I am sitting here with a bottle of wine on my one day off this week wondering how I fell into all this. I’ve been in this industry for nine years. I know the lifestyle and job like the back of my scarred hand. Essentially I don’t have a job; I have the bartender’s lifestyle. It consumes every facet of my being, my soul, my dreams and my future. I live and breathe the industry. The years of alcohol soaking into my veins now fuels me to sleepless nights, restless days and thoughts of grandeur.
Why do we subject ourselves to late nights, rude customers and long hours We love it. We love the people, and being on show. At the end of the day we are show people, actors on a stage for all customers to stare at in wonderment. This is what compels us to be “lifers”. Even as we stand in three inches of water behind the bar, we get a rush from giving the common man an experience, from getting them to try a new beer or cocktail. We live for them, we live for their approval.
Now I can already hear the bartenders around the world yelling out, as they throw their hand in the air, “I don’t live for my customers!” But we do. Without them we would be empty vessels sitting behind bars polishing glassware never to be used. It’s a hard reality but it’s true.
Customers are hard enough when your bar is stacked to the rafters with the bold and the beautiful, let alone when they ask for the most complex of drinks. And yes, we sometimes hate it. But isn’t it worth it on a quiet night when two people come and sit at your wood and give you free reign on trying out your latest experimental concoction Imagine the looks on their faces when your Marshmelon Martini slides down the back of their throat, returning them to memories of their childhood. The sparkle in their eyes lets you know that you just did something for them that has never been done before.
Now you can give me a hundred drunk, ranting banshees on a Friday night screaming for Jager shots and jugs of beer but that one customer that will appreciate you on those quiet Monday nights far outweighs it all. And that in essence is why we do it! We do it for those customers that we know we can save, educate and nurture to become more respectable drinkers. The ones we want coming and seeing us on a Friday night, to drown out the faceless imbibing hoards.
So this brings me to the “newbies” coming into the industry. I am going to be straight forward it’s hard but rewarding. It takes great fortitude to be able to smile when you’re getting yelled at, to be able to listen to someone you don’t want to hear, to be able to give someone something special even when you’re not in the mood. Worry about the people who look at you for something different. They are the ones who will make your day.
All the “lifers” understand, the feeling you get when you have just finished the night. Your feet swollen, socks wet, hair smelling of god knows what and your skin sticky from every alcohol in your bar. But while you lie there in bed, ears ringing from the DJ, you get a feeling of euphoria that you have done your best tonight and have touched that one person to make this all worth while.
So when you get your first gig, look for those loyal disciples, your followers. Let them feed off your creativity and knowledge and in turn you will feed off their appreciation. When you have these symbiotic relationships, you will realize what attracts and keeps us doing what we do.
October 20, 2006