It was ten months of my life, which in the greater scheme, barely registers now as employment. Was there a probationary period? I don’t remember one, but there should have been. If not on the part of my employer, then certainly on my part as an employee.
Hindsight is 20/20, they say. But I have found that hindsight is often myopic when you are young, and hyperopic when you are old, much like regular sight. In my case, I probably should have known better from the very beginning but being in my early 20’s I had more energy than sense.
“Are you looking for a job?” asked the rotund man in the brown fedora.
I wasn’t at that particular moment. In fact, I had just jumped over the bar and had a guy in a full nelson wrestling hold. Ironically, the man he had been punching was now trying to punch him, and I was busily moving his head too and fro like a deranged marionette master, trying to protect him.
Recently I saw a video online by a martial art “master” titled, “How to win a bar fight.” Let me tell you from personal experience, nobody ever wins a bar fight. What will happen are arrests, civil liability, and injury. I have seen dozens of them in my decades in the bar business, and there is never a cheering crowd, only an irritated police officer if you are lucky, or an ambulance and a bail bondsman if you are not.
The man in the fedora didn’t go away. He was opening a new nightclub and was looking for someone to run it for him. And he just happened to catch me at a moment when my frustration with my then current job had reached a crescendo. A handshake deal and I jumped in with both feet.
How bad could it be? I thought.
It wasn’t so obvious from the start, although I suspect that sometimes we see what we want to see, and don’t see what we don’t want to. I didn’t really see it when he threw a flashlight across the room at the sound engineer. I didn’t really see it when he put his drugged out girlfriend at the front door. And I certainly didn’t want to see it when the police came looking for him about some payment irregularities.
What I did see was that he let me have full reign over the bar operations. I ordered what I wanted, hired whom I wanted, and made money for him hand over fist. Isn’t that what every manager, bar or otherwise, longs for? The ability to do one’s job as one sees fit?
Mr. Fedora was charming in an odd sort of way. But he had a habit of berating people in public. So exaggerated was this behavior that it was comically funny to watch. Sort of like watching a gesticulating red faced clown on methamphetamines; all sound and fury, but really signifying nothing.
His temper tantrums started out small. The booking agent who suggested that he should not take a bat into the band’s dressing room, didn’t last long. The cocktail waitress who pointed out that the fire exit shouldn’t be chained shut also didn’t last long, and that girlfriend at the door, she simply disappeared one day with the previous night’s cash receipts.
The group I had assembled behind the bar did the best we could. We put our heads down and did our jobs. We were making money hand over fist too. Security and sound weren’t part of our thing. Neither was his girlfriend. But just because it wasn’t part of our thing doesn’t mean we weren’t affected by it. It’s really hard to feel good about your job, no matter how well you do it, or how much money you make, when your employer is a ranting lunatic.
The final straw came for me when he and I got into an argument about credit cards. He wanted to arbitrarily add purchases onto people’s bar bills. When I refused to do so, he launched into a withering personal attack. Curious how something which seems funny when directed at someone else becomes infinitely less funny when it is directed at you. I quit the next day.
Leaving me with these thoughts:
-Watch how somebody treats others and you will know how one day they will treat you.
-The time to be cautious is when someone tells you everything that you want to hear.
-Ten months can be an awfully long time.
-Learning is not whether you make mistakes, but rather, whether you keep making the same mistakes.
-When you head into a situation with the attitude, “How bad could it be?” rest assured you are going to quickly find out.