3 Simple Rules to Live By

So my life was going pretty well for a while, and therefore I did not update my blog during that time. I would have loved to, trust me; nothing would have made me happier. I began to write several blog entries, but they were all about my success, and happiness, two things I realize few if any of you care at all to hear about. Luckily, however, I had some inspiration when I returned to yet another night of work at the bar, and within the first hour slaving away there I felt a deluge of inspirational misery which ended my joyful writer’s block.

Bartending 101:

Rule #1… Always be dancing. You must dance for two reasons. The first being that it is the only way to maintain sanity: As I watch hundreds of different happy people throughout the night enjoying drinks and loud thumping euro/house music, I slowly go insane with a potent cocktail of misery, jealousy, sweatiness (good god you can’t imagine the sweatiness), and raw anger.

I feel like I’m taking crazy pills there, because everyone else seems to love that damn house music. They all jump and rave and dink and make out.  All to this obnoxious music that melds the same 8 hit songs with mind numbing synthesized beats. I then realized the other day that I’m actually the only person who is NOT on crazy pills. I’m sane and everyone else is crazy. More accurately stated, I’m sober, and everyone else is on Ecstasy. This is a shockingly true statement. The frequency of use of this drug is reflected in the name. In the USA these pills are called “Ecstacy”, here they are simply called “pills.”

So I try to dance along with the rest of them. Normally if you are at a bar and are happy you dance. I’m attempting to trick my mind and reverse this sequence of events by forcing myself to dance in the hopes that this makes me happy… success has been limited.

The second reason you have to dance is because it keeps you light on your feet. I rarely go 10 seconds without being pushed, shoved, tapped, bumped, stepped on, spilled on, or kneed violently in the ribs (this actually happened once). Dancing allows me to dodge or at least lessen most of these blows.

Rule #2… Hit harder than they do. My first few weeks working I thought every bartender working with me was a jack ass. I was not accustomed to all the pushing and shouting (as explained above), so I thought everyone was just mean. I soon realized that the pushing was simply necessary, and I developed rule #1 (see above). The incident where I was kneed in the ribs, however, made me realize that dancing was simply not enough. With the exception of Mac (a man who is a terrifying combination of massive black Ghanaian DNA and German upbringing), all the other bartenders are little Euro/Auzzi men who’s weight is practically doubled every morning when they meticulously apply hair gel.

The moment I was kneed I realized that things were backwards, and that everyone should fear me when I pass by. Now when I’m walking behind someone to drop some glasses off and they step back, they get blasted out of my way as I grin an American grin. This bothers them some, but their hair remains unaltered, so they seem to be okay with it.

The man who kneed me in the ribs, and thus inspired Rule #2, is a particularly small, groomed, and foreign man named Murilo. And this brings me to my next rule…

Rule #3… When in doubt, always pick on the Brazilian. Murilo is the perfect target, as he is much smaller than me, and most importantly he speaks the least English of anyone who works at Henry Africa’s.

I actually developed this rule before any others. One of my first nights working I was being made fun of for being American. This is fine and not surprising, but what I was surprised by, and deeply disturbed by was the fact that I had no comebacks. As I was being made fun of my mind was blank. All I could think was ‘why are you not making fun of them? You have been trained your whole life for this moment. You are surrounded by hilarious foreigners who were all former ESL students, why are you not destroying them mentally right now?’

I was very disturbed by this, and I honestly thought about it frequently over the next few days. But then it dawned on me. What I was going through was exactly what a new inmate goes through in prison, and I needed to respond exactly how an inmate would respond. I decided to pick one person, and very publicly embarrass them. This would earn me the street cred (respect) that I needed. I also started sharpening the end of my toothbrush into a shiv just in case.

So during a meeting with the entire staff present I decided to make my stand (Just like Ed Norton did when he took his shirt off in the prison yard in American History X… but without all of the white supremacy connotations). Kirin, the owner/manager, had just finished making a seriously serious speech about the bartenders needing to step up their work levels, and I raised my hand. I could tell most people were rather shocked by this, because I was quite quiet during my first days at work. Kirin called on me and I said,

“Kirin… as I see it, you have a very nice bar, but what you are lacking is new blood. Some of the bartenders have been here for a while, and frankly they are getting old and losing their edge. They are the setting sun, while I, however, am the rising phoenix.”
(Now was my chance).
“Take Murilo for example…”
(Murilo stands up out of his chair).
“He has been here for over a year, and he just can’t hack it anymore.”
(time to go for it)
“And on top of that he can’t even speak English…. he pronounces ‘tips’ as ‘chips’ for gods sake”

At this point Murilo picks up his chair and motions to throw it at me. But he and everyone else just start laughing, and at that moment I knew that I asserted my position at the bar. Not as the alpha male, but certainly not as the bitch.

-James

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