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When I was a kid my dad took me to work, and after work, we went to the bar. In the 80s that wasn’t uncommon. I’d spend my nights drinking Shirley temples and playing pool or Noelle wins because they always let me win. Everyone in the bar watched after me. Also, everyone told me their problems, something that annoyed me when I was a kid. I’d sit on my dad’s lap and drive him home every night from the bar as well (I’m 38 so don’t call cps on my dad)
I grew up thinking I’d never drink; my dad became an unbelievably insane alcoholic after my sister was burned in a fire. Even in high school, I took care of everyone who was drinking and rarely drank myself. It wasn’t till my mid-20s I stepped out of that comfort zone and started drinking.
When I left home and moved to New Orleans with the kid’s dad, I ended up getting an amazing job as a marketing director for an automotive marking firm. I did the advertising for 60 dealers in the southern regions plus I also became a property manager for 250 rental properties. I was 18, I didn’t know how to do anything but John gave me a chance and I was very good at all of it but I was busy all the time, I had 3 cellphones because in those days unlimited minutes didn’t exist.
I loved it, it was a challenge, and I was on the go all the time. I didn’t need friends because I didn’t have time, but friends would come to visit. I didn’t have kids yet, so I was completely caught up in my success. John knew a lot of people so my first bar gig I got to fill in at one of the busiest bars in New Orleans, but all I did there was sling drinks. It was highly organized, and each station was set up for speed. We made a lot of money every night. I’d do this on occasion or taught me the basics. I never talked to anyone or engaged customers I just threw drinks out as fast as I could. It was fun but not the type of bartending I’m now used to.
One Christmas I was in such a rush, I was on several calls and trying to pick up stuff for Christmas dinner. I was in a line at the piggy wiggly. The cashier was a middle-aged woman, average in every way except she was catatonic. I was in a hurry and impatient with her as she slowly ran my few items over the scanner. I was annoyed by her but out of nowhere, she said I hate Christmas. I responded with, I’m not a fan either but something we all must do.
She went on to say, “I hate Christmas because 8 years ago my husband killed my children, killed himself, and left me a note stating I wasn’t good enough to die, that I should suffer from their memory.”
My jaw dropped, I didn’t know what to say or why this random woman I had never seen before or after would just say that to me. In those moments I could see a change in her, like a burden, lifted because she told someone what was on her mind, even though I was no one. I didn’t answer or say anything, but I did give her a hug. I realized at that moment, that thing about me that annoyed me so badly for so long wasn’t a burden in my life but a gift.
I was so selfish and so worried about making money and my problems, I was blind to what other people are going through. I didn’t become a bartender that day, but that moment stayed with me.
When I ended up with two small children and my marriage to their dad was falling apart, I packed up, left my career, and moved to Kansas closer to my grandmother because I was scared, I didn’t think I could manage life without someone to be there If shit fell apart. In New Orleans I had no one, I had no friends aside from the ones I met through the kid’s dad and my bosses. I was hundreds of miles from home and had two babies and no idea what to do.
I saved a little money and moved to Kansas with no real plan, I opened a phone book and called every bar in Topeka asked if they were needed help. The one that said yes was a club called Fusion. I showed up to the interview, not having a clue what the place was or anything about bars at that point because I didn’t drink.
A construction worker saw me waiting for the owner to arrive asked if I needed help, I said I was there to interview for a job. He took one look at me and said sweetie you don’t want to work here; this isn’t your scene. If you want, you can follow me to the place I drink and see if they will give you a chance. At this point, the owner is as an hour late, so I agreed. Followed Trey Fisher to Heart Attack Jacks, I was scared to death, but I knew I had to do something to support my kids. I met the owner Lee who was a total pig.
Lee told me I could work the door and see how it went from there when he saw what I looked like from the backside. I worked the door and the customers tested me and told Lee I’d be a good fit. I wasn’t socialized at all; I was extremely shy, but I needed a job.
Lee put me behind the bar, personally trained me on everything he knew about the bar business. I’d heard rumors that at some point I’d have to sleep with lee to keep my job. I didn’t believe them, and he didn’t say that when he hired me. However, he did pay for us girls to look good, he did have an image he wanted to project. Being new I didn’t see anything wrong with this.
Two weeks into working there, Lee said, “I’m sure by now you’ve heard the rumors.” I said yes sir. He said well put out or get out. So, I calmly gather my stuff and tell him thank you for the training and opportunity, but this isn’t a good fit for me. As I’m walking out the door, he says that’s my girl.
I turned around scared and confused and said what? He said look if you’d allow me to fuck you, I’d gladly do that, but I wouldn’t be able to trust you. A whore is a whore at any price. All these girls steal from me and I fuck them I return but you have morals and integrity, that’s something I rarely find so I’d like to make you my manager.
Just like that, I went from working the door to pouring drinks to being taught to manage a bar. In the end, Lee’s plan blew up in my face because the girls hated me. They ganged up on me, they made up horrible lies about me.
I didn’t even know people could be so cruel until that experience. I had never been alone in the world until then and the things they said and did to make my life miserable were beyond awful. I attended a meeting, which was basically a lynching and I broke down and cried as these women attacked me.
Lee took me aside and told me he had to let me go, I asked why? What had I done? He said nothing but I can replace one of you or 6 of them. I truly didn’t understand what happened or why they were being so mean to me. I said lee, I’ll be loyal to you, in a few months they will be gone, and I’ll still be here and I’m not the one that’s wrong here.
He said no baby girl you’re not but this is the bar business and you don’t play well with these girls, they are jealous of you, there is nothing I can do that will stop that. He did get me set up with jobs with his friends, he did almost cry having to tell me this as he knew I was a single mom with small kids just trying to survive in a sick twisted world.
The customers took my side which made things far worse. I went in with a group of them and the girls called lee and threatened to call the cops on me for sitting at a table with the regulars. Lee called me and barred me and told me it was for my own protection.
So, this, my friends, is how I started in the bar world. Lee did train me right and he did all he could do to protect me, but I was naive, and I think to this day I still am. I meet amazing people everywhere I work but I’ve still never learned how to play the game.
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