Back to My Future
A Bartender’s prospects
I’m not young anymore. I’m not dead either, but let’s just say that if I were a chicken, I’d be headed to the stew pot sooner rather than later. As far as stereotypical lifetime achievements are concerned, I’d say I’m hitting all of the marks: I’m in a stable (if extremely unconventional) relationship, I am steadily employed, I have a tremendously sassy and vibrantly intelligent, healthy daughter, and I am living debt-free. So why is it that I find myself increasingly confronted by the most intrusive and judgmental of all questions: what are you doing with your life?
Before I go any further, here’s a solid piece of advice: don’t ever ask anyone this question. Not a bum on the street, or your neighbor with twelve cats, and especially not your children. Bartending is a daily practice of patience, and the constantly unsolicited opinions of (mostly intoxicated) strangers do a good job of desensitizing a person to both compliments and criticisms alike. I can take even the most obscene sexual aggressions with a quick giggle and a grain of salt. But, what are you doing with your life never fails to wiggle under my skin like some exotic tropical worm.
There are many reasons why bartenders are constantly under such scrutiny, most obviously that we deal not in stocks or bonds, but rather the hardest vice after sex: booze. Maybe in an abstract way, we’re playing a helpful role in the world, but let’s face it: bartenders are not researching world peace. I see the idea of contributing to society not as how I’m employed, but rather how I live, love, and treat others. I also understand that proximity to alcohol does not make me a raging substance abuser – on the contrary, it does a good job of turning me off to recreational drinking. Try explaining that to anyone I’ve ever dated, and you’ll see the common misconception articulated in the culmination of every argument: all you do every night is get shitfaced and probably suck dick for money.
Another thing that makes the job so unconventional is the schedule: I work at night. I work all night. I work most holidays and all weekends. The fact that I work fewer hours than most of my peers, and make considerably more money, is somehow negated by the fact that I’m only home for dinner maybe two nights a week. Bartending is extremely physical work, what with the constant running and lifting, and leaves me with a sore lower back and a permanent kink in my neck, to say nothing of the constant cuts and bodily bruises. Working like this, even when I do get enough sleep, makes me look like a greasy vampire most days, which some people equate with struggles: she looks like shit, so her life must be a mess.
Then there’s the job description itself: service. So many of my colleagues are cocky smartasses, as they should be: aside from being extremely knowledgeable in their craft, almost all of them have conventional school degrees. However, at the end of the day, you know how it goes, the customer is always right. Your best buddy bartender is still serving you, which can too easily be confused with servile, or servant. People: providing a service and being a servant are two very different concepts. If you walk away with anything after reading this, let it be that a bartender is simply trading his time for money, just like every other worker bee. Just because you have a couple bucks and some free time to sit on the other side of the bar does not make you in any way superior to the person pouring your drinks. Don’t be an asshole.
I guess what ultimately makes bartending such a seemingly shit job to non-bartenders, is this abstract concept of “the future.” It’s a dead-end job, you don’t want to be that old lady behind the bar, they say. Being a parent seems to make one extremely susceptible to this angle of the argument. What are you doing with your life? What are you doing for your child?
It’s 2016 guys, the service industry has moved past all of this. Restaurants can prepare you for a plethora of career opportunities: management positions, opening your own restaurant, the distribution side of hospitality, etc. – just Google it. Or you can bartend forever. Or you can marry rich and settle down to a life of idle luxury. You want to know what I’m doing with my life? I’m living it. You want to know what my future is? It’s my daughter. She has everything she wants and needs. My scary vampire face is there for her when she wakes up every morning and she’s happy. We’re all going to be fine. So check your judgments at the door, and maybe later, when you’re home alone after a long night of drinking, ask yourself: what am I doing with my life? Just make sure nobody hears you.