Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Adventures of Lindsay the Bartender

Today is Tuesday, and I am currently at my local library because I am nerdy (aka cool) like that.  As I sit at the pine table near the back of the romance section, right in front of the coveted computer rooms, there is a sign to my left:


I sit. I turn to my left. Read the sign. Turn to my right. No signs of librarians with carts of books ready to look down on me with their reading glasses balanced on the tip of their nose.

I reach in my bag, pull out my Granny Smith apple, and take a bite.

Crunch, crunch, crunch.

I am breaking the rules.  I am eating in the library. And never before have I realized how noisy an apple is.

Well. There's my adrenaline rush for the day.

.....Sigh. I need to do something more exciting.

Well, I should give myself some more credit.  I really have been attempting to branch out of my comfort zone, meet new people, try new things, and to be honest, I've been doing pretty well at breaking out of my box.  For example, a few weeks ago, an old friend/co-worker of mine called me up and left me a strangely vague voicemail:

"Hey Linds, give me a call back. I sort of have something pretty cool to tell you about, if you're interested...It's pretty neat, so..anyway, just call me back."

I had no idea what he was talking about, especially because this wasn't one of those friends that called me up all the time. In fact, I don't think he had ever called me on the phone before. Wondering what the heck he could be talking about (Is he trying to set me up? Does he know of a job opening? Did I get him in trouble accidentally with something?) I called back.

"Hey, what's going on?" I said.

"Oh hey, Linds!" he said enthusiastically.  "So listen, how's the job search going?"

Ugh, I thought. One of the Top 5 Questions again.

"It's going," I said.  I had been working on shortening my answer to that question so as not to bore people.

"Well, hey are you busy next week?"

"I'm not sure," I said, now curious. "How come?"

 "Well, there's this fundraising event I bartend at every year, and it's an auction, so there's tons of people, and I need help making drinks and bartending. My girlfriend will be there, and you get 100 bucks, so I was hoping you could help me out?"

Hm, I thought. I had never bartended in my life, and only served alcohol to actual customers two times. The first time was at the baseball stadium I worked at, where they put me on the beer port, only to immediately take me off of beer port because I was serving cups of foam rather than cups of beer (I know, I don't know how I was unable to pour a cup of beer either. We all have our weaknesses.). The second time was again at the stadium, this time for a beer tasting event. Rather than pour beer, I was to open beer bottles, but when I used the bottle opener, I pulled up too hard, so the bottle fell on the table, the cap scratching my knuckles and the beer spilling all over me and the floor.

But hey, apparently I thought this third time would be the charm:

"Sure," I heard myself tell my friend. "I'll bartend."

"Great!" he said. "I'll get you more information next week."

Later that week, my friend called me again and told me more details. The event was to take place at the local Armory, a large VFW-like hall. There was going to be about 500 event-goers, all prepared to raise money and drink adult beverages.  My job was to help them raise their BAC and lower their inhibitions from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Another co-worker friend of mine was going to help out with me; she had never bartended either. On our way to the event, we began to joke about how we had no idea how to make many mixed drinks.

"They'll ask me for a Bloody Mary, and I'll say to them, 'That's the one with the celery in it?'," we laughed.

I was a bit nervous because this was definitely out of my comfort zone. Though it was only bartending, I am the type of person that likes to have some idea of how to do something before doing it; bartending was something I had absolutely zero experience in, and since it was unexpected, I was a bit uncomfortable. Damn you, control-freak characteristics.

"It's pouring drinks, not performing surgery. Chill out, " I kept reminding myself.

When we walked into the building, the bartending area was already set up. A table with a white tablecloth sat near the back, another table behind it had bottles lining its counter: Jack Daniels, Captain Morgan, Jose Cuervo, Kahlua; you name it, it was there. Tonic water, soda water, whisky sour mix. Diet Coke, Coke, Sprite, 7-Up.  It was like every college freshman's dream.

My bartending friend came up to us.

"Hey guys, thanks for coming," he said. "Just pour them what they want, and if they ask for something you don't know, just yell." And that was that.

We took off our coats and began to help set up the large silver keg of LaBatt Blue Light behind the center of the table.

"Oh Beer Keg, we meet again," I thought.

People started pouring in. Immediately they made a beeline for us, ready to feel the warmth and looseness only alcohol can so easily provide.

A man with a sweater vest and a bald spot approached me.

"Can I get a Bloody Mary?" he asked.

How ironic.

"Sure," I stumbled. I felt like an idiot for not knowing what is in a damn Bloody Mary. Of course that would be the first thing someone would ask me to make. My jokes were jinxes.

My friend shouted over to his shoulder to me: "Vodka, Bloody Mary mix!"

I took the clear bottle of Absolut Vodka, pouring the cup halfway. I figured the more alcohol, the better. I then grabbed the bloody Mary mixture, a deep rust-colored red that looked disgusting to me.

"There you go," I said to the man and gave him the drink. He took a sip, smiled, and off he went. Well, I thought. That was easy.

As soon as Bloody Mary Bald Man left, I became a drink-making machine. Jack and Cokes, rum and diets, White Russians. I don't know what I had gotten so nervous about. Plus, I soon realized bartending provided great people-watching opportunities.

I learned people really like their alcohol, and they really like their alcohol a certain way. One man I called "With A Twist Guy."

"I would like a Vodka and Squirt. With a Twisttttt" he'd say. Every time. As the night went on and he got drunker:

"Yesss, I'd reallly like a Vodkkaaa, squirtttt," he'd slur. "With-a..."

"I know, with a twist," I'd reply.

"Egggg-act-llyyy," he'd say as I handed him the drink.

Another guy I labeled "Mr. Refreshing."

"I would laahhhvveee a refreshing Jack and Coke, please," he'd say as he approached the table.

"Can you get me a refreshing Scotch on the rocks?" he'd then say.

"I want another refreshing Jack and Coke." Refreshing, refreshing, refreshing.

The last hour of the night was the most interesting. Middle-aged men standing next to skinny blonde women, their faces too close and their hands too low. People asking me random questions or statements as if we were best friends forever, like "So how is your night, eh?" and "This is just so much fun! Are you having fun??" It also got really loud, like someone turned up the volume in the entire building. And judging by people's behavior, our drinks were clearly doing what they were supposed to do.


I gave her the gin and tonic.

Another time, a different woman came up to me, all sparkles. Sparkly jeans, sparkly top, sparkly earrings. I felt like I needed sunglasses to look at her directly.

"Say chheeseeee!" I looked up and Ms. Sparkles had pulled out a purpled-colored Canon camera, smiling and pointing the lens at me.

"Oh, no, no, no, that's okay," I said awkwardly. I began to pour her some amber-colored rum into the clear glass.

"Come onnnnn," she said. "Cheese!" Ms. Sparkles was not giving up.  She pressed a button near the camera's top, and immediately the lens closed back into the device, turning it off.

"WHY WON'T IT TAKE A PICTURE!" she yelled, drunkenly fumbling with the camera, looking at me, then back at the camera.

"You just turned it off, schweeeeetie," her friend slurred next to her, leaning her head against her friend's shoulder.

"Hahahaha!" they both laughed. Ms. Sparkles pressed a button, and the camera made a clicky sound, now back to life.

"Okay, come on. Cheese?!" she said, looking at me as I pushed her drink towards her.

"No, that's okay," I said.

"Come on! Just one picture!" Ms. Sparkles looked at me eagerly.

Oh, what the hell, I thought.  I looked up and grinned at her.

"Cheese!" I said through clenched teeth as I looked into the lens, giving her a thumbs up.

"Aw, there we go!" Ms. Sparkles said happily. "Look at how pretty you are. You are just the prettiest bartender, look at how pretty you are." The way she cooed, it sounded the same as how my mom talks to my cat.

She reached over, turning the camera towards me, now sucking on her rum and coke straw. I glanced at the camera screen, looking at the image of me staring back.  Yikes. My hair was standing up, my eyebrows raised awkwardly, my thumbs up making me look like I was 12-years-old.

Yup. I was a hot mess.

Despite my hot mess-ness, I had a lot of fun bartending, which surprised me. The night came to an end, and the event-goers paired off, some going off to other bars, others going off to their new friend's houses or apartments or whatever.

"Good job, girls," my friend told my co-worker and I when everyone had left. "Here's your tips." We walked out of there with a wad of dollar bills, which is good, because I needed gas money.

Today, I went to the bank, my wad of dollar bills in hand.

"I swear I'm not a stripper," I said to the teller. "I was just bartending."

I wonder what my next out-of-the-box adventure will be. 

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