I had a very interesting experience last night. A customer blatantly disrespected me while the (female, Korean) owner of the bar sat blithely at his side probably massaging his leg.
It was apparent even at my interview that it was going to be a challenge fitting in at that bar. I could see the way the owner looked at me, seeing a princess that wasn’t going to be able to hack it. I knew I had the job because I could see her thinking I was too good for that place. And I am. But all I wanted was something different. And I knew it would be interesting. You can find interesting things in a pile of feces. Like last night.
I don’t get the Korean barmaid thing. I don’t know the secret hand signals or the code words. Since my boss claims to be running a “local” bar, I don’t intend to learn them either. I’m a bartender. I serve the drinks. I know my pharmaceuticals & I administer them efficiently & effectively. I’m smart, witty, & attentive. I don’t sit on anyone’s lap & I don’t take very much shit but I’m a good bartender, & that’s what I was hired as.
Last night an older gentleman seated himself at the end of my bar & ordered a beer. Shortly one of the owner’s friends, a pretty Korean lady, joined him, & when I collected the money for her Coors Light, he pointed to the twenty rather than the smaller bills, so I took $5 for the house & passed her $15. This was apparently what he intended. Soon the owner was seated on the other side of him with her drink before her & I served them. Every beer either woman ordered was another $15 in her pocket courtesy of Daddy. Go girls.
All was well until this guy, laughing & bantering with the two women, lit up a cigarette.
Now, in spite of the 2006 smoking ban, anyone can pretty much smoke anywhere as long as no one complains. Obviously this guy had the owner’s approval to light up, but he certainly didn’t have mine. Since I quit smoking in 2003 I’ve developed a sensitivity to smoke. My nose stuffs up, my sinuses sting, & my throat gets raw after just a few minutes. Longer than that & I risk a sinusitis.
Apologetically, I explained this to the customer.
“Well, clock out & go home,” he said.
“What?” Oh come on; what would you have said?
“Go home,” the customer said. He indicated the owner. “Here’s your replacement.”
I didn’t bother to look for a reaction from the owner. That woman hasn’t had my back since I started. In fact, she’s been a freaking bitch to me, but I just assume that’s a Korean barmaid thing so I haven’t taken it personally.
“You would send the bartender home just so that you can smoke a cigarette in the bar,” I said.
“Yup,” the customer said, proudly. “But here’s some compensation.” He took out $60 & tossed it on the bar. “Have a drink.”
Sixty bucks? I couldn’t even be decently angry because that was just too hilarious. I smiled at him & said, “I’ll just hold my breath any time I have to come near you.”
As I walked away he said, “You’re not Korean, are you?”
“Nope,” I said.
When the owner’s boyfriend, who is not Korean & who does the actual bar managing, came behind the bar shortly afterward, I told him I was going home. I explained to him why, & he assured me that there would be no smoking in the bar. He stationed himself on the far end of the bar & took care of that party for the rest of the night, & the rude customer had to go outside to smoke his cigarettes, which was a good idea on his part since two of the younger local guys on my bar were loudly offering to beat the shit out of him. When the party finally cleared out, there was a $13 tip left on the bar & I picked it up & gave it to the owner. I hadn’t waited on them, after all.
“You don’t want it?” she said.
“Nope,” I said. I don’t want anything from that prick.
I don’t particularly enjoy that job most nights. Like I’ve mentioned, it’s been tough fitting in there. I run into a lot of customers who don’t want a server with an intellect, who seem disappointed I’m not stupid & money hungry. They came here for a non-English speaking hand job, dammit! As I was getting ready for work yesterday I had actually contemplated giving notice. It was just kind of dreary & depressing.
The funny thing is, last night was fun. I think it was some kind of turning point for me. This hostess thing has puzzled me for so long, & I’ve felt like such a square around these brazen, crude women. It was like this sisterhood of manipulative, controlling creatures who just took men’s money right out from their wallets & sometimes seemed to look down on me for my lack of guile. Like being straighforward & natural was a disadvantage. Part of me wondered.
And now I see that there’s no mystery & not even much guile. And they weren’t looking down.