Sunday, September 26, 2010

Passing the Bar - Part 2


So I sailed my car over to Grimaldi’s around 3 pm. I walked in the front door and asked to see the manager. I had grown accustomed to sitting and waiting while filling out a job application that asked me where I went to high school and what my course of study there was. As if where I learned how a bill became a law was really relevant for making a martini.

But this place was different, I went up to the bar where I immediately shook hands with the bartender and was handed an application by the owner. I sat down to fill it out when the manager walked by carrying plates to the back said, “Don’t worry about it.”

I didn’t really know what that meant, considering I wasn’t sure I would have been worrying about in the first place. So I just smiled and went back to filling out the application.  I was barely 10 percent into the application before he walked past again and said it again, “Hey boss, don’t worry about it. Just come next Sunday dressed in black and George will train you.”

Was that really it? After countless Arizona applications, convoluted interview processes, and a job at a country club that required 3 different phone calls, was this all they really asked from me? I wasn’t complaining but it almost seemed too easy. Did I really look that competent? What was it about me that finally did the trick for this restaurant?

Whatever it was I didn’t ask questions, I said thank you and left. This was it. I finally had become a bartender at not one but TWO different places.

I went home and told my parents. My father was particularly elated. “I have a bartender AND a bus driver for a son, wait until I tell my friends.” We both laughed. I have to smile looking back now after 5 years of working professionally, and 4 different office jobs, it's kind of hilarious that the pinnacle of working career at one point was pouring beers and driving around 7 year olds while singing songs. It seems my career aspirations have shifted.

All of that aside, this was it; this was the beginning of my life of rolling around in cash and beautiful women writing their phone numbers in lipstick on napkins.

But in a lot of ways bartending wasn’t what I expected it to be, and it was a lot of things I didn’t expect too.

The women? They never really came. I never got a single phone number from a woman coming into my bar. There was never some cute chippy sitting at the end of my bar waiting until my shift was over to come talk to me. If there was a cute woman at the end of the bar, I probably brought her in and put her there so people I worked with believe that women liked me.

I did however make more money than I probably ever could have imagined. The first night at that crappy country club I made over 100 dollars. Cash. In my pocket. I immediately went home spread it out on my bed and took pictures of it.

Smile money! Oh you look so cute! Smile!

But the country club quickly wore on me, poor management, and archaic payment structure ended in a confrontation where I quit, 3 weeks after I started.

And from then on I was a Grimaldi’s guy. I made more money that summer than I had my entire life. It quickly became the easiest and greatest job I ever had. The summer passed with many free drinks and a lot of laughs, a boss who pretty much let me do anything I wanted. That goes for the Christmas party too!

The owner’s brother owned a bar in Arizona near my school and he got me a job out there. And when I graduated and came home looking for a full time job, they let me work day shifts until I got hired full time. And when that happened they asked me if I wanted to keep Sunday nights, an easy shift just to make some money on the side.

Considering I made a dollar at my first job, it seemed like a great idea. And it was. Because even though it was only one night a week, it was enough pocket change that I didn't have to dip into my checking account during the week. And even though I eventually I got tired of bartending, having had no intention of doing it past the age of 25, I can't look back on it with anything but fondness.

Bartending allowed me to save up enough money to get my apartment. It allowed me to see Greece, Croatia, Turkey, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay without bankrupting myself. It allowed me to furnish my apartment with furniture that doesn't suck, go out to dinner with my friends, go to concerts, shows, and revel in the glory of my early to mid 20s.

But eventually I grew tired. And then I moved out of my parents house and stopped driving to the bar and started taking the train. And then my parents moved away. And the longer I did it, the harder it was to drag myself out of my apartment and pour drinks for people who screamed, "GIVE ME A COORS LIGHT" like I was serving drinks on a helicopter pad in Vietnam.

Something about being a bartender in college was incredibly cool. And then after college it was still pretty cool. But the older I got, the more I lost interest in doing it. That feeling grew until that bar was the only thing tying me to the town I grew up in.

And then after my most recent job change I realized it was time. I would save up enough money for one more vacation and then hand in my… umm.. wine opener. While the cash would be hard to give up, it would be great to watch football in my underwear and just work on the projects I have become so fond of filling my life with.

And being done feels wonderful. I don’t miss it, which is the way it should be. I had a lot of fun, made a lot of money, and really only because a certain manager saw fit to hire me because he thought I was a good person.

I am very aware that the only reason I am allowed to have grown tired of bartending is the intersection of chance, good fortune, and timing.

And now, 5 years, 7,500 tap beers, 2,500 bottled, 1,200 bottles of wine, and god only knows how many mixed drinks later, I am done. I no longer have my trademark pens in my ears. I am a bartender no longer. So if you ever see me behind a bar again, well, please put me in a cab home because I’m drunk and shouldn’t be back there.


7 comments:

Pat said...

I bet you were a great bartender! But it sounds like the time was right to leave. That manager saw something in you that first day, gave you a chance, and you were a loyal employee, and I'm sure, an asset to the company for five long years! Now on to bigger and better things! Maybe Mad Men? Ha ha!

Krysten @ After 'I Do' said...

Sounds like a great experience that ended when it should have. And honestly, it sounds better than nearly every job I've ever had. I'm jealous!

Jen said...

That is a GREAT bar tending story. Inspiring, even. If I wasn't older (and mommy-ier)than you maybe I would consider getting myself a Sunday shift! LOL.

Caroline B said...

I guess we outgrow things - it's obviously time to move on. It served(!) you well though, financed some cool experiences etc. so I'm not surprised you look on it with fondness.

Ava said...

Nice job, Rich. I liked this post. I've only had that feeling once-that 'I-grow-tired-of-you-but-I-don't-hate-you.' It IS a good feeling.

Flitterbee said...

Wunderbar!

/pitiful pun

Cathy said...

Good for you. It's hard to move on, but not feeling regret tells you it was the right move! Loved your story.