Just last week I concluded a story (Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV) that had somewhat restored my faith in humanity and had me abandoning my own cynicisms. It was about great people doing extraordinary things during really bad times. Then I remembered that I was a bartender in a seasonal resort town during the peak of summer. Hence, my newfound hope for the human race was short lived. And my own existence remains in a state of perpetual irony. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not writing off the species entirely. All of the people I discussed last week did in fact restore my faith. But considering what I do, and where I do it, I’m often seeing people at their absolute worst.

Case in point: When preparing for their vacations, they packed seven different colors of skin tight V-necked tee shirts (one for each night out), and a half gallon of hair gel. Unfortunately after that, there was no room left in the suitcase to pack their inhibitions. They may bring their “A” game to the office 51 weeks a year, but by the time they reach “our” shores, they’re rockin’ a solid “D+” at best. Once they’ve crossed one of the bridges, or the state line—depending upon which direction they came from (you fill in the blanks), they’ve already abandoned whatever common sense they may have previously possessed. Combine this with multiple hours in the sun and mass quantities of alcohol, and by the time 10:00 p.m. rolls around, you have instant buffoon—which is about the time they enter my arena.

I’ve stood in line for two hours in Disney World just to get on a ride. Once I neared the end of the line, I had to sit or stand in a room and hear a 3 to 5 minute tutorial on the story of the ride, what to expect, and how to behave while I’m on it. And I was okay with that. By the time I was safely strapped in, I knew where not to put my head and arms, whether or not I could snap pictures, and a rough idea of how to treat those around me. Keep in mind that I was sober, and would only be on this apparatus for approximately 2-3 minutes at the most. Upon departing this particular device of amusement, I was pretty confident that had I been graded on my performance and behavior, I would have passed with flying colors.

Now, let’s say we have a line of people, presumably all over the age of 21, well after dark and waiting in line to enter a very crowded bar. They’ll stand for about 10-15 minutes while waiting to be carded to enter this establishment where they plan to spend the next several hours drinking as if prohibition were going to be reinstated at sunrise tomorrow. Maybe it’s just me, but I think that during this time, they should at least have to peruse a pamphlet or something highlighting acceptable behaviors once they’ve entered. Maybe just a sandwich board or Plexi-glass sign written on with pastel neon marker next to the line, offering a few suggestions would do the trick. Here are just a few of my helpful suggestions that might eliminate some potential behavioral issues in advance:

1. Placing your two pinky fingers in the corners of your mouth and doing that deafening whistle that you’re so proud of as if you were hailing a cab in Times Square on New Year’s Eve is NOT an acceptable method of getting the bartender’s attention.

2. Dancing like a lunatic in a circle with your 8 male friends without a female within 15 feet WILL in fact make you look silly, and more than likely draw silent ridicule.

3. Perhaps the female patrons in this area prefer NOT to be referred to as “bitches.” I’m pretty confident you’re going to wake up alone tomorrow.

4. Contrary to popular opinion, not everyone answers to: “YO!” In fact, some of us who are capable of piecing together words rather than a series of monosyllabic, prehistoric grunts actually find this offensive.

5. You may be a badass back home, but here you’re just a 5 foot 4 inch loud-mouthed ‘roid head with a crappy wardrobe, a bad attitude, and a poorly applied barbed wire tattoo festooned about your engorged bicep. Please don’t walk around trying to start fights. It will not end well for you.

6. Ladies: If your dress, or skirt is short enough and tight enough that I can actually read your thoughts (feeble as they may be), then chances are that the slobbering, drooling guy who’s engaged you in some primitive sort of conversation is not just trying to be nice.

7. If your bartender has politely and professionally informed you that you probably should not have any more to drink and that we won’t be providing you with any more alcohol this evening, respond accordingly. Screaming profanities and threats at him, throwing your nearly empty beverage receptacle at him, and making a scene are not suitable ways to pose the argument that you should be given another drink. I’m not at that point going to say: “Well, you’re right. I made a poor judgment call. Here, have another.” Get in a cab and go home you idiot!

8. Though in the gaping abyss which is your mind, you may view me and others in my line of work as simple servants performing a menial task placed here for the sole purpose of providing you with another dose of the potion to enhance your already stellar personality, try to treat us properly. Insulting us, cursing us, and belittling us is only going to get you one thing…THIRSTY! Probably not the best idea to piss off the guy who stands between you and your next cocktail.

9. You and your group of friends have worked your way towards the five-deep bar. You as the spokesman for the group has rudely wedged your way through other patrons and made it to the bar. You now scream wildly and frantically wave both hands high above your head as if you’ve been stranded on a desert island for years, and I am the first airplane to fly overhead. Congratulations numb-nuts, you’ve gotten my attention and I’ll be right with you. (This part is where it gets fun, and never ceases to amaze me how many people do this). I approach you and ask what I can get for you. At this time, you turn your back to me, look at your 10 friends and say: “What’s everybody want?” Are you freakin serious? You just danced around like you were engulfed in flames and I held the only extinguisher, and you don’t even have a drink order for me? Wrong answer pal; see you on the next pass.

10. Just as a clue, if during your exchange with the bartender, he looks at you and smiles and says something like: “first time in a bar, huh?” He’s not complimenting you on your youthful appearance dumbass!

11. Despite how dumb we may appear to you, and how much you believe that we’re doing this because we possess no other skills, I think I speak on behalf of most bartenders when I say: “I promise, we can remember more than one drink at a time!” It’s ok to give us your entire drink order on the first trip.

12. Many of my comrades may chastise me for revealing this little trade secret, but I’m going to anyway. Bartender’s hearing is just a small step behind that of a canine. Just because we’re not facing you, or acknowledging you, don’t be fooled. We hear EVERYTHING!

13. If you feel like you’re being ignored, instead of thinking how much the bartender sucks, perhaps you should think about what you may have said or done to provoke it.

14. If you’ve placed your drink order, all of your drinks have been made and presented to you promptly, you’re standing in a ridiculously crowded bar, you’ve already been informed of your total, and you just now decide to reach for your wallet, or open your purse; it’s too late! I don’t know if you were hoping the bartender was going to forget to charge you, or if you’re just a moron, but it’s perfectly acceptable to have your method of payment ready in advance. The 500 thirsty folks around you would really appreciate it.

15. When the bartender approaches you and asks: “Hi, how are you?” “rum and coke” is not a suitable answer. Now, admittedly, it’s a rhetorical question, and I probably don’t really care how you are, but I’ve taken the time to offer you a friendly salutary question, at least be decent enough to lie to me and say: “I’m fine thanks,” before you bark out orders to me.

16. Contrary to what’s being preached in certain parts of the country, and to certain generations, the words, please and thank you will not make your face melt away from your skull like a Nazi witnessing the lost Ark of the Covenant being opened. Feel free to use these little tools at will; they go a long way.

17. The following is a “hypothetical situation” used solely to illustrate a point. This exchange may or may not have taken place, and it may or may not have involved me personally. (Keep in mind that this “hypothetical” bartender kept a smile on his face at all times, and remained professional right up to the end). I’ll refer to the customer as D.H. (I’ll let you figure out what those initials are for), and the hypothetical bartender as H.B.

H.B. “Hey there bud, what can I get for you?”

D.H. “Well It’s about f#*&$n time!”

H.B. “I’m sorry you had to wait, what would you like?”

D.H. “You know how long I’ve been standing here?”

H.B. “No sir I don’t. My guess would be about the same amount of time as the other 800 people we’re waiting on.”

D.H. “At least that long, and now I’m pissed!”

H.B. “Well, I’m here now. We could continue to discuss the timeline of your evening, or you could give me your drink order.”

At this point, through the humiliated urging of his friends whom I can’t believe he even had, he gave me…I mean, he gave H.B. his drink order. As H.B. turned his back to make the drinks, D.H. continued to mumble under his breath. This is where the bartender’s super human hearing comes in handy.

D.H. to his friends: “All this guy is, is a bartender and he can’t even do that.”

H.B. upon his return: “Well, I appreciate your intuitive, and expert critique of my job performance and I’ll take it under advisement and try to do better from now on. Thank you. By the way, while we’re on the subject of offering occupational advice, what do you do for a living? No, wait, let me guess…you’re a magician.”

D.H. “No a—hole, I’m not a magician”

H.B. “Are you sure? I could have sworn you had to be a magician.”

D.H. “NO! I’m not an f—in magician! Why do you say that?”

H.B. “Well I think you have to be a magician, because you just made yourself INVISABLE!! Now get the hell away from me!”

Again, completely hypothetical.

Truth is, a very large proportion of the people we wait on are polite, decent folks just enjoying their vacation who treat us with at least some degree of respect. But unfortunately, the ones who shouldn’t even be allowed out in public tend to stick in our minds. I’ve got enough of these to continue on another time so I’ll save them in the interest of space. Hope you enjoyed. Thanks for playing along.

Until next week,

Syd Nichols

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