Sunday, 14 August 2016

Beck's boys and gyrating gurls.

When I moved to Manchester, it was on a complete whim. I had no money, no job, and the only person I knew in the city was my friend who was kind enough to let me stay at hers. (Although I'm not as terrible to live with as people assume, even if I do listen to Shania Twain regularly, and without irony.)

I left Swindon, rather rashly, because there was no real reason for me to stay there anymore, and I had cliche dreams of pursuing a more 'creative' career. So obviously, like anyone else trying to avoid a 'real' job (aka becoming the latest animal to enter the financial farm), I conned someone into hiring me as a bartender.

For those of you that care / are avoiding having to make eye contact with anyone you're currently with, here are some of the things I 'learnt' in my brief bartending career.

There will be sick.

It might be your own, but it probably won't be.

The most graphic sick-cident I ever witnessed happened around 5pm (obviously prime chunder time), and it was a few days before Christmas. The bar was packed with families binging on burgers (fuck you Jamie Oliver; they won't do what you tell them), and there were a few groups of  #ladsladslads trying to make the most out of the festive 'it's always Beck's o'clock'  period.

Without warning, a 'lad' stood up, opened his mouth, and power-washed the bar floor with his own vomit. When he'd finished violating the place, he simply sat down, and carried on eating his burger. He was impressively nonchalant; the epitome of 'no fucks given', and the complete polar opposite to all of the other punters.

In hindsight, I probably should've done something about it, but I definitely took the 'underpaid and under appreciated employee' approach, and tried to act like I hadn't just witnessed social terrorism. Thankfully, my boss actually cared about his job, and he dealt with it for me.

Unfortunately for me, my boss wasn't always there to be my knight in vomit armour, and occasionally I was forced to physically deal with a stranger's tangible regret.  I won't go into graphic details (not that graphic anyway), but there was at least one incident where I had to finger semi-solidified Sambuca into a sinkhole. It was like the most repulsive one-night stand anyone could ever have.

You'll learn that it's okay to tell customers to 'get dead'.

Okay, you might use nicer words (sometimes), but the sentiment will remain the same.

When you work in a bar (especially one in a city centre), you'll come across complete knuckle-fucks all of the time. There'll be guys who think it's okay to grope you when you walk past, there'll be people who talk to you like you're nonce scum (just because they've had to wait a little bit for their Jagerbomb), and there'll be girls that get really aggy when you try and move their gyrating arse out of the way. (News Flash: bartenders only get in the way because they want to do their job. We definitely don't get in the way of your 'Beyonce' moves to try and cop off with 'your' fella, especially when we've just seen him try and finger bang you in the corner.)

Anyway, the point is that you'll meet a lot of douche bags. At first, I'd always make sure I used my P's and Q's, but I quickly learnt it wasn't that effective. Dropping bombs might not be the best way to solve a conflict (soz Johnson), but dropping verbal bombs does seem to shut down a dickhead-drunk (at least temporarily). And if you ever say anything too offensive, you can always run away and hope they're too illiterate to leave an aggressive review on trip advisor (or too drunk to remember it happening, which is much much more likely).

(It also helps to work in a bar where the managers and bouncers genuinely respect you as a person; they'll immediately back you up if they need to.)

You'll hear a Drake song at least 74083928 times over the weekend.

Accept it, and embrace it. Although whenever I hear the intro to 'Hotline Bling', I immediately start pouring shots of tequila, so maybe Pavlov was onto something (soz for slagging you off in all my assignments at Uni, m8).

Games are great.

Let's not beat around the bush - working in a bar can be hella boring. You will need to play games, otherwise self-harm starts to look like a welcome distraction (or you could be a nerd and do something less drastic, like your actual job).

Sometimes, a 'game' might be as simple as filling up a martini glass with crushed ice, and seeing how much of the crushed ice you can eat whilst you keep the glass perpendicular to your mouth, à la hungry hippo.

Other times, you might risk another terrible trip advisor rating by seeing how uncomfortable you can make a customer feel (it might've only been me that volunteered to do this, so it was probably less of a game, and more of another desperate demonstration of my need for attention).

And if your work colleagues (at best) are slightly disgusting, you can always play 'how much money would you need to...?'. Although I did resign temporarily from that game after I ate a cigarette butt for £8.50. In my own defence (look at me mum, finally being all laweyery and that), I did originally ask for a tenner, but I settled for the change the 'challengers' had on them at the time (reason 32425 as to why I'd make a terrible prostitute).

You'll see a lot of first dates. 

I resent other people's happiness, so my favourite first dates were the ones that made spending a day in Fritzl's basement seem like a rather romantic alternative.

My least favourite dates to witness were the ones that had taken the 'let's get blind drunk, so we find each other physically attractive' approach. These dates would inevitably end in the pair performing a terrible sex show, and they'd rarely have the decency to move to the shadows. True romance might be dead, but the art of dry-rubbing is well and truly alive.

For me, this kind of date is worse than watching a painfully public break-up because I find all forms of PDA visually offensive. Even when my friends (all two of them) hold hands with their loved ones, I immediately try and moonwalk out of the situation. Seriously, doesn't anyone else understand that affection is for the weak? #bebitternotbetter

You'll learn how to make a cocktail.

When I say 'you'll learn how to make a cocktail', I mean 'you'll learn how to pretend you know what the hell you're doing when someone asks for a cocktail'.*

Step one: when a customer asks for a drink, do not panic. Remain calm, collected, and confident. It's a good idea to reply with 'one ineffably delicious cocktail coming right up', or something pretentious like that.

Step two: if you can't remember what goes into the cocktail, improvise, and improvise with flair. And by that, I mean tell the customer to take a seat, and that you'll bring the cocktail over to them. If the bar is too busy for that, simply grab whatever alcohol is nearest to you, and make sure you add all of the sugar to counteract the poisonous taste of whatever it is you've just created.

Step three: when you're shaking the cocktail, shake it with finesse. If it's not too loud, say things like 'oooooo baby, can you hear the rhythm of the ice there?'.

Step four: before you pour the cocktail, try it yourself. Even if it tastes like you've just licked a rotten carcass, react as if you've just tasted the nectar of the gods. Your pretence will give the customer confidence in the monstrosity you've created; it means they're less likely to complain.

Step five: pour the cocktail, add an insta-worthy garnish, and serve the cocktail as if you've just finished painting the Sistine Chapel.

Step six: once the customer has got their cocktail, run away. Seriously, go and make out you need to spend some time in the toilet, and hope your boss didn't just witness any of your heinous cocktail crimes.

*Fortunately for the bar, everyone else I worked with actually knew how to do their job properly, and some of them are true connoisseurs of cocktail making.

You'll make friends.

And not 'work' friends, but real, genuine friends. Friends who become your new, incredibly warped, and slightly incestuous, family.

I think you become so close because working in a bar is different to most other jobs; you go through a lot together in a such a short space of time. Being a bartender is probably the modern equivalent of fighting in the trenches. I mean, you're not actually at risk of trench foot, but you will ruin all of your shoes, which I'm guessing is pretty much the same thing.

It might also have something to do with the fact that some of the greatest people work in bars, as long as it's not the kind of pretentious place where people are hired just because they're 'pretty'. In more 'alternative' bars, you tend to find the kind of people you want to be friends, because you know they'll make you more interesting through default.

Even your managers become your friends, so you get to be yourself nearly 100% of the time, and when you have a fair few Gary Glitter based jokes (like I do), that's pretty bloody rare.

So, I might've worked inhumanely long hours, for minimum wage. I might've put on weight. And I might've become a borderline alcoholic (I'm only saying borderline in case my current boss ever reads this). Despite all of this, I had a pretty great time being a terrible bartender. Because, when all is said and done, I got paid to lark about with my friends every single day. Yes, bartending might've taken away my health (not that I've ever been a poster girl for healthy living), but it gave me lots, and lots of lols.

Oh, and I also once served Fizz from Coronation Street, which makes me makes me pretty big time in Manchester.