Sunday, January 25, 2009
I'm Overqualified, So Shut the Hell Up
"If you made it here tonight, you are lucky," the man in the center of the room said. "Just think of all the people out there right now without a job, and remember what you have."
I cast a sideways glance around the room full of grownups in penguin apparel, wondering what was so wonderful about being forty years old and showing up to work in a vest and a bow tie, preparing to pass shrimp and grits to a room full of unappreciative morons for eleven bucks an hour. One of my old friends had called me out of the blue earlier in the afternoon, and asked if there was any way I was free to tend bar for him in a few hours. "Yes," I said, instantly knowing better. After all, I have a child to support, and I am closing on a new house this week (God willing). I asked for the details, and found out that the pay was $14 an hour and I would have to wear a white button up shirt. I knew the button up was a bad sign, seeing as how I have sworn off any and all jobs that require wearing a bow tie or a polo. A white button up means they are going to slap a bow tie on you when you walk through the door, and wearing a bow tie means- without fail- that you are someone's bitch. It was too late, though- I had already accepted the assignment.
Fast forward to the speech. I had shown up to this event as a freelancer, so I really didn't have a clue what was going on. After this touchy-feely moment of wonderfulness was over, and I had thanked my lucky stars, I was directed to my bar. I was to tend bar with an older gentleman- we'll call him Wayne. I walked behind the bar and introduced myself, and asked all the appropriate questions. "What's your name? Who do you work for? How long have you been bartending?" Blah blah blah, bartender comradity, us against them, blah blah blah.
Wayne answers my questions, and mentions that he is good at wine and beer. To those of you who don't bartend, if this were a wine bar, that would mean something. Wine is a very difficult subject if you delve into its complexities. This was not that kind of event. There were about 5 beers and 4 varietals of cheap wine. So already, I'm confused. Then, THEN, he tells me that if someone asks for a "specialty drink," he will ask me what to do. He mentions that he doesn't know what is in a whiskey sour, and stares at me questioningly. At this point, I think he's being a condescending asshole. Because of his age and demeanor, I think he's obviously been doing this a while, and thinks that the young(er) girl with big boobs couldn't possibly know what she's doing behind a bar. "I'll show him," I thought. I've been doing this for years, and I'm very, very good at what I do.
Only Wayne didn't stop staring. It turns out he wasn't kidding. We are standing there behind the bar, staring each other down, when he finally says, "It's gin, right? In a whiskey sour?" I still think he's kidding, and keep staring at him until he looks like he's nervous. "It's WHISKEY and SOUR," I hear myself say, "and if you want to get fancy, you can add a splash of Sprite." Oh.My.Lord. This will NOT be a good night.
To make a long story short, after the whiskey sour incident, Wayne (a) could not find the white zinfandel, because it was not in fact white, (b) whined that it had been almost 4 hours and he hadn't had a break (I've often bartended 12 hour shifts without breaks- shut up), (c) hadn't been offered dinner, and (d) (aka my final straw) told a woman I would have to make her drink because "Erin does the specialty drinks." What had she ordered? Tequila, straight up. That means a shot of tequila, not chilled. Just tequila poured in a glass.
I put up with all of this, bartending in circles around him while he whined about money. If I heard one more thing about a tip jar from him, I swear I would have broken a wine glass and beat him over the head with it. He was JUST like the stapler guy from "Office Space," but I didn't have anyone in earshot to appreciate the humor. That just made it awful instead of funny.
I made it through, though, like a champ. It is always nice to get out of the house and earn a little income. At the end of the night, while we were breaking everything down, I saw a friend that I had worked with a year and a half ago. I was fairly deep in conversation with him when a lady in an awful outfit who must have been somewhat in charge of the event walked up with a totally condescending smile, and said, "We have some trash over there to put up," as she batted her eyelashes pointedly at us. Ok- first off, lady, I am not on your clock, so take 'our' effing trash out yourself. I am not some 18 year old pothead who needs constant supervision- I am a grown ass woman who should probably be running the people who run the people who run you.
Oh, and the conversation we were having? The last time I saw my friend, he had just found out he had cancer. I hadn't seen him since, so I asked him about the cancer. He was telling me that he thought it was spreading, but, as a server, he had no health insurance so no one would do thorough tests on him. He told me that he had spend every last cent of his savings account trying to get treatment, and insurance companies literally laughed at him when he called them asking if there was any way for him to get any kind of coverage (not to get on a political soapbox, but this is one of my main reasons for voting for Obama. EVERYONE should be entitled to health care). So this guy lives day after day, wondering if cancer is eating through his entire body, and not being able to do a damn thing about it. I was trying to tell him every social agency that I knew of for him to call, when we were so pointedly interrupted about the trash. I bet she would feel like a total asshole if she knew what we were talking about, but in her eyes, it was just two kids in bow ties, goofing off on her clock. Whatever.
As much as I like getting out of the house, and as much as I like bartending now that I don't have to do it for a living, this crap isn't worth it. No more bow ties for me.