If asked what my favorite part of bartending is, I would answer quickly and with the utmost certainty.
It isn’t the pile of cash tips in my bucket to be counted at the end of the night or the quickly sipped beer I put away while counting my earnings. It isn’t the thrill of pouring drinks for a horde of people with confidence and professionalism or is it creating new drinks that become standard fare.
My favorite part of bartending is cutting fruit.
The simple pleasure of sitting down at the bar with a small cutting board resting on a damp bar towel with a bucket of limes, lemons and oranges reading to be sliced by a scalloped knife is the calm before the storm. It is the only part of my night where I am in complete control of my surroundings. I can’t determine what guests are going to come into the bar or how they’ll act once they belly up to my bar. I am able to make perfect cuts of the citrus into wheels or wedges, discard the ones that are discolored or rotten and set my station up with the best fruit for the evening.
I honestly believe that I can sell you a Windex and soda providing I have good ice, a firm glass and fresh fruit.
Controlling the garnish for the drinks is the only thing I know that I can control and it is a freeing moment before the club is overrun with revelers that I know I can make sure is perfect. It might sound like complete malarkey but I honestly try to treat every shift as a performance not unlike the pianist on stage or actors in a play. I want to be perfect because when you are operating at your best, the money somehow miraculously finds it way into the bucket.
For the last two weeks, I have not been perfect.
I have been battling laryngitis making me the harshest voiced bartender in the great state of Utah. I wheeze through the shift trying my best to hand signals and intuition to get the work done but it has been a God damn nightmare. Because bartending is really 90% talking and 10% pouring drinks, not being able to entertain or engage my guests have made me some sort of master of mime that doesn’t make for the best upsells. Because I bartend in Utah, I am accustomed to telling people “No” more than the affirmative and not being able to defend the state or my trade to people makes for some pretty crazy hand gestures—mostly ones with the middle finger.
Saturday was not the rule but the exception. We were planning for a busy night but instead of the normal level of insanity, we were faced with something that could only be described in the movie Snatch as Bellevue. Bonkers, nuts and bat-shit crazy barely describe the evening simply because in almost 16 years behind the bar, I haven’t seen this kind of mayhem.
It started with a bachelorette party in the large VIP. What should have been the night of the bride’s life before her nuptials turned into a 3-hour episode of Cops. It was a gaggle of 20 women in their 30s dressed in the sexiest cocktail outfit they had in their closet. As a whole, they were pretty until they opened their mouths and I realized that I was probably outmatched by this group of “women.”
Now, this is going to get a little misogynistic, so bear with me.
They came for strong drink and to send their dear friend off into marriage on the right note. The problem was that they had already found their strong drink and were only looking to add to the steady foundation of booze they already had at dinner. I was told by the ringleader that they just had finished dinner which I can only imagine as being a single bite of a sushi roll and a bottle of white wine to wash it down. Their eyes were looped as if they had been doing rails of blow for dessert and couldn’t possibly fathom why I wasn’t waiting on them like an indentured Irishman. They barked like seals for their drinks but when I delivered said drinks, they refused to pay for them. Compounding the problem were the others in their group as they became irate when they had to wait for their shots even though their friends were the very ones monopolizing my time.
It was robbing Lindsey to pay Lindsie.
20 drunk pre-middle aged women wouldn’t have been a problem if I had both my voice and didn’t have to take care of the rest of the people in the bar who were not apart of their VIP party. Customers in the club wanted to both sleep and bury these women simultaneously. Questions why they should have to pay for drinks because they paid the cover and why wasn’t I entertaining them exclusively became the norm.
Now, normally, I would have rocked their world but they were so completely destroyed the second they walked into the club, I probably broke at least 15 state laws providing them anything stronger than Diet Coke. One of the members of the group literally had eyeballs shooting in opposite directions like a Muppet. She couldn’t talk without chewing off her cheek and tongue in some sort of cocaine dementia and all she wanted to know is whether or not the piano players had done Mackelmore and if we sold hefeweizen. I said no and yes and then she demanded a shot of Jack Daniels.
Other women ordered shots of Fireball and tequila and were drinking with the feverishness of somebody wanting to die. I didn’t know how to slow them down and frankly, I felt the only solution was for us to get to last call.
I couldn’t help but think of what kind of guys are attracted to these types of women. They all seemed to be wearing very expensive wedding bands and had the physique of people with the free time to spend two-plus hours in a gym or pilates class. Presumably there are a couple of kids waiting for drunk mom at home and a husband who probably likes that his wife can still mix it up. They were all such world-class ballbreakers that I can’t imagine that the hubby is a controlling, dominating bozo has to make mid $60K a year to afford these witches. They were free from the demands of home long enough to pollute their bodies on an epic cheat night that caused a drunken spree to turn violent.
Around 11 o’clock, tension had built in the VIP to noticeable levels. Two of the women were getting heated over not paying for another round of Jack Daniels shots that I thought it might be time to turn the hoses on them. Both dressed in very nice cocktail dresses with their long hair sculptured into perfection, they were so close in each others faces that it was only a matter of time before the first blow was thrown. Watching the evening spiral out of control, I yelled out for security as one of the two grabbed the other by the hair and threw her to the ground. Madness broke out. The toppled woman stands up and tries to throw a punch that was quickly broken up by the rest of their friends. In the melee, they take the fight outside hopefully to be dispersed by the cold March night. Hearing this second hand, it was said that the two fighting were the bride and maiden of honor of the wedding and that the bride threatened to take a knife and “cut off your fucking face.”
There isn’t much that scares me but having my mediocre face cut off is something that might keep me awake during the night. I have a bunch of friends but I’ve never threatened them in this capacity before.
In the aftermath, the bar was destroyed. They left a section of the club in broken glass, spilt drinks and broken shoes. The fact that they were able to make it the bar is testament to their desire to get trashed and I would love to be a fly on the wall of each of the women’s bedroom when they wake up the next day (and I don’t mean that in the creepy way).
Could I have slowed them down? Probably not. Too much time and anger surfaced that evening for those women to pull it together. It didn’t help that they drank whiskey like water and forgot to drink any water. Instead of having a fun night out, they now have to probably amend the invitation list for the wedding. Not that men are better but guys at least try to pick fights with strangers more than beating up their friends.
Girl fights are nasty because there seems to be no adequate way to break them up. I think we are nervous about coping feels while trying to separate the assailants. When I’ve broken up fights between men, I go in twice as hard as the guys fighting and literally try to choke one of the people out while dragging them out of the club. With girls, I don’t know what the etiquette is and usually try to defer to security to take care of the problem.
In the end, my voice is better but I am embarrassed how this went down. I hate dealing with drunks. While I pour drinks, I hate the irrational nature of drunks and look back fondly on the simple parts of the job that I can control. Cutting fruit for example. I don’t know how much longer I can continue bartending and nights like Saturday is why I have started to dust off my resume.