The query for today has to do with my more memorable gaffs behind the bar. Okay, I need to say right here and now I was involved in plenty of embarrassing moments that I just no longer remember. I would venture I committed some miscue or mistake during every shift behind the bar.
Often there was someone other than me responsible for making me do something stupid and regrettable. For instance, I was bartending at El Torito on a crowded Friday night. This was the early ‘80s and business was brisk. Just to show you the mentality of management at the time, on a chaotically busy night, the managers decided to stir things up by running a drink promotion—$.99 for liter of pre-made Margaritas. How many fewer Margaritas do you think we would have sold if they were priced a buck? Right? And if they were priced at a dollar imagine how much more money we would have made in tips? Can you image the degree of drunkenness we unleashed that night?
I suppose the flashpoint for the bartenders was here we were knee deep in the weeds and getting tipped in pennies. Shiny though they may be, the pennies were taking a toll on all of our professionalism. I don’t recollect which one of us started throwing the coins back at the trashed clientele. Honestly it could have been me, but I pass on taking responsibility. The onus for the mishap with the pennies is steadfastly on the puny shoulders of management.
On another occasion I was in the middle of refusing service to a dude at the bar. He leaned in and said something quietly. So I moved in a few inches, close enough for the guy to grab my tie and forcibly slam my face onto the tile bar top, I immediately staggered backwards and started spewing blood from nose. Shit, it hurt like crazy. It seemed to me that the same moment my ass hit the floor, one of the other bartenders, Ned, had jumped over the bar and started wailing on the idiot. In moments the bouncers showed up, or so I heard.
Meanwhile, I was a bloody mess, but in the care of some beautiful, attentive women. Amazing how quickly the pain subsided. I seem to recall that the rest of the evening was quite pleasant.
I’m embarrassed to have fallen for the drunken hulk’s quiet little ploy, but again I’m not to blame because ties were part of the management’s dress code.
You see, shifting blame is easy.
Well, to be perfectly frank, my most embarrassing moment behind the bar happened at the beginning of my first shift. What stings most about the memory is that I can’t shift blame on this one.
Again, it was the beginning of my first training shift and I had just completed my opening duties. The doors opened and I felt ready to meet the lunch rush. Instead of a throng of customers, in walked the bar manager and man who had hired me, the general manager, and someone corporate looking I didn’t recognize. The bar manager started telling his entourage about my work experience and what a quality hire I was.
My head was pretty swelled at this point when in walked a woman who made a beeline to the bar. She ordered a Manhattan, straight up. I was so distracted by the presence of the suits, I failed to observe that the lady was already hammered. Really shit-faced. So like an idiot I served the woman her drink, took her money and returned her change. She even tipped me.
I was suitably mortified by the time I turned and looked at my bosses.
“Robert, I don’t think we should have served that woman,” said my bar manager. “Doesn’t she appear already intoxicated?” The other execs nodded their heads in agreement.
I looked back just in time to see her fumbling with the contents of her bag. I started muttering under my breath, convinced I had just flunked my practical exam.
What a glorious time to fuck up, I thought to myself.
I proceeded to help the woman pick-up all the crap that she had spilled and ushered her out to the receptionist and requested a cab be called. By the time all of that was over, I turned and saw that the three had gone.
Nothing was ever mentioned to me about the incident. I still shake my head that I wasn’t summarily fired right then and right there.
I am embarrassed to this day when I recall what happened. Try as I might I can’t think of anyone else to take the blame.
Now that I think of it though the sun was in my eyes…