A Bartender's Guide to Measuring Up in your Relationships

Archive for the ‘waitress’ Category

Tough Times Give You Tough Skin

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     I’ve worked in some tough bars. Whether it was the type of crowd, the neighborhood, the people I worked for or the people I worked with, I’ve seen been through some things that would make the faint of heart run for the hills, and I had to do it with a smile on my face and my attitude in check. And I’ve survived it.
Have I had nights where I’ve run off to cry, dodged bullets, been cussed out, scared for my safety? Yes. Did I let those nights stop me from living my life or disrupt my focus? Not one bit.
     The really hard jobs give you the most experience. So much so that–no matter how briefly you’re there–once you leave, anything else after that is a cakewalk. You almost laugh at the ease. Your skin will be thicker, and you’ll be mentally stronger. Not to mention, whether you tried to or not, you’ll have learned a lot of necessary skills that you can keep with you for your future endeavors.
     Similarly, when you’ve had a really tough relationship–lots of arguing, misunderstanding, lack of trust, and hard work–the next one will seem like a vacation. It can be hard to see that though while you’re in the eye of the storm. Often we resolve not to give our all to the next person, (or get involved at all) for fear that that new relationship will turn out like the last. Instead, it’s better to focus on the lessons learned from that previous wrong experience. Your skin will become thicker and you’ll be mentally sharper, in a way that will protect you from the same kind of hurt because you’ll be able to see it coming. The next relationship after that should be a cakewalk, but you’ll never know if you don’t take the chance. Don’t let the drama from your last gig keep you from apply to the next one.
So what’s your barometer? How do you decide how much is too much, and what makes you feel strong enough to get back in the game?

When It Starts To Feel Like A Job

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Ask any bartender and I’m sure they’ll tell you, aside from the occasional headaches, for the most part they LOVE what they do for a living. Whatever the reasons, bartending is one of those professions that hardly feels like one; even during the busiest times. At times it’s hard work but it’s usually more social than strenuous. The best nights feel like a party, and the worst still beat a day at the office. Most bartenders stay in the business for several years, decades even, until it starts to feel like a job.
Every bartender has bad days, slow shifts, unruly guests, or a shitty co-worker here and there, but these things are expected. If, however, they find themselves having a hard time mustering up a smile, start showing up later and later for their shifts, ranting to no end about customers, and just generally in a bad mood whenever they have to go to work, it’s time to leave. The party has ended. Burn out is the usual culprit. It becomes physically and mentally exhausting to give so selflessly all of the time. And, depending on where you work, that process can be sped up when you feel unsupported.

I left the bartending business a year and a half ago, rather unceremoniously, giving two weeks notice to my job. After training my replacement, I walked out alone on the last day of week three. No farewell party, no parade, no acknowledgment of my achievement. Just a quiet exit at days end. It was time.
Having given almost a decade to the profession, it’s changed and I’d changed. And though I knew I would miss it, it no longer served the same purpose; my life’s purpose had changed. Where it was once fun and energizing, lately I had started to feel drained, like it was zapping the life outta me. I knew I wouldn’t be done for good–a few gigs here and there–but I’d reached the end of the road where this was the main thing I’d do for a living.
Before quitting, I took a two week vacation, just to clear my head and revive my spirit. My two weeks without were glorious, stress free; I felt renewed and refreshed, until it was time to go back. The minute I stepped foot behind the bar, I was welcomed back with an overwhelming sense of depression. I’m not a drinker, but I seriously began to contemplate taking shots before my shifts just to take the edge off of having to be there. The customers noticed as well. I’d lost my ability to fake it; no, maybe I’d lost my desire to. That’s when I knew it was truly over. Two months later I was walking out the door for good.

The same kind of burn out happens in relationships. You may began to notice that you’re unhappy being with your significant other. You find yourself relieved when your plans need to be cancelled, or your time together is cut short. You stop having anything nice to say about them when talking to friends. It gets harder and harder to be around that person, and you’re almost acting when you have to be. The things that made you happy about your relationship now either bug the shit out of you or aren’t enough. Phone calls and texts fill you with dread. You notice the relationship is not what it had been, and instead feels like a job you’re obligated to go to. And your partner may notice too. The shift in your mood will be obvious.
Many people get caught in this web, both professionally and romantically, having no idea how to get out nor what’s waiting on the other side. It doesn’t seem ok to up and be done with this thing you’ve invested so much time and energy into. Bad days and tough times are to be expected but the hard truth is when your relationship no longer serves a legitimate purpose, and instead causes you stress and unhappiness,–when it starts to feel like a job,–it’s best to give notice and walk away.
So what’s your barometer? Do you weigh the good against the bad, or do you measure the degree of unhappiness you feel, when deciding whether or not to give yourself to something or someone?

Trust Me, I’m The Bartender

 

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    Being a bartender/server is completely based on the good faith, honor system. Most often, bartenders and servers don’t collect money as soon as you order. Unless it’s a super busy night,–and even then lots of places are willing to run a tab,– customers are usually left to sit and enjoy their food and drink, adding on as they see fit. We serve you with the trust that you’ll settle up at the end of your stay.
     There are the few that cheat the system–dine and dash–but for the most part, people are trustworthy. As a server, when we do encounter those rare deceitful individuals, it’s a lesson learned for us to be sharper next time, pay more attention. But we continue on, serving others according to that original honor system.
     It’s the same with trust in a relationship. Just because there are those few untrustworthy people, the ones that misuse your efforts and abuse your kindness, does not mean you should stop trusting everyone nor stop giving your all to the next one. 
     Dating is based on the same honor principle as serving: I’m giving you my time, my faith, my heart, my all, trusting that you will take care of it while it serves you. If, however, you find you’re often being taken advantage of, it’s time to reevaluate your awareness. When this happens in the business, it’s usually suggested that that server go through more training. There’s nothing wrong with walking away for a while for self-reflection and to improve your skills. That way, you’ll come back clear-headed and with renewed faith and confidence.
     So what’s your barometer? Are you letting a few bad apples spoil the whole bunch or are you learning your lessons and letting them improve your outlook?

How Cool A Customer Are You?

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     I went out to dinner with a couple friends. After being seated, it took a while for our server to make it to the table. When she came, she started with the drink orders, taking my two friends orders then walked away in a hurry before I could even give her mine.
She only had two other tables, but I watched as she did laps around her section, tending to those two other tables and continuously walking past ours. By her third lap, when I saw her pick up a water pitcher to refill the other tables but we were still minus drinks and my drink order, I got fed up.
     Being a bartender for several years I know how good customer service works and this wasn’t it. I didn’t know what her problem was with my table but I wasn’t going to stand for it. With service industry arrogance dripping off of me, I walked over to the server station and asked another server if she could take our table.
     Julia came over promptly. She took down our beverages, and food–because by now we had been sitting there long enough to have decided–and was back in a flash to quench our thirst. The first server did finally come back with a few drinks–their two and a wayward coke no one ordered–but by then I resolved that we’d stick with Julia instead.
     The rest of the meal went off without a hitch. I thanked Julia for her lively service, adding in my praise for her how I didn’t know what the other girl’s problem was with us and the regaling tale of woe about my experience before her, to which Julia replied, “She’s new.”

Now I feel like a bitch. 😟

     Those two little words  pierced through me, stinging like heartburn. I wished she had told me. I walked out of the restaurant feeling ashamed because I remember those first days in the industry, when every little thing was new. You’re juggling learning the system along with learning people and learning about the things you’re serving. Just two tables can feel like having the whole restaurant to yourself. In those early days, I blurted out to every person, “Hi, I’m new,” like it was my name.
     I wished that I had known she was just starting out. Better yet, I wish that I had had the patience to observe a little longer and I would have figured it out like I have so many times before. I pride myself on being that compassionate and cool industry customer who knows how it is. I usually talk new servers through the experience and give words of wisdom and tricks to the trade. My know-it-all got the best of me.

     We do something similar in our personal relationships, particularly the seasoned ones.

    We think we know how our partner operates so we stop observing them the way we did when things were new. And our expectations become super high because we think they should have this relationship thing down by now. We stop asking questions to check-in and instead assume our significant other should know how to give us what we want.
The minute things aren’t going according to our plan, we bail to someone new who might be able to meet our needs better, instead of finding out what’s going on with the one we claim to care about.
     We’re quite a self-centered society, and in a hurry at that. We always think the grass is greener on the other side failing to realize we could have green grass too if we only took the time to water it.
     Patience is a virtue, and at the root of it is the lesson that to be patient is to consider there’s something happening with someone else besides ourselves. Patience is about empathy.
     I wish I had been more patient with my first server. Let her bring us the wrong drinks and talked her down from her nervousness. I wish I could’ve been a cool memory for her and not the one she likely went home and cried about.
    
     What’s your barometer on patience? Are you being the best customer you can to the person in your life who may get flustered sometimes but is trying hard to serve you joy?