A little change of pace for my Dive Bar readers today as the Blues Tales meanders into the realm of Friday Fictioneers, where the goal is to write a 100 word story based on a photo prompt. What? Only 100 words? I know what you’re thinking, there’s no way Tina’s snarky observations can be completed in 100 words . . . and you’re right. Not only did I go over 100 words, but there is much more to come in this particular episode of dive bar douchebaggery . . .

PHOTO PROMPT – Copyright – Jan Wayne Fields

PHOTO PROMPT – Copyright – Jan Wayne Fields

“Bacon cheeseburger,” I say, setting a steaming plate in front of a woman in her sixties with a horrid burgundy dye job that could only come from a box. She stares at me with a silent scowl as I slide the second plate in front of her husband. “Regular cheeseburger, plain and dry. No side, right?”

“I said just the burger,” he fumes.

Bun, meat, cheese . . . OMFG is this guy seriously freaking out about the garnish? Where does he think he is? A five star restaurant? Does he see linens on the tables? A maître d’ at the door? Does he expect a bowl of rose water and a wet towel at the end of his meal?

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

So This is What Pissy Drunk Means

shots shots shotsThings were different the first time around. I was younger, more patient, and better practiced in the ways of alcoholism. The bar on campus where I earned tuition closed early and we were always out of there by one and at the bar down the street by ten after; an hour and twenty minutes to take as many shots and chug as many beers as we could swallow. Even on weekdays when I closed by myself, I’d find someone to party with. If they were hot I might stumble home with them. Even if they weren’t . . . well sometimes tequila makes it easier to overlook a butterface or way too much gut. The next morning I would crawl out of bed, sometimes mine, sometimes someone else’s, drag myself to class, then work, and do it all over again. It was awesome. Probably one of the best times of my life! But it’s over now.

No, that’s not true. It’s been over for a while. I haven’t drank like that in years but sometimes I still forget and think that I can party like old times.

Big mistake.

One shot. Two shots. Three shots. Four. God knows how many more.

It was a slow night. Really slow. Painfully slow. So slow that somehow I found myself down the street spending more than I made on the opposite side of the bar as Cameltoe Joe. I can’t stand Cameltoe Joe. I didn’t want to give him any of my money but tip karma is a bitch so I threw him down a couple extra dollars for every shot.

That’s the last thing I remember. Until now: stumbling out of bed in the dark (not my bed, not my dark) and down an unfamiliar hallway in search of a wash room. The first door is just a closet. The second opens to snores better suited to a hibernating bear than a human. The third one’s a charm.

I drop my pants and plop down on the toilet. Drunk piss is always such a relief. But something doesn’t feel quite right. I frown, wobble on the seat a bit as I try to stand, and bend over to pull my pants back up.

FUCK!

I blink. Hard. My vision is blurry. Standing still takes effort and I sway on my feet as I stare in disbelief at my pelvis.

I forgot I was wearing underwear.

I forgot I was wearing underwear and I just pissed right through it. Fuck fuck fuck fuck! My head swirls and my thoughts race. My heart pounds. What the fuck do I do?

What can I do? I trip out of my pants and yank the wet drawers down, wishing I could just leave. But I am way too drunk to drive. So I’ll just throw them out right? Except . . . where is the waste basket? A frantic search of the room─behind the toilet, under the sink, even in the shower─reveals nothing; no trash can, no plastic grocery bag substitute, nothing. That’s how I find myself retracing my steps back down the hallway, pissy panties in hand, when a door creek open and a sliver of light starts in front of me.

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.