Last Call Means Last Call

It never fails. It’s 2:30 but that doesn’t stop the drunks from asking.

“Just one more! Please!”

Nope.

“What if I tip you real good?”

Ooooh like maybe double your last one? You know, the quarter you left on the bar three beers ago?

“C’mon I didn’t even hear last call, you gotta give me one more.”

Here’s the thing buddy, I don’t have to give you ANYTHING. Not only that, but it would be illegal for me to now. And, contrary to what you think you know about my job, I don’t even have to say last call. So kiss my . . .

“Hey beautiful, let me get one more.”

You’ve got to be kidding me.

He tosses a few crumpled dollars on the bar. A couple of quarters. One of them rolls and ends up on the floor.

It could be worse. Every once in awhile some bitch will throw a fit: scream and yell, throw the ice at the bottom of her glass across the bar, make a total ass out of herself. This city is known for its bad behavior and faked bipolar excuses after all. The whole damn state is actually. What Oregonian hasn’t found their flight by the obnoxious passengers that litter the concourse?

Which must be why the Powell’s employee approached me with kid gloves last Saturday. “Did you already get your book signed?”

“No. I just got back.”

She apologized. Profusely. “He’s done signing.”

Now I’m not a crier or anything but I admit, tears started to well up in my eyes. “I called. They said it was still going. I drove up from Salem . . . ” I don’t know why I told her that. It just came out. Better words than tears. I had already driven to Portland earlier in the day for the signing, waited hours but had to leave for work before my group was called to line up. As it happened the bar was overstaffed for the night and they didn’t even need me. So I raced back to the Pearl District and fought for parking a second time.015

I probably sounded like one of those asses trying to circumvent last call because she responded, “I’m sorry, that might have been the case then, but the line is closed now.”

So close. Yet so far. I strained to at least catch a glimpse of the Fight Club author but I couldn’t see over the crowd.

Her words were soft, coddling―well practiced in handling the temperamental, entitled Oregonian consumer. “He’s been here since one and his hands are starting to tremble.

Chuck Palahniuk. The best storyteller of our time. Sacrificing his hands to sign books. I told her I understood, told her not to apologize, blinked back my tears yet again, and did not even think of throwing a fit.

But you go right ahead and scream and throw shit because you want another shot of Fireball. I dare you.

 

 

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77 Cents on Your Dollar

I’m about to knock my glass off the table to get the bartender’s attention. Cameltoe Joe walked by once already. No he raced by. My beer was already skimming the bottom, little more than foam, but he didn’t notice, didn’t offer me a fresh one. Didn’t even make eye contact. He grabbed the empty off the table and sped away, his eyes locked on the television over the bar. It was on a commercial break but that could change at any moment. I tried to swallow enough of the salad in my mouth to order another beer before he got away but he was too fast.

“You’re still waiting?” Julia yells, loud enough you would think she’d get his attention, as she slides back into the booth.

“Yup.”

“I smoked a whole Newport and fixed my mascara.” She agrees that I should have shoved the pounder to it’s demise on the stained floor. “I bet he makes more than you in tips too,” she jeers.

My blood boils. It’s true. When I started bartending I was naive enough to believe that I had found the magical profession where I would be immune to wage discrimination. If anything my hot young body would get me a few extra dollars, right? Wrong. For every extra percent a customer might give me for my looks, another stiffed me altogether for being a chick.

A touchdown is scored. There are cheers and high fives. “I’m just going to go up to the bar.”

Julia slurps her bloody mary. “Order me another too.”

I would if I could.

There are instant replays and more cheers and high fives and I’m standing there waiting and waiting and he’s staring at the TV with this huge smile on his face. I’m getting thirsty but there’s no way I can get his attention without looking like a total bitch. So I wait and stew on my friend’s words. I know she’s right. I’ve seen it in action. Whole groups of women won’t tip other women. All sorts of people take their racism out on their servers, not just in how they treat them, but financially too. Of course old white men can be the worst. They respect someone that looks like them behind the bar. But a female? It’s not a real job when a female does it. There’s a guy that come’s into my bar. We call him Grumpy. He’s rude as shit to all the girls. Never tips, doesn’t even leave us his change no matter how good of service we give him or how much we kiss his ass. But the one male bartender, the one bartender who is just like Cameltoe Joe right here and doesn’t pay a damn bit of attention to customers, Grumpy leaves him twenty percent and plenty of compliments.

“Wow you must have wowed him,” I said to Geoff one day after retrieving Grumpy’s Visa receipt.

“I guess,” he snorted. “I haven’t moved from this spot since he got here.” It was true. Geoff never gave table service. Just watched ESPN from his corner behind the bar. Customers came to him or they didn’t get anything to drink.

So I’m remembering all of this, really freaking out about it, wanting nothing more than to let my rage erupt in a riot, when Cameltoe finally turns around and looks me right in my beet red face.

No Tip For You Fancy

coinsSometimes you can just tell when someone is going to stiff you. The second they walk in the door, greasy hair, stained and torn Coors Light t-shirts, you know you’re working for free. One of them opens her smelly toothless mouth and confirms it. “What’s the cheapest drink you got? I want something fancy.”

Fancy. Yeah I’m sure you do. Fucking white trash.

Oh I know what you’re thinking─ I’m just stereotyping people. And you’re right. I am. But you can get off your moral high horse. We all look the same to you anyway. And it’s not like I act on it. I’ll still give them good service regardless. I always do. I give them the chance to prove me wrong too. But when they don’t and there’s a crowd around the bar guess who is getting served last? True some bartenders take it too far and treat people badly. Or grumble because certain ethnic groups never tip them. They don’t even realize they’re burning their tips so I can’t speak for them. Learn to say “gracias”, show people that you’re willing to make some effort and they will tip; our business is hospitality after all . . .

So anyway back to Ms. Fancy. “Our cheapest drinks are $3. But they’re just wells, they’re not fancy.” She’s got to be at least fifty and I have to explain to her what a well drink is. Then she asks me if I can make it fancy.” I repeat what I just finished describing to her: “It’s one cheap liquor and one juice or soda. Vodka cranberry, rum and coke . . .”

“I’ll take a vodka cranberry. And make it strong!” Hey kids here’s a quick tip: don’t do that. Don’t ever grill the bartender on the cheapest drink and then demand an extra pour. You get an ounce and half. No more. (Unless I really like you and I don’t). But you might get less if you piss me off.

Here’s another: if you can’t afford to tip then you can’t afford to go out. I know you’ve heard that one before. Everyone has. We don’t work for our hourly wage (which is less than three bucks an hour in most states, not mine thankfully). I have a college degree. I don’t work for minimum wage. I do this job because most of the time I like it but if people aren’t going to tip then I get a job in a different industry. Same is true for all bartenders of quality. Don’t tip and all you’ll be left with are idiots that can’t focus on you what with all the distractions like phones and cigarettes and oooh is that a cute boy?

I pour her drink and a cheap beer for her friend who she makes sure to tell me is an alcoholic. Fantastic. I count back her change and then she wants twenty dollars in ones so she can feed the lottery machine slow on penny games. When she finally walks away the bar is empty. Not even the coins.

We’re pretty busy tonight though so I’m not too worried. Four girls come in next and make a beeline for a table. I get their drinks and try to give them a few minutes to look over the menu like most people prefer.

“Aren’t you going to take our order?” the first one snaps.

Whoah girl simmer down! I look them over and say, “Let me grab some paper.” There’s no way I’m going to remember EVERYTHING.

When I return the first girl rattles off, “I’ll take the bar platter and the bacon cheeseburger with fries and she’ll have the monster burger with onion rings.”

Then girl number three, “We’ll take a bar platter and a monster burger with fries.”

“Ok I’ll get that right in.”

I start to walk away and girl three snaps, “Aren’t you going to get her order?”

My bad. I didn’t realize that when you said “we’ll take” you just meant yourself. Considering you just ordered enough for three or four people anyway. . . But what I say is, “Oh I’m so sorry what can I get you?”

Girl three snarls and looks down her nose at me while girl four answers, “I’ll take the side salad.” Now I don’t think I need to bother describing the weight of these girls. It’s probably pretty obvious. But I will say that I was a little worried that the first three might eat the last one if their food didn’t come up fast enough.

I’m putting their order in, my back to the bar, when Ms. Fancy comes back. “Excuse me!” she calls. “Excuse me!” I tell her I’ll be right with her and she stands there tapping her video lottery ticket on the bar and sighing. I take my sweet fucking time on the POS. When I turn around to help her she tells me she wants a strong fancy drink. “What do you have for three dollars?”

Really? We’re really going to do this again? Yup. And again. And again. Not a single dollar, not a single quarter, not even a penny for my trouble. The fourth time she makes sure to tell me: “I brought back all the glasses from the lottery room for you.” Like she did me a favor or something.

I just look at her. I hold back telling her it was the least she could do, bringing her own glasses back when she isn’t tipping. It would be nice if she would wash them while she’s at it.

Meanwhile the group of girls needs their waters refilled and then buckets of ranch when their food is up. Their bill comes to 57.93. They leave 2.07 on the table.

Up next . . . read about how not even bartenders are immune from wage discrimination in 77 Cents on Your Dollar

Drunk by Proxy

drinkThere are two kinds of bartenders: sober and not sober. But that doesn’t mean everyone in the latter group is drinking behind the bar. Or snorting lines in the bathroom. Or smoking bowls in make shift pipes out back. Some of us seem to catch a buzz like a virus, spread by the patrons we serve.

Patrons who tease, “You’re cut off!” when I break a glass or a drop a bottle. I haven’t been drinking but . . . maybe I’m drunk by osmosis?

Drunk without alcohol. Whaaaat?

There are two kinds of bartenders: those that are perpetually annoyed by their patrons’ alcohol induced antics, and those don’t mind the fun, maybe even join in. It should be obvious which group is the sober one…

Again, not drinking on the job. It’s just that there is something about being around others who are imbibing, something that gets me intoxicated by proxy; that raises my voice, booms my laugh across the bar, and brings out the worst of my shit talking.

Oddly it isn’t work that makes me notice how I change when people around me drink. It’s a volleyball match; a volleyball match where three other girls have vodka in their water bottles and I don’t.

My friends get louder as we play, the jokes start rolling out. But somehow I get louder and more obnoxious than the rest. It’s like I’m intoxicated by their energy. If I get pulled over after I leave I won’t be surprised if they make we walk the white line. It’s fucking weird, I know. But I guess it’s functional right?

The Perfect Co-Star For a Dark Comedy: Tina in Suicide in Tiny Increments

It’s true, publishing my first novel took all the attention away from DBBT. To be perfectly honest, the Dive Bar Blues have been terribly neglected as of late. But don’t worry, your favorite fictional bartender has not disappeared! In fact, she’s been busy co-staring in the deliciously morbid and satirical Suicide in Tiny Increments, a dark literary fiction peppered with black humor and smothered in irony.

420Too scared to kill himself but also too scared to live, Daniel Long is a sad, pathetic man; a miserable martyr of depression. A year after he was dumped by his self-centered alcoholic girlfriend, he still wallows in the hole she left behind. And, except for the cubicle that he spends forty hours a week in, Daniel rarely leaves the bare white walls that make up his apartment. Trapped in his self-made ennui, his only escape is to hire a hitman. But when one of his few friends kills herself Daniel realizes the error of his ways. He tries to cancel the hit but in the process he offends his contracted killer. Now his impending death is personal and his life is about to get more exciting than he ever could have imagined.

Suicide in Tiny increments is available as a paperback, a Kindle Book, and a variety of other e-reader formats.

 

Suicide in Tiny Increments

 

 PaperbackKindle BookEpub from LuluEpub, Mobi, LRF, RTF, TXT, PDB, or PDF at Smashwords

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Dive Bar Nepotism

Dive Bar Nepotism

Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if Charlie is trying to run this place into the ground on purpose.  Between charging for tap water and beer backs, catering to regulars who don’t spend any money at the expense of new customers, and the condensation I find in countless bottles of vodka, it is really no surprise the parking lot is empty when I arrive for my shift.  I am surprised, however, by the new face sitting at the bar.

“This is my nephew, John,” Charlie introduces us.  John also goes by the name Peyton Manning… just in case anyone calls the bar asking for him.

“Um, ok,” I say, confused at why this near 40 year old burnout with yellowed eyes and pants three sizes too big has adopted the moniker of a famous quarterback.

“I’m putting him in charge,” Charlie says.  “This place needs some new life and this kid, this kid right here, he’s got some great ideas.”

Kid?  This “kid’s” hairline recedes, but instead of rounding out at the back like a cul-de-sac, the baldness continues down the back of his head to his neck, so that what hair he does have left exists as strips down the sides of his head kind of like a reverse Mohawk.  “Yeah, what kind of ideas?”

“You know, like ladies night, getting a DJ in here,” the aging wangster says as he takes a long pull off a well drink.

“Right…” I say, my blood seething in my veins.  Like no one has told Charlie he needs to get with the basic staples of the bar business already.  Like I haven’t written out lists of real ideas that Charlie promptly ignored…

After the owner leaves I ask our new “manager” about the last bar he ran.  “Oh I ain’t never ran a bar before,” he says.

Okay… “So where have you bartended?”

He shakes his head.  “I ain’t a bartender, I’m a hustler,” he says with a proud smirk.  Further digging, a little asking around, and the full picture is painted:  John is a high school dropout; closest he ever got to a real job was raking leaves on a work crew during one of many stints in prison.  He starts talking about how he’s going to run dollar shots tonight and I’m thinking I might have to break the Visine out again if this place is going to keep from going under.

Insomnia

Insomnia crowsHe never said she was dead.

Shit.  I roll over, tangling my feet in the blankets.  Can’t sleep for shit, too busy freaking the fuck out.

Detective Lin never said Celia was dead; he said she was missing.  The dead part was all me.

But she did die!  She did.  I saw her.  And I killed her.

I kick my legs free from the sheets and stare out at the dark nothingness of my room.  The digital clock on my nightstand reads 4:08 in red. 4:09.  4:10.  4:11… 4:53.  Sleep is not going to come, there is no point in just lying here so I reach for the lamp, pull its silver chain.  The room gets too bright and I squint while I slide my feet into my slippers and slip an oversized hoodie over my head.  Dressed, the light goes back off and I shuffle through the dark house to the kitchen.  Delilah follows me, five or so steps behind.  From the hall, she watches me with her chestnut eyebrows knitted, her black eyes questioning, as I crab a Corona from the fridge and pop the top off.  She waits for me to pass her in the hallway, on my way to the living room, before she turns around and trudges behind again.  If she could talk she would ask, “What the fuck are you doing?  Let’s go back to bed silly.”

I plop down on the couch and run my hand over the suede cushions in search of the remote.  There has got to be something on that will take my mind off of that little slip with Celia.  Delilah stares at me from the floor, she lets out a little whimper.  “Ok,” I sigh, and pat the cushion next to me.  Suddenly, all eighty pounds of Rottweiler vaults onto the couch, pushing us a couple inches across the hardwood floors.  I chuckle and scratch behind her ears while flipping through the channels.  But it doesn’t take long for my mind to wander and instead of the images that flip across the screen, I see Celia dead; I see myself dragging her body out to the ditch; I see Detective Lin NOT mentioning a damn thing about her being dead; and I see myself drop a tray of drinks and self-incriminate in front of her and all of her friends.  A sigh empties my lungs.  She is totally going to know I had something to do with her waking up in that ditch!

No, I shake my head.  She was drinking, she’ll forget all about it.  And what are the chances she’ll talk to Detective Lin and find out he never actually said she was dead anyway?

*          *          *

100% apparently.

Speechless, I stare across the bar at Celia.  She is waiting for an answer.  Her joking manner starts to get nervous, probably a reaction to my silence and deer in the headlights look in my eyes.

“So…” she asks again.  “Why did you say that?”