Bartender AKA cheap therapist

Considering the amount of emotional support bartenders provide their patrons, I think we deserve a pay raise, or, at the very least, more social recognition for our efforts. The real work, my friends, is not the pouring of the pints, it is the therapy we provide. The environment is ripe for it, picture this: you’re a regular, drinking at your favourite watering hole. The bartender is a friendly face that always looks pleased to see you. They ask you about your week. They ask about your sick dog. They ask if you want another drink. And another. As you sit there your bartender is starting to get more charming/clever/wise than when you arrived. You start speaking passionately about an issue and that reminds you of a very personal story that you haven’t shared with your close friends because you’re worried that they will judge you. You can disclose to your bartender, however. They are seemingly objective and removed from the situation.

You are a bartender and a regular is sharing something that is way too personal and it makes you slightly uncomfortable because you barely know them. You didn’t ask to be privy to this information but you are subjected to it anyway. This happens a few more times during your shift.

REPEAT.

Mediation, public relations, therapy, consultation. We do it all. It’s a hard job that deserves more respect than it gets. Show your bartenders a little appreciation.

 

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Aussie

I can’t write about the pub in the east end without mentioning its most infamous character: Aussie.

If you drink at this pub, you have signed up for the company of Aussie. He comes in at 11 AM and stays on until at least 6 PM every day. He is a staple, a part of the furniture. He is also the embodiment of all that challenged me about working in that place. Two and a half years ago, our relationship began. On my first day, I was scolded that there was too much foam on his beer and it wasn’t in his proper glass. Miserable and unwelcoming, I disliked him immediately.

Aussie belongs to a group of elderly migrants from the UK who have brought their daily pub drinking culture with them. Here they have found a network of like minded folks who, widowed/divorced and retired, are all staved for company in their twilight years. They play darts, pool and playfully ‘take the piss’ out of each others’ opposing premier league football teams. Mostly, they sit at the window, sipping their pints and judging the people that walk by. They are also willfully ignorant and distasteful of so-called ‘bleeding heart liberals’ and often make disparaging comments about immigrants. The irony that they belong to that  category is apparently lost on them.

Aussie is the worst offender. When told that his views are outdated and offensive, he defensively asserts variations of, “i’m too old to change my mind about these things, don’t waste your time”. Or, “if you don’t like it, take a hike”. This job immediately followed my volunteer work with marginalized communities- often the targets of their attacks- so I found it difficult to justify my place in that environment. I attempted to debate with them and eventually found it fruitless. Relating with them seemed impossible.

Eventually, Aussie and the others got used to my company and decided they liked my “spunkyness”. They taught me how to play darts (I eventually joined a league). They somehow taught me, someone who has never cared about sports, to appreciate British football. I have spent more hours with Aussie than I have with many of my friends. A consistent presence for every one of my weekend shifts, he jokes, complains, but mostly gives me a hard time. I at once adore and detest him. “I only know what I was taught’, he told me once, ‘you think i’m prejudiced, you should have met my father’. I have resigned myself to the fact that I am in their world, that I am just temporarily taking up space. I began realizing that these men really care about each other and depend on each other for companionship and support, they are not just drinking buddies in solidarity against “all of the weirdos in the world”. On a Sunday afternoon, the pub resembles  life back home, they have found a refuge that makes sense to them.

Despite my pesky liberal leanings and sharp comebacks, Aussie is quite fond of me. “Hey, when are we getting married? Just for the weekend though, that is as much of you I can take”.

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“Give me the girliest drink you can make!”

This phrase is often accompanied by a smirk that never fails to make me squirm. As a bartender I am torn. Should I make him something with cranberry juice and move on to dealing with my less annoying customers? Should I ask what exactly makes a drink “girly”?

For my first post I have decided to tackle an experience that often occurs in public house culture. Definitely not the worst example of annoyances that have undercurrents of sexist assumptions, but definitely one of the most common. This man either prefers sweet/sugary drinks and instead of just unapologetically ordering what he wants like everyone else, he puts on a front that this is a special occasion. Or, the idea of ordering something other than beer or whiskey strikes him as momentous and so hilarious that he is compelled to take me on this thrilling ride of his act of rebellion.

In Britain, I am told, it is the norm for woman to drink half pints. Men, however, would never be seen in public with half a beer. I can’t help but pity those male – identified persons who like a little sweetness with their alcohol. Or perhaps, just don’t feel like a pint-size glass of brew.

As a woman who drinks whiskey, I am often met with surprise and admiration when I order my drink of choice. It’s as if my palate automatically makes me a more interesting person. I am not one of those cosmopolitan drinking girls. I must be (insert any word synonymous with cultured). My love for whiskey drinking allows me entry into the ‘boys club’, I am no longer just a pretty face. The double standard is unmistakable and frustrating.

As the lone woman working in an east Toronto pub, I have to tread the thin line between affable and assertive, easy-going and stout. I often choose to ask critical questions rather than angrily retorting in the face of problematic language. However, when it comes to silly statements like the one informing this post, I tend to go the passive aggressive route:

I served him a Jameson. Neat.cosmopolitan-150530_960_720