Tonight was the first time that I’ve been truly stretched, backed into a corner by my circumstances of the shift, where I had to hold it together so tightly that when we finally locked the doors I sat down and squeezed my fists tightly trying to make them relax. Tonight was the stuff of nightmares. Tonight I was terrified that I would drop a ball too big to be ignored, something that would make the bartenders with years and years of experience look at me, shake their heads, and show me to the door. Maybe I would never know what it’s like to bartend on the weekends ever again.
It started when Teeth, the closing cocktail server, got drunk off shots she purchased for “some regulars”. I couldn’t tell until she staggered up to service well with a full bottle of Amstel in her hand, taking a swig and flashing a completely hammered smile. Sometime around 10:15 she hit a wall. Later I saw her wander off to the employee bathroom, and then disappear, apron rolled up tucked under her arm.
Peach wanders back in from pool league and was hanging out with the endcap of the bar where the most people were. Cocktails here, beers here. She realizes that Teeth is drunk and has completely disappeared, I thought she was cut and had gone home, we both realize that there are a lot of people coming in the door.
Pouring a beer, the Budweiser taps out on one side of the bar. WOOSH WOOSH WOOSH sputtersputtersputter sphtht! It’s out, and my shirt is soaking. I run to the other side to pour…then the Bud Light on that side goes out….back to the other side with pitchers and glasses of foam. I’m frustrated, but it’s just a small inconvenience.
Inconveniences get larger: I’ve apparently inherited seven or eight cocktails tables: the smallest is 4, the biggest two are 7 apiece. People need change, people are ordering shots. I have a front cocktail table now.
Oh my God, the shots. I’m whipping up 8 Creamsicles in one shaker, then 5 Royal Flushes, 6 Cherry Bombs, bambambam!!! Gary is up to his elbows in never ending dishes and glassware and I can’t find any strainers, and does her peacing out mean I have to clean up cocktail and the pool section TOO!? My hands are shaking as I try and get out of shot weeds but rounds and rounds of orders are pouring in.
The number of people swarming the bar is increasing. I’m trying to wait on them, mindful of the trays of drinks I need to swoop out to apparently *my* new section: the entire fucking pool hall.
Gary shows no initiative to help me, instead chatting up a few cute girls at the end of the bar. Old perv, this is about to get out of control. I don’t have bar tickets from service to organize and prioritize what goes out to customers. I try and thumbtack “tickets” in my heads bulletin board. I’ve dropped one, I don’t know which one it was.
Prices were changed on vodka my two days off. I misquoted the price but I can’t remember if I was high or low. They hand me a 20 for 12 dollars and tell me to keep the change. I’ll deal with that later. Someone sets a 20 down for 15 but I can’t find it.
More pitchers, every beer has tapped out on one side or the other so I’m running in giant circles. I almost slip in a puddle of beer foam that somehow wound up on the floor and pirouette, stopped mid twirl because Gary accidentally stepped on my right foot. I have eight beers in a bear hug and I’m trying to pop all of them but I can’t remember where I put my bottle opener and I attempt to twist off a non-twist. Ouch. We don’t have cold pinot grigio. The same bitch who blew through the white zin has called the cold pinot grigio…then all of it (“just put some ice in there”), and is working on the riesling. We don’t have anymore.
A birthday party wanders in, then another. Shot cups are flying everywhere and I can’t find the Pucker Schnapps. Dammit. Triple sec goes low, runs out, where’s the grenadine? Some big tippers wander back in from a few hours of barhopping so they bump up to my priority list. I slosh all over the credit card slips and receipts in my hand going out to tables. I reprint them.
My stalker is sitting at the bar, apparently about to hit the wall after a shot of tequila that was unnecessary. The place is buzzing, a local bar on this side of town had major drama when a chick overdosed on something nasty in the bathroom, it was a scene. People are talking about the meth junkie. About pool.
Two rednecks built like Mac trucks are toe to toe and I CANNOT SEE THE BOUNCER! Fuck me running! Q saunters over, an imposing figure and separates them and I breath a sigh of relief for a minute. One of them keeps running his mouth. The pint glass in my shaker isn’t sealed so I’m covered in something that smells like grenadine and peppermint. Fuck. He won’t shut up, even as Q walks away: “Hey! You! SHUT UP!” I’m shaking as I realize that he could do serious damage to my face but I glare and he backs off.
Gary’s on to a new round of chicks, refusing to help me or understand that the bar now has an additional 70 people to take care of scattered across the pool hall, and then in the front cocktail section, 6 more.
I’m keeping the DD for some drunk chicks’s water glass full and he’s tipping me a dollar every trip I make, every shot I pour and cocktail I whip up. I think he’s this ugly middle aged woman’s son dragged out with a newly minted license to cart Mommy around, because she’s drunker than usual. Some ghetto white boy is wiggling his eyebrows at me and licking his lips and keeps calling me by the wrong name.
I ignore one asshole, then another, the clockwork gears in my head ticktickticking as shots are strained. I have four stacks of cash in my left hand between fingers, tightly clasped, and two credit cards in my right and six tabs that all need to be updated and closed and if I stop I gouge myself 60 bucks, cash. My tables, for a second, are good. Back to the bar, cocktail tray tucked under one arm. Gary is zooming around one end of the bar, I have the other. I’m shaking my hips to a sexy Shakira song, the adrenaline pounding in my ears and then stop when I realize my stalker is drooling and it’s not a pretty way.
Ice is low, very low, almost…too low. I don’t have time to swirl through the tables on the right side of the central bar, then the left, then into the kitchen to the ice machine, then back. Every bottle I need is running low, first the vodka, then the rum. I pull out a new Goose bottle and almost shatter it. I stare into a shaker of AppleSauce shots, wondering if I put everything in. I can’t remember. I taste it gingerly, almost gagging on the Goldschlager. I try to guess again in a huge shaker of cherry bomb shots, trying to guess myself right. I think I’m right because I deliver shots and pick up empty cups later and everyone’s a little nicer.
An impromptu Zumba class is happening at the endcap, someone’s belly dancing, a fringe skirt of metal petals draped around her hips. I push myself harder, picking up two bottles between three fingers in one hand, two bottles in the other, all upside down and I pray that the silver pourers are looped in tightly. 1…2….3….4.
My sobriety ring is gone. Sentimentally priceless black onyx, it could be anywhere. I don’t have time to look for it, but I start freaking out. Who paid with 20, who paid with ten? Why does the same guy have three open tabs? Old acquaintances from Before are chatting me up, and I’m about to smack one asshole for being obnoxious. You’re sixth in line buddy, I see you, be with you when I’m done with these shots, shut up or you’re at the back of the line: I think. What I say is smiley and slang in simple words his inbred brain should comprehend.
Crown. Crown. Crown. Each bottle has run low, we blew through the case we opened yesterday, unheard of. Dammit. The last bottle in my hand runs empty at exactly the count of four. Whew. I toss the bottle over right arm from my left hand and hope it landed in the trash can. I don’t hear it shatter in the can.
I find my ring by the sink. More shots. Jagerbombs, chilled tequila, lemon drops. Gary trips over the corner of a bar mat. What the hell is a Screaming Nazi? It’s all the German cordials: Goldschlager, Jager, Rumple. I almost gag on the smell of Goldschlager as it spills on my hand, alcohol and cinnamon.
It’s been ten minutes since I’ve seen Gary and he’s 10 feet away. I see what’s in front of me. Nah, I don’t drink, but thank you very much. Hey come back and see me. The specials are on the board in front of you, motherfucker. No, we don’t have a shot list. No, we don’t have bubblegum vodka. Who the hell has bubblegum vodka in this town!? I crane my neck with my good ear to hear to some guy who sounds Australian, looks douchebaggish, is from West Virginia, educated (miseducated?) in my state. Blahblahblah, no, I don’t have time to tell you my life story, but I’ll nutshell it so I don’t sound like an asshole.
DingDing….last call. Men in blue will be walking into the bar in 20 minutes exactly, let’s get everyone out.
And I’m sitting. Breathing. Shaking.
I did it. I proved myself, to myself.