Written by Guest Blogger, Emily Vollmer
I was a terrible bar tender. I was planning a move to California, and wanted to learn a skill that would be useful in any locale, and I theorized that wherever you go there are bars. A friend’s sister owned a small neighborhood bar and restaurant, and she agreed to let me learn the trade on Sunday nights from five to closing—Sundays being slow, it would be hard for me to screw things up.
The patrons were NASCAR enthusiasts and the bar offered an 85 cent draft special during the race. I thought I’d be learning to mix drinks with exotic names, and garnish them with slices of colorful fruit. Oh, and the little swords. I was disappointed to find bartending was primarily made up of twisting off bottle caps, and pouring draft beer into glasses. It was sort of like realizing that you don’t get the toe shoes and tulle skirt at the first ballet lesson—most things aren’t as glamorous as they appear to be from the outside looking in.
The patrons would sit and give advice over glasses of MGD and bottles of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Marty could tell you the best Hooters restaurants to visit up and down the I-75 corridor. He had a t-shirt from each one. Once, walking across the street to go home he was run over by a Jeep. He was so drunk that he just stood right up, brushed himself off, and walked on home. We theorized that his body was so loose from the drinking that it saved his life.
Ann was another regular. She was on disability, although I’m fairly sure her primary disability was her alcoholism. She once gave me the sound advice to never buy glass topped furniture. If you come home drunk, and pass out on your coffee table you can be cut to smithereens by the broken glass shards. I’m fairly sure she was speaking from experience.
Big Mike whistled through his teeth when said words with s’s. He’d sit and order one Miller Lite after another, then mid-way through his drinking he’d order “a plate of cheese, just cheese.” He was a horrible tipper. During the week, I was studying to become an English teacher. He said that he’d heard that all English teachers were lesbians. Looking back maybe that was a ploy to get me to prove that I wasn’t, but I think I said something along the lines of, “No, that’s just what they tell you, Mike.” One night, he called his son to come get him, but his designated driver was coked up and ran his pick-up truck into the corner of the Laundromat next door. I think embarrassment, and fear of arrest kept him away after that.
I did learn to make a martini, a Manhattan, and any number of suggestively named shots. I learned to drink from a shot glass without touching it. I learned that not all bars are exciting places where young people dance, meet members of the opposite sex, and barf in the alleys. I learned that some bars serve as a place for the lonely and disenfranchised to congregate. I learned that I pity people who live on barstools. I think a good bartender is able to do his or her job without being judgmental. I was a terrible bartender.
*Names have been changed to protect the identities of those who ordered beer from me