As a bartender in my twenties, I saw a lot of crazy stuff. If I could offer any advice to any young people considering this line of work, I would say, you MUST have thick skin, excellent people skills, an observant eye, some self-defense skills (depending on the venue) a strong knowledge of your rights and laws as an alcohol server and most importantly, a sense of humor.
I came across all kinds of characters, some good, some bad and some outright weirdo’s. Every shift brought about new challenges in this particular bar that I worked at in Saskatoon. As a bartender just starting out with limited experience, it was hard to be choosy as to where I could work.
After a while I had some regulars, they always tipped well, and for the most part, they just wanted some company and a glass of draft beer in the daily grind of their lives.
One particular customer always made my day with a joke, a lame pick-up line or his overall crazy sense of humour. He had tattoos from his wrists to his neck, drove an Indian motorcycle, stood about seven feet tall and dressed like a biker, his name was Tony. He looked like the meanest SOB you ever met. That is until he spoke.
One particular quiet Saturday afternoon, Tony and I were alone in the bar and I was stocking my cooler. I was feeling pretty low as I had applied for the bar manager position to my boss and I lost out to one of the waitresses that had a $3,000 botched boob job. I am not kidding, one was literally higher than the other, but she made it work somehow. Tony liked to call her ‘Discount Barbie Doll’ and she loved it.
“So you feeling blue about losing to what’s her face?”
“Yeah … I really needed that raise and to learn more about the biz.”
“Aaaaaaaaaa! You’re too good for this place, you’ll get that job someday, just suck it up, and you’ll be fine.”
I went about my day dragging my feet as I watched the boss training his new manager. Tony stayed all day as he often did, cracked jokes, told stories, drank his beer, and threw me his keys. I couldn’t laugh that day and I was a pathetic sight as I pouted in silence.
Then Tony suddenly asked me to turn up the jukebox as he got up from his bar stool and pumped a few loonies into the machine. I obliged and watched him stagger to the dance floor. He stood there and waited for his songs to play as he yelled, “Sharon, you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t! This is for you!”
The familiar intro to Michael Jackson’s song “Beat It” began to play. Tony then went into the clumsiest, most unco-ordinated break dance I had ever seen. I stood there and shook my head as I fought the urge to laugh. After he had a few stumbles and groans, I lost it and burst into laughter.
When the song was over, it played again and he continued on his mission to make me laugh and help me forget about my woes. After the fourth repeat of the song, he staggered back to his bar stool and smiled at me as I keeled over from laughing.
“Beer me, I’m thirsty,” as he huffed and puffed and struggled for his breath. I poured his pint and looked at this large man that nearly gave himself a heart attack just to make me laugh.
“Thanks Tony, I needed that.”
“Like I said kid, you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t … Pass me the peanuts.”
To this day, it is still one of those insignificant pieces of advice that always makes me smile.