Monday, February 09, 2004

...And Show Some Jazz Hands

Last night was a Carnivale celebration at HotHouse and, although I only worked four hours, I had to slog through the evening. Chicago Samba is a wonderful band, gracious men, but they can sometimes draw the most inconsiderate fans in the city. I'll be the first to admit that I don't have the best barside manner sometimes, but some people were pushing just the right buttons last night.

I came into work late having traveled from a dinner party in Ravenswood Manor. I didn't want to work, to be honest, as the guest of honor at the party was my best friend in town from Nashville. I transferred trains at Belmont, which was a mistake because the Red Line was reduced to one track from North/Clybourn to Grand. Once I arrived I assessed the situation: the bar was three deep all around with people demanding caipirinhas. I handed the floor manager my coat and started to cull the easy orders first.

Bad idea. The beer drinkers turned out to be the most high-maintenance people at the bar. And all it took was one guy to set me off.

"Hey, pal! Get me two Miller Lites right now!"

I've learned to bite my tongue over the years- it took me two years to swallow my pride and mix cognac with cranberry juice when someone asks- but I couldn't let this go uncontested.

"What do we say?" I asked, trying to get a "please" from him.

"Right now. And a shot of Jaegermeister."

That did it. I looked at him and sneered, "Aren't you a little old to be drinking Jaegermeister?" I popped open the beers, collected his money, and handed him his change. Almost immediately the crowd dispersed from the bar, as if they could read that the mood was about to change. The other two behind the bar looked around and wondered why things slowed down. They saw me giving this guy back the grief he gave them all night long and shook their heads.

As I said, I sometimes don't have the best barside manner, but I do know how to read a customer. You have to in order to make any money doing this. It's more than just knowing what goes in a dreamsicle shot, or serving up a kamikaze in under five seconds. Flexibility is key. You need to know when to listen, when to be a comedian, when to stand down the unruly ones, and when to be crass. Friday night a Lincoln Park Trixie asked for three shots of Patron chilled. To the point she asked that it be "shaken so hard it looks like semen."

Sometimes when you're set up with a softball like that it's hard not to swing for the fences. As I poured the aerated tequila into its intended glasses, she carped loudly to all within earshot about not having a boyfriend.

I responded, "Well, when you talk about semen in public all the time, it can be hard to consider you relationship material."

She laughed loudly, placed the glass to her lips, and tilted her head back. Letting some tequila run down her chin and neck. I smirked and said, "Oh, a sloppy swallower." Patron came shooting out of her nose.

Moments like that are priceless.

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