks poured in Louisiana, Nevada or Illinois at home are twice as large as the drinks that are poured in their bars. There isn’t a bar owner in the world that wants to give away or over pour every night because they have something called a pour cost which equates to bar profits. But because half-witted bartenders and servers think short-term over long-term when it comes to their club, over pouring is the norm not the exception for the exceptional patron.

I can’t imagine somebody raising Hell over the portions at a Subway when a customer perceives that they are being shorted on a tuna sandwich. Yet with astounding frequency, I get eye-raped every time I pour a drink and expect monies for the cocktail. You’ve been fair warned, idiots that accuse me of short-pouring them will be short-poured the moment they start bitching about our laws.

I say feh! to the rest of the nation. Let Utah be Utah and visitors deal with our laws. It hasn’t stopped guests from getting shnockered stepping into my bar and it certainly won’t stop folks from coming in the future. Don’t like it? Take it to Wyoming. I hear they have great skiing.

TRUE STORY: Poured drinks for a guy named Benjamin Dove last night. As a fellow Ben, I know what a boy named Sue childhood he had.

ANOTHER TRUE STORY: Sawing a dead duck in half with a hedge trimmer is infinitely less disgusting than cleaning up vaporized vomit. I did both of these last Saturday.

Podcasting note: Thanks to the generous efforts of Raskin New Friend of the Year 2011, Gwyn Fisher, the babble-thon is back in the mix. A new episode will be up shortly on the website and on iTunes. Speaking of iTunes, anyone else think that the new iOS7 is a hot mess? It is too slick and feels too much like a 70’s variety show. I liked the clunkier feel of technology more than the slipstream usage. Growing up with movies like Blade Runner and Brazil makes ultra-slick feel cheap and ineffective. And what the Hell is a cloud? Cloud computing is the devil’s work. I’m sure there is some sort of porno or submarine sandwich application that I would approve of but in general, I say feh! The whole thing feels corny and lame and has too many moving parts. As a meat and potato type of guy, I miss the days of having to work for a picture, video, text or getting to a computer to find the closest shawarma joint in SLC.

With that said, expect the babbling to start shortly.

Ben Raskin bartends at Keys On Main Wednesday through Saturday. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin. Podcast, yeah. He’s lucky to have Gwyn get things set up for him. Your loss interweb!

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