Back Behind the Bar
Since my departure from bartending some time ago to my recent return to "behind the bar" duties on occasion, I've recently been reminded at the different way the exact same customers will treat you depending on what you're doing, and more specifically, what you can do for them.
See...at the door I'm an inconvienence. An obstacle, if you will, to get by in order to get down to the business of doing what they're out to do. It's annoying, it seems, to take 10 seconds of their time to stop, pull out their ID and show it to me. They sigh and roll their eyes, sometimes verbally voicing their displeasure to me at how unnecessary it is for me to momentarily halt their forward advance into the bar in order to get the legal formalities out of the way.
They're 21, after all. Obviously.
I offer nothing tangible to most, unless of course, they have no way inside other than to try and persuade me to break the law or distract me to look the other way while they slip by me into the magical and mysterious world of one of the more popular bars in downtown Athens. The chances of it happening that way are typically slim-to-none, though.
I go through this apparently painful annoyance with these same people hundreds of times a night, and after awhile, it wears on you. You get jaded and say shit back. It gets tougher and tougher to hold your tongue. And so, I've decided to do a little bartending again from time to time. It breaks up the tired monotony of doing the same thing every night. And it brings me to my point.
Behind the bar, for the most part, people are friendly. They're nice. They don't threaten my life or tell me they're going to beat me up. I don't get the finger nearly as often and if someone tosses out any insults, out the door they go. They take the time to smile and, much more often than at the door, introduce themselves to me. The girls will flirt with me and the guys offer to get me shots. It's a nice little utopia of friendly, drunken college kids compared to what I deal with at the door.
This is because, as their bartender, I'm the last thing between them and their precious alcohol. That's the whole reason they're downtown, after all. They know they only have to try to butter me up in the hope that they'll get something cheap or free.
It's a hopeless endeavor for them, however. I'm painfully aware of the tricks that the customers try to pull, feigning a smile and a fluttering of the eyelashes by the girls, a wink and nodd from down the bar while I make their order, all in the hopes that I won't charge them as much or at all.
And it's funny to me. It's funny that after some time away from "slinging drinks" that I immediately notice the difference. And to be honest, I don't mind. It's a much more enjoyable game to me because behind the bar, it's a game of how they can get their hands on a drink for as little as possible. This is what they do downtown. They swindle and talk and occupy our time about something - anything - in the hopes that we'll forget they owe us something for the beverage we've just set before them.
It's much more relaxing because their game is to be nice to get what they want, whereas at the door it's to intimidate to get what they want. Both games, for me, are dead-ends.
However, those actually interested in getting to know the "real stars" of the downtown nightlife - the bartenders - are much more numerous. The girls will leave their numbers on their closed tabs, or tell you that they'll wait up for you to call them when you finish your shift. This, in my opinion, is because bartenders are held up on a nice, little pedestal by the wonderfully young and inexperienced customers that patronize downtown. While they're waiting to order or waiting for their drinks to be made, they're leaning against the bar and watching you, the bartender, while you're back there, hoping you'll notice them. Their attention is focused on the stars of the bar. Little do they know that the night before I was barely a blip on their radar as they raced past me at the door.
So it's a nice change of pace. One night I'll get to stand at the door and listen to insults hurled my way throughout the night by those refused entry, and for the rest, barely elicit any tpe of acknowledgment by the hordes stampeding their way towards me just so they can get inside to drink and dance and be merry with those who matter, and the next night I'll be one of the people who do matter as the bartender.
The extra money doesn't hurt, either.