sunnuntai 18. elokuuta 2013

Day 293: Bartending


I have returned to Finland from my travels and pretty much directly I also returned to work. I started working in a new bar as a bartender, which is a job I will do part-time while I study to support my living. This is the first time ever I am working only in a bar and not with food or dining in any way whatsoever, as my previous jobs have always contained serving tables and food in one way or another. This has brought up some challenges I already faced last winter when working in a bar and I went through them today.

I faced interesting moments at work one night when I had two conflict situations. I had just the previous day watched a colleague deal with troublesome customers in an aggressive way and I had thought about the whole thing with being aggressive and defensive in situations like that. I asked myself: do I want to be like that? Do I want to be all angry and nasty and yelling and pointing-to-the-door? So the next day when I faced conflict I decided that I would first try to sort it out without exerting my power, making myself a big authority or being unkind to the other, and only when it would fail I would use force.

In the first situation I had to tell a man he was too drunk and that I would no longer serve him alcohol. I approached him by telling him he had probably had one too many today and that it would be best if he went home. I then offered him a glass of water instead of the pint of beer he asked for, because I knew the water would help him sober up and get home. He accepted my offer, thanked me for it, drank the water and left without causing any trouble. So this act of kindness and care for another got me through the situation with no conflict and the guy getting what he actually needed. Quite often the protocol in these situations is to say “get out, now” and then get the bouncer to kick them out shit-faced and verbally abused onto the streets.

In the second situation a man came to the counter yelling to my co-worker about his drink having been stolen from his table while he was in the bathroom. I remembered visiting the table just moments ago and collecting an empty glass from it. I thought that in order to survive the conflict I could just lie and tell the guy I had not seen his glass. Instead I decided to tell him what had actually happened and what I had observed. He kept yelling a couple of meters away as I was talking to him while doing the dishes with my co-worker standing in between us. I realized that this is no way to communicate and I stepped in front of him, looked him in the eye and told him firmly that I had taken an empty glass from the table, not a full one, and that it was very likely that his friend had finished his drink and then ran off. I told him the truth as I saw it to be in self-honesty. Surprisingly, the man calmed down. The ripples of the aggressive energy were still dripping from him but with every word he spoke from then on the energy faded, and he ordered a new drink and ripple by ripple he apologized for his behavior. I found this very interesting. I had expected him to hold on to his point of view that asshole bartenders try to trick people into buying more alcohol, but instead he let go of his anger and moved on.

These experiences show me that being the nice kind of a bartender instead of the asshole one is indeed worth trying and investigating!

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to believe and perceive that being a bartender requires me to be unkind, inconsiderate, pessimistic, angry, bored – in other words, an asshole – because these are the kinds of bartenders I have seen and admired, not realizing that the reason I admired them were not these qualities but the way these people didn't take bullshit, which is a quality I lacked (and still do to some extent).

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to believe and perceive that in order to be “ballsy” enough to be a bartender I need to have a negative attitude towards my job and towards the customers.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to try to be a good enough bartender by attempting to portray in my own behavior how my bartending mentors appeared to me.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to not realize that bartending does not in fact require me to be negative about everything and that this is a misconception I have pieced together by observing every bartender I have ever seen.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to not realize that what bartending does require of me is an understanding of my responsibilities (handling and distributing legalized poison and making sure everyone under my supervision stays within the boundaries that have been defined as “healthy” or “not fatal”) and a decision to carry out my responsibilities – and that the “ballsyness” comes out of the firm, unwavering stance within this decision and understanding.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to not realize that the firmness of a bartender's decision/commitment/responsibility is often misunderstood to be personal towards the customer who is denied access to alcohol, which creates the stereotype of the “asshole bartender” as customers believe bartenders to be assholes even when they don't mean to and as bartenders become assholes because (they believe) it is expected of them.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to not realize that while I tend the bar I do not have to turn into an asshole to survive the situation but that I can in fact remain as myself.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to fear that I will not survive bartending because of the verbal, physical and mental attacks bartenders sometimes have to deal with when and as customers exert their frustration on them, not realizing that these attacks are nothing personal towards me but an expression of who the other one is (which is often a person addicted to alcohol for whatever reason).

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to not realize that the people who snap at bartenders are most likely driven and possessed by their “addiction demons” and are not in control of themselves, and that their actions are thus not a manifestation of their full potential but of the things keeping them from attaining their potential – and that I should not then treat them with disdain, anger or fear but with compassion and care however they are best executed (sometimes telling a person to leave might be an act of love).

I commit myself to challenge myself to drop the tough guy act when and as I work in the bar and to instead try to remain kind, compassionate and caring.

I commit myself to carry my responsibility as a person assigned to handle, distribute and regulate alcohol.

I commit myself to slow myself down in breathing whenever I get a break while working in the bar, as I see, realize and understand that because the work is fast-paced it is easy for me to lose touch with myself in the physical.

I commit myself to engage in eye contact not only with the customers (which is easy because they are right in front of me) but also with the other workers even when it's busy and we communicate mainly by voice and touch because I have seen, realized and understood how this lack of eye contact with my fellow workers contributes to my tough guy act.

3 kommenttia:

  1. Cool Emmi, interesting turn of events lol. I was asking myself as well how to direct such situations if I'd be going to work in a bar. Thanks for setting the example.

  2. really cool self-direction in these situations Emmi!