Visine, coffee, and a breath mint. I felt a little like Roy Scheider in the 1979 film “All That Jazz.” But that is often how stepping behind the bar can be. There are very few jobs where you do all that you do directly in front of people. And often as their focal point.
“Some more water?” I asked position 1.
“Another glass of wine?” I asked position 4.
“Something to get started?” to position 6.
“Something to finish up?” Position 9.
And on down the line. For the uninitiated, bar stools are often numbered, not for the convenience of the guest, but rather for the convenience of the restaurant.
So, if you are ever sitting at a bar and the bartender says, “5 is a real pain,” count five spaces from either end, because he/she might be talking about you.
“I think Chris Paul is going to do it this year,” said position 4.
“Yeah, it could be his year,” I responded.
“Can I get more aioli?” asked position 3.
“What are the specials again?” asked position 2, again.
Back and forth I went, like a panther in a cage. Or a tiger, or a cougar.
“Hi,” said the woman at position 8, for the second time.
“Hi back,” I said, again.
“What’s your name?”
“Jeff,” I said, for the second time.
“Oh,” she said. “I guess we already covered that.”
“Can I get another Manhattan?” asked position 6.
“Would you like another?” I asked his friend at position 7.
I made the Manhattan and set it down.
“Can I get one now? asked position 7.
“Sure,” I said.
“How do you get to the freeway from here?” asked position 12, immediately upon sitting down.
“Give me a second,” I replied.
I made two Moscow Mules for positions 3 and 4, a martini for the new position 5 and took a food order, finally, for positions 1 and 2.
“Freeway?” asked position 12, and not politely.
“Something to drink first?” I asked.
“No, I just need directions.”
“It will be just a minute then,” I said.
A hamburger for position 10, a water for position 2, and a knowing nod for position 7, and then back to position 12. His eyes bored through me. I have noticed that the most entitled of people tip the least, expect the most, and are usually, by far, the least understanding of the situation around them.
“You take a left out of the parking lot…” I began.
“No, you don’t!” he replied.
“You don’t?” I asked, genuinely surprised, because I have taken that left every single day that I have ever worked at that restaurant, and it always takes me to the freeway.
“Then I guess I don’t know how to get to the freeway,” I replied.
The new position 12 was much nicer.
“How long have you worked here?” he asked.
“Don’t bother him,” said his companion at position 11. “He’s busy.”
“I’m not bothering him; I’m just making small talk.”
Position 8 noticed the exchange and didn’t seem to like it.
“Hi,” she said again.
“Hi back,” I said again.
Position 12 noticed this exchange.
My ex-boyfriend,” he said loudly, and for no apparent reason.
Hot tea for position 2, cold water for position 4, iced tea for position 6, and hot water for position 8.
“Does ‘Kelly’ still work here?” position 11 asked, not actually saying “Kelly,” but trust me anonymity has its value.
“She does,” I said.
“I can’t tell you that.”
Some people get it, and some people don’t. I looked up to see the former position 12 standing at the front podium. The host pointed to the left. The man vehemently shook his head and walked away.
“What was your name again?” asked position 8.
“My ex-boyfriend,” said position 12 again, louder still.
Then position 12 left for the restroom and position 11 handed me a napkin, much to the chagrin of position 8.
I opened it and began reading.
“You are very cute,” it started.
“Oh no,” I thought.
“You are not supposed to read it!” exclaimed position 11.
I folded it back up and noticed Kelly’s name on it.
Relieved, I continued down the line. Some hours later, when all was said and done, I had these reflections:
-I love my job. Just saying.
-Not everybody who goes to a bar wants the same thing
-Bartending has more to do with mixing people than mixing drinks
-I did get a second napkin note, and it wasn’t a mistake.
-If you think listening to one person can be difficult, try listening to 10, 12 or 15, all at the same time.
-Do I love my job? Just asking.