Hal Wastes His Wages Badtender

By and large, we bartenders are a gracious group, particularly when it comes to protecting and defending our own. We try to be patient and understanding towards our fellow brothers and sisters as they slog away behind the wood, since we all know first-hand it’s not always a picnic.

In fact, I sometimes have a tough time enjoying myself as I sit at a bar, more often then not succumbing to sympathy pains that obsessively compel me to clean up glassware and scowl at obnoxious patrons who are obviously oblivious to the suffering that can be inflicted upon a bartender when he or she is working to the best of his or her ability.

But if you work behind the bar long enough, you can tell the difference between being “in the weeds” and being “in the woods,” and admittedly there are a few instances when I’ve wanted to take a bartender behind the woodshed.

Hell, anybody can have a bad day at work – I’ve been known to have bad days, weeks, months, even years. But then there are others who just fundamentally don’t get it, and at the risk of coming off like some fortified whiner fermenting the message boards, I will recount some recent tales of woe as I sat on what I call “the good side of the bar.”

Unlike the handfuls of belligerent blogging bellyachers who complain without a clue behind their anonymous avatars, I like to think years of experience behind both sides of the bar would give me the confidence to know what the hell I’m talking about. And for the sake of our advertising department, the only name I’ll list is the one under the picture at the top of the column.

Basically, you really need to go out of your way and do something outrageously ignorant to qualify as a fundamentally bad bartender in my book. I don’t mind a little attitude and I have a pretty wide margin for error, but these goof ups really set the head shaking:

This beer tastes like ass…

I was at a joint late last summer and there was a young woman behind the bar who was certainly attractive, but not attractive enough to get away with this little stunt. As I watched her opening a few bottles of beer, I noticed she would replace her bottle opener in what I though was her back pocket. However, I eventually noticed there was no pocket on the back of her pants (don’t ask me why I was looking there).

Turns out, she was just holstering her opener right in the crack of her…ahem…lower, lower back. Mortified, I called her on it, and she replied with this ditzy, vacant look that said, “What’s wrong with that?” I immediately switched to straight vodka which I gargled as an antiseptic.

A drink on me…

A few years ago I was in Atlantic City working on a travel piece, and I sat down at a bar in one of the casinos on the boardwalk. It was about 4 p.m. in the afternoon and I was literally the only patron there.

My bartender shuffled over with a scowl, and I ordered a sidecar – assuming a bartender at a cocktail lounge in a casino would know what a sidecar was. I was wrong of course, so I explained the recipe (at its simplest -brandy, triple sec, lime juice) and she rolled her eyes in disgust.

Then, in a move that was nothing short of mystifying considering I was the only patron at the bar, she set about flipping her bottles around like some sort of circus monkey. Meanwhile, I spent another five minutes waiting for the drink as she went through her act – although she was nice enough to give me a preview when she sent an errant stream of triple sec flying across my shirt mid-flip.

Shot in the back…

I sat down at a bar with a few friends and we had a couple of beers. Out of nowhere, the bartender produced a couple shots and demanded we drink them. We sure thought that was awfully nice of her, until our bill came. There they were, our unsolicited shots listed right alongside our beers. And if that wasn’t a surprise enough, we got a second bill later as she chased us halfway up the block. Turns out she forgot to charge us for our other beers too. After paying her again right there on the street corner, we decided to walk a little faster in case she came up with anything else she may have forgotten to charge us for.

Sure, I’ve dealt with scores of angry bartenders and a bunch of busy bars, but those all come with the territory. These little gems really stuck in my mind as people going out of their way to be a bad bartender. If you’d like to see more people go out of their way to be a bad bartender, stop by Duffy’s (239 Bloomfield) this Thursday for Hoboken’s Worst Bartender Contest.

And feel free to forward your own service issues to chris@chrishalleron.com. Unless of course you’re writing about my less-than-stellar service, in which case I already know I can be miserable, so don’t remind me.

Christopher M. Halleron, freelance writer/bitter bartender, writes a biweekly humor column for The Hudson Current and websites in the New York Metro area. He spends a lot of his time either in front of or behind the bar in Hoboken, New Jersey where his tolerance for liquor grows stronger as his tolerance for society is eroded on a daily basis. Feel free to drop him a line at c_halleron@yahoo.com.


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