Monday, July 9, 2012
Thursday, July 5, 2012
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Why is it that tourists are always better looking than locals? Not in an empirical way. On a scale of Welder’s Weekly to GQ, we have many men in our community that can compete with the models in both form and function. I’m referring to the continuum in my head. The one that tends to fall deeper in love once I know you’ve bought your ticket home.
I met a temporary resident a few weeks ago at Z-Tavern. It was the thick of off-season, so, when he and his friends came into my bar, it was dead. After one Jack & Coke, his buddy made them leave to chase the party. Off to the Meet Market, I’m sure. My departing line, a mixture of cocky and sass, was, “you’ll be back, I’m the most fun you’ll have in this town.” It worked like a bungee cord, pulling them back to my bar after a quick circle around A-Town, and fastening them there until 2 a.m. when the law and my desire for sleep forced me to gently push them out the door.
From where did this surge of confidence come? The fact that they are tourists meant that, if they didn’t come back, I’d never have to face them. There’s no pride lost with a stranger whom you never have to see again.
A new flirting style. A sexy combination of Cuban and Columbian heritage. A guy who’s never slept with (or even met) any of my friends. I’m not sure which piece pushed me over the edge, but I flirted back with agenda and agreed to drinks on Friday night.
“He’s not my type,” my mind tried to back out as I cleaned up the bar. The logician in my brain fought back, “if my dbeb*, the one I dated for almost two years, is my type, well, maybe it’s time to try dating against type.”
*dbeb – douche bag ex boyfriend (more on him later).
It should be stated here, for the record: I almost never agree to go out with drunk guys. My standard response is that I will never say yes while we have different blood alcohol levels, but that they are more than welcome to come back and make a plan sober. Finding me when I’m drunk might work, too, the most important part to me is that our alcohol levels are the same. The tourist tried to leave his card and I told him I wouldn’t use it. It’s a simple policy: you’re drunk, I’m sober, you come find me if you still want to go out when you wake up.
Seriously, who wants to be the girl calling up the guy who was so drunk he doesn’t remember hitting on her or giving out his number? I’m a female bartender in a mountain town, I’ve got to have some standards. And I’m not really that hard to track down, I’m in the same place you met me for at least four shifts a week.
I don’t feel like I’m being unfair. I make it clear that, if they do come back, I will say yes. Though, if one of them did actually come back and ask sober, I’d probably pass out from complete shock. I’ve responded ‘yes’ to at least seven local men in Smurf Village. Of the seven, zero have actually followed through on creating a sober plan. Zero.
When my tourist showed up for lunch on Friday afternoon, I was surprised. His follow through was disorienting, but he’s in a strange town where he doesn’t know anyone, he also has nothing to lose. His confidence was as sexy to me as mine earlier had been to him, so I stopped making up excuses in my head and resigned myself to the drink later that night.
Our first date was magical. He dorked out in all of the most fun and amazing ways. I told him I needed to make t-shirts and he pulled up art work on his phone and offered to do the drawing part. Okay, that was enough to win me over. I took him home and we drank wine, drew pictures and ironed them onto the shirts. It was the night before Halloween, so we also made him a T-shirt costume.
The next morning I woke up with a huge mark on my neck. A visual reminder of the kissing that followed the T-shirt project. Really? Thirty-seven years old and I’m still getting hickeys? Knowing he was finite, it didn’t irritate me the way it otherwise might have. I sent him a flirty text about the bruise and he showed up for our next date dressed as Dracula. An appropriately adorable Halloween costume, all things considered.
This crazy frenetic energy in the beginning of a relationship, where I’m so in-to him that I’m willing to overlook just about anything, only seems to work when I don’t know the guy, or anything about him. Quite the challenge in a bar where, on the average shift, I can tell you the name and vocation of eighty-five percent of my customers. And, as much as I love the optimism and fairy tale of the mysterious stranger, it’s a romantic notion that only lasts for as long as I get to fill in the blanks about who he is and what he’s like. Unfortunately, the reality doesn’t usually live up to the dream.
Not surprisingly, Dracula and I blew out quickly. Stella might have gotten her groove back with a local while she was on vacation, but it’s not a great way to start a relationship. If he’d left after the first two dates, it might have stayed the perfect memory, but who wants to long for a past that was all just possibility?
Every time I flirt with a tourist, I have to remind myself that just because we can all be perfect in the beginning, when there’s no pressure and nothing’s being taken too seriously, doesn’t mean that it’s the perfect relationship. And maybe, if I can muster up that sassy confidence with a guy I think I know, there will be a romantic stranger hiding underneath the surface of a friend. A friend whose real flaws I already understand and love.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
It doesn’t make sense.
The last time I saw him he had a smile on his face. When I picture him he always had a smile on his face, but is that just my memory playing tricks on me? I knew he was sad. I knew things weren’t going well for him. I didn’t know he would ever be capable of killing himself.
It makes me wish I’d given him a big hug when he left the party where I last saw him. It makes me wish I’d hugged him until he felt it in his bones, almost testing the pressure of his ribs. It makes me want to hug everyone who is important to me like that, every time I see them, just so they know how much I care about them.
I found out at work, behind the bar, and, while the tears didn’t come, the bile did. I felt myself start to throw up and hid in the office. I swallowed, hiding my emotion, and my body went into automatic pilot.
I locked myself in the liquor room and called one of his best friends. A guy I really care about, and the first person who came to mind when I heard the news. “I’m so sorry,” I said in my voicemail message, and it was a loaded apology.
I’m sorry that I didn’t see it. I’m sorry that I didn’t react stronger to the things I did see. I’m sorry that my other friend has to go through the pain of one more person in his life dying on him. I’m sorry for the parents of my friend who died. I’m sorry for all of us left behind wondering how we missed the signs and for all of the people who are trying to show signs that none of us are picking up because we are too busy with the minutiae of our lives.
I asked a customer three times what he wanted to drink. He was nice about it, but as he patiently said “Crown and Coke” for the third time he must have wondered if I was part of the Wal-Mart greeters program at Z-Tavern. I tried to make drinks and would put each bottle down before pouring and forget where I left it.
The friend whom I’d called came into the bar and gave me a hug. I followed him outside and the first words out of his mouth were, “I’m fine.” I just looked at him. “I’m fine, really, I’m fine.”
We live in an area with one of the highest suicide rates in the country, when someone kills themselves we all look around and wonder: who’s next? You’d think life would be easier in A-Town and Smurf Village; we wear shirts that read “My Life is Better Than Your Vacation”.
Really, what could be wrong in our world? Perhaps it’s the pressure to be having fun always. Perhaps we attract adrenaline junkies and that’s the new rush they look for when they get depressed. Perhaps we self-medicate in ways that lead to poor judgment.
Edward Dow 1976-2010
Definitely, we self-medicate.
I see it during every shift and I do it when I’m down. People say it as they walk into my bar, “I just had a really crappy day, boy do I need a drink... or twelve.”
It’s a week later and I definitely drank too much a few nights ago; the night of Ed’s memorial. It didn’t make me miss him any less, but it did make me say and do things I wish I could take back. Things I can take back, or at least make an attempt to apologize for. That’s the thing about suicide, you can’t take it back. There’s no waking up in the morning and thinking “Oh my, what have I done?”
There are people who have a crazy-switch that flips after a certain amount of alcohol. I’ve watched it happen time and again where, in as little as one sip, a patron goes from happy and buzzed to the crazy place. We have one guy who even has a different name when he hits the crazy limit. His drunk name is “Duane” and his real name, like his kind and sober personality, is buried in there somewhere.
Ed had a switch that flipped. Sober, he was one of the nicest guys in the world. Drunk, it was hit or miss. Anyone close to him heard him say to someone whose buttons he was pushing, “Suicide is an option.” Was that a cry for help we all ignored? I always thought he meant an option for the other guy, though once I did send a police officer after him to make sure he was okay after he stumbled out of the bar, leaving a wake of angry customers. It makes me wonder if he was drunk when it happened.
I’m angry and I’m sad, but I’m accepting that it’s impossible to look at this in any way that makes sense to me. I can make up theories to explain it, but I can’t look into his brain. All I can do is hope that it was the right choice for him. And that he didn’t wake up somewhere else and wish he could take it back. They say that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I hope they’re wrong. I hope that wherever Ed is now, he’s more at peace than he was here with us.
Monday, October 19, 2009
I actually really like all of my co-workers, which hasn’t always been the case. I used to work with a guy whose entire existence revolved around getting me fired. I still work there and he doesn’t, so his efforts weren’t successful, but they did make for an extremely unpleasant working environment.
As is generally the case when someone fixates on another person, I think it had more to do with him and his hatred of women than it did with anything I ever did to him. He liked to claim I called him fat, and, even if it were true, I’d still think he was a pussy for whining about it two years later.
What I did say, after asking him to move out of the only entrance to the bar more than once so I could deliver drinks on a busy shift, was, “you’re not as skinny as you think you are.” I would have said it to Kate Moss. It’s a narrow corridor and with a bunch of drinks in your hand, two people don’t fit. He complained about it to our boss, who, instead of getting mad at me, started calling him “Tubby.”
A few nights later, he got really drunk and came into the bar with some friends while I was working. He went behind the bar and got his friend’s drinks and then tried, in his drunken state, to put his money into my register. One of the perks of Z-Tavern is that staff drinks for free, but, if it’s busy, the catch is that you should be the first person to get up and help. I have no problem with anyone getting their own drinks, but going into my register is another issue. Especially if you’re someone who has made no secret of trying to get me fired.
I told him to give me the money and tell me what he wanted me to ring in. He turned around and started screaming at me, repeatedly calling me a cunt. I didn’t call the cops, he was a co-worker and I hoped it would work itself out. Eventually he left and a week later he quit working at the bar when the owner told him that he wouldn’t fire me.
Had anyone else behaved that way and refused to leave, I would have called the police immediately, but how do you work together after you’ve had a police officer physically take someone away? What do you say? “Thanks for taking out the trash, how was the night in jail? ... I hear they have great food.”
A year ago, when he came in again and pulled the same drunken act, I had no problem dialing the non-emergency line and giving them his name and description. I even filed a report. I can be understanding about his motives, but I’d like the police to know where to start the search if anything ever happens to me.
Two years later, I’m still hearing about it. I used to take the high road and refuse to comment about the guy, but then I heard he was walking around telling people he’d punch me in the face if I were a guy. Pretty classy, eh? Especially since he never has to prove it.
I’m done with people saying they like both of us and don’t want to get involved. When he screamed at me a year ago, there were two men in the bar that I would have considered friends before the incident. They are both in the service industry and one of them was working behind the bar with me that night. They both stood there and did nothing while this man screamed obscenities at me. I honestly believe, and I hold myself to this same standard, that if your friend is out of control in a bar and you do nothing to help, you are just as much at fault.
When you work in a bar, you have to be careful how wild and crazy you and your friends behave when you’re there as a customer. We might not put on suits and ties when we go to work, but it’s still our place of business and there is a standard of behavior to which we should all adhere, especially when it comes to how we treat our coworkers, even if they aren’t also our friends.
Monday, October 5, 2009
I just spent the week working with one of my best male friends and I think it put elements of my dating life in perspective. Nothing like a great guy who loves you, but isn’t trying to get in your pants, to make you reexamine your criteria for a relationship.
We spent the week in Ventura, California, and the surrounding areas, working on a bike ride to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Our week was intense. We spent four full days together in a van that would make any soccer mom proud and two days moving signs around a parking lot. We also shared a room because we were working freelance and it’s cheaper. Two beds, nothing saucy, but there is definitely an intimacy that evolves when spending that much time together.
By the end of the week, we had our own language and theories on the world. Anyone whom we didn’t like was an “Oxnard,” no offense intended to the inhabitants of the town. “Shine-grabbers” take unjustified credit for someone else’s work, though it might be an interesting way to identify yourself on a business card. And any self respecting gay puppet should know better than to sport a mono-brow.
We covered the big stuff, too. His big concern for the week was whether it was lame to send his girlfriend flowers again. He’d been on two previous business trips and sent flowers to her office on each one. I met his girlfriend once over dinner and drinks when I was in Boulder (where they live), and I think she is awesome. I hoped I was giving the correct advice when I said “yes, it is always cool to get flowers at work.”
He made the call and felt momentarily guilty at how easy it was. He wondered aloud, “why don’t all guys do this?” Hmmm, interesting question.
My concern was my co-worker at Z-Tavern. I have a pretty big crush on him, but, in a line he stole straight off of a chapter heading in the book “He’s Just Not That Into You”, he’s “scared to ruin our friendship”.
Okay, I believed him. We were really good friends before the whole mess started, and getting involved is definitely driving us apart, but still I’m confused. Aren’t you supposed to be best friends with the person you date? Friendship is the foundation of a good relationship, so how can it also be an excuse not to move forward?
Sex is easy. It’s a basic biological act. Sure it takes some skill to do it well, and there are attraction and compatibility elements, but even fruit flies can figure out the sex part, it’s having dinner together after that’s tricky. Especially here in A-Town where anyone can walk into any bar and find someone with whom to have sex. You just need the right attitude, which definitely involves low standards and no expectations about where it’s going to lead.
I looked to my friend; the guy whom I’d bumped into close to fifty times as we walked through doors. I kept expecting him to keep going and instead he’d back up to hold the door open for me. He was raised well. I’ve read the book, I’ve seen the movie, but still I needed to hear it from the male friend whose opinion I trust more than most.
It sounds like Z-Tavern guy isn’t getting his act together, you need to move on.
Words I’ve repeatedly spoken to friends with boy problems, why couldn’t I see it myself? I know that you can’t change someone or fast track them to be ready for a relationship when they’re not, why was I making so many excuses for my Z-Tavern co-worker? We’ve got the physical part down, we were really good friends, if we can’t make the next step work, the reason why doesn’t matter. My head knows it’s true, but it’s just taking my heart a little while to catch up.
My friend held doors for me, made u-turns on busy streets so I didn’t have to run across traffic and cared enough to talk it out when the long hours, strenuous work and extended time together took its toll on our interactions. He sent his girlfriend flowers and he set an example for me. I’m not saying there weren’t moments when he drove me crazy, or vice versa, but we genuinely care about each other and our friendship, even when it’s not fun or convenient.
I live in a community where there are somewhere between three and seven men to every woman, it depends on which town and what season, but still we chant the mantra “the odds are good but the goods are odd.” Even with a random and incestuous pool of possible dates, I still think friendship is the cornerstone of a good relationship. I guess I needed to spend a week with an amazing friend to remind me that I need to raise my standards; for people I date and for people I consider friends.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Any job can lead to burn out, but the wick seems to evaporate a little faster in the bar world. I’ve been at my current job for three years. Three years. My anniversary is rolling around and it doesn’t feel like a cause for celebration.
My sister got me the job to keep me afloat while I worked on my version of the great American novel. After three years and a number of false starts, it’s better termed the disjointed American 39 pages. I’m still plugging away, and I have a new friend to motivate me over coffee dates every two weeks, but at the rate I’m going I might turn forty and still be tending bar and dreaming about writing. I have a few years left, but forty is out there looming on the horizon.
I’m not making a judgment about forty year old bartenders. If that’s what you want to do, I think it’s great. The money is fantastic, the social aspect provides a whole spectrum of perks and there is definitely an art form to doing it well. If it’s not what you want to do, however, forty seems like an age, for me at least, to start figuring it out. Okay, thirty was probably that age, too, but I’ve always been a late bloomer.
Perhaps part of my problem is that I don’t care enough about the money. I’m okay with apologizing when I’ve made a mistake, but I don’t see any reason to put up with demeaning behavior just for a tip. Once a guy called me over to his table and made a speech about how they tipped based on the quality of service that they received. Next he turned to his sixteen year old daughter and asked her to rate how I’d done. She was appropriately embarrassed. I smiled and politely told him to keep his tip.
Also contributing to my burnout is the entitlement of off-season. It’s just us locals, and, while most locals are wonderful people whom I consider friends, the crazies tend to come out from under their rocks this time of year.
Fortunately, my least favorite crazy is in jail, so I’m free of his antics this fall. Last year he lied about being in the Marines to a friend of mine who lost his legs stepping on a land mine in Iraq. My friend was justifiably angry and they were seconds away from blows when I calmed him down. Now, why anyone would pick a fight with a professional athlete who is all upper body strength, is beyond me. My buddy would have killed the 80s rocker crack head once he got close enough to get his hands on him, wheelchair or not. But on another level, what kind of loser picks a fight with a guy who put himself in harms way to protect our country? Hate the war, hate the politicians, but don’t take it out on the men and women who sign up to protect us.
Another manifestation of the entitlement of some locals is the customer who responds to my request for payment with the question, “Do you know how long I’ve lived here?”
“Ya know, I don’t know your middle name either, but I feel like it has the same relevance to my desire to be paid for my services.”
When a customer doesn’t pay their tab, it comes out of my tips for the night, so it becomes a no interest loan that I don’t have a say in giving. And I have the added work of tracking them down to get paid back. I do have a tattoo and curly hair that can sometimes get a little scraggly, but I’m not exactly Dog the Bounty Hunter. This isn’t a part of my job on which I thrive.
Most of the people who walk on tabs at Z Tavern are good customers who have a bit too much to drink and show up the next day with a 50% tip as apology. For the most part it’s no big deal. I have a few customers that I love so much that I would pay their bill for the night and never ever bring it up, the catch being that it is something they would never do and if they did they would be mortified.
Twice I’ve had people run out the door on purpose. Once it was a cook from another restaurant in A-Town and the bill was $200. I didn’t know him, but, when $200 came out of my pocket, I instantly transformed into Harriet the Spy and tracked him down. After getting the run around from his co-workers, I went to the owner of the restaurant. I told the owner that if I wasn’t paid back, I was going to bring the police into his kitchen to look for the guy. Police and illegal Mexican labor in the same sentence pack a powerful punch and I was paid back the next day with a gratuity that I’d added to his bill.
The whole thing was ugly though. I love any reason to deal with our local police force, but I don’t like going to that dark place of myself that fights dirty to get what I want. It’s not me.
This summer a guy left his probably expensive and very ghetto chic bracelet in lieu of paying his tab, swearing that he would be back in twenty minutes with the money. A month later, when I threatened to one of his friends that I was planning to take his guido bling to the pawn shop if I didn’t hear from him, he told the Smurf Village police that I wouldn’t give his bracelet back and he didn’t know why. When he did finally pay his tab, he left a twenty-five cent tip on a $10.75 tab.
My recent burnout comes from a local couple who have been fired from more than one of A-Town’s dive bars. They’re quirky, she only wears white because she says the dye in clothing gives her a rash even though she’s got tattoo ink injected up one side of her body and down the other. I usually let them run a tab as a professional courtesy. They walk in and out of the bar, smoking outside, making phone calls on the street, etc.
As servers themselves, I assume that they know the old adage that ‘if you can’t afford to pay your bill, you can’t afford to go out drinking’. Most of us would take that one step further and say that if you can’t afford to tip, you should stay home as well. Taking advantage of my loose leash, they went out for a cigarette and never came back. That was a few weeks ago and I haven’t seen them since. It’s only twenty bucks, but it’s more a principle. I saw them at another bar a week ago, so they’re paying someone for drinks. They just don’t feel like they have to pay me.
Many bar customers are wonderful people. I’ve dated guys I met through the bar. Some of my best friends started as customers. I make a great living. Unfortunately the few jerks who feel they need to demean the server, start fights with other patrons or should be entitled to free drinks exhaust me. I’m burning out, but trying really hard to convince myself that the good outweighs the bad here up here in A-Town and Smurf Village.