I recently heard a dirty rumor claiming bartenders to be unfriendly and disgruntled souls, void of patience and understanding for anything or anyone else, or put more bluntly, assholes. Naturally I was appalled and in disbelief, having worked as a bartender for over fifteen years. Nonetheless, a quick search on TripAdvisor and Yelp confirms there to be more than a few unhappy customers who share this opinion of me and my fellow bartenders down at the ol' Dirty Bird. On TripAdvisor, reviewer Gabe writes that we are 'All hat and no cattle.' Gabe, I hereby acknowledge your disappointment: You came to rural Appalachia expecting there to be cows, and though generally that is the case around here - come nightfall most every bar in Asheville looks like a fucking John Wayne set - our bar is one of the few that does not allow livestock any longer due to the infamous pony fiasco of '08, so please accept our deepest apologies.
Over on Yelp the reviews were more forthcoming. Christine writes 'It's amazing what assholes work at this place. From the door to the bar. Jerks.' Clark L. gave us one star and wrote: 'The worst bartender in Asheville. Maybe the worst bartender in America. Poor, poor attitude... he makes it too painful to get a refill. Waaaay too cool.' Now slow down Clark, you've been to not only every bar in Asheville but every bar in America and upon review have placed either myself or my fellow bartender - we still don't know which - at the very top of your shit list? Or are you frustrated because we didn't instantly recognize you as Clark The Famous Yelp Reviewer and see to your 'refill' (on the house, of course) in exchange for a gushing review? This almost certainly has to be the case, because the only place I know that offers refills on beer is the frat house. Thanks for the honor, Clark. If you send us a trophy we'll gladly display it at the bar.
For hours on end the bartender is doing his best to please hundreds of patrons at every imaginable stage of inebriation, all acting like a herd of spoiled four-year olds on a post-Halloween sugar high, and it is not easy. Things typically start out smooth then veer wildly off course, because suddenly with one or two ounces of alcohol down the hatch otherwise reasonable middle-aged Americans become fascinatingly unsound, often reverting to the ways of helpless infants: Drinks are spilled and crying ensues, there is hitting and crying ensues, personal items such as purses and cell phones are lost and even more crying ensues, which causes vomiting, after which even more crying ensues. A few even fall asleep in their chairs until their sweet slumber is interrupted by the bartender, at whom they groggily hurl projectiles such as empty beer bottles and dull steak knives, and upon being scolded for their disorderly actions - you guessed it, crying ensues.
Once I had to reprimand a group of customers for setting ablaze everything on their table, and guess who was made out to be the bad guy? Certainly not the buffoon waving the flaming paper towel roll above his head, attempting a restaging of the Great White Debacle of 2003 for all his friends to behold. No, it was I - the buzzkill bartender - who put his fire out. And so what does he do? He gets on the internet and announces to the world what an asshole I am, before passing out in a pile of chicken wings on his couch, failing to mention that while all loaded up on vodka-sodas with a 'teeny weeny splash of cranberry,' he tried to kill everybody in the bar.
The next time you're putting a few back at the local pub, here's a few things to remember:
10. Do not communicate with your bartender in Spanish. (Exception: you are of hispanic origin, you are in a spanish-speaking country, or you are placing an order for tacos)
This means no 'gracias,' 'amigo,' dos cervezas por favor,' 'excelente,' 'mi Loco Hermano,' etc. As a bartender, this is our first indication that you are an amateur with little to no experience. Not only have you just put your self on the watch list, you're self-amusement is slowing things down- You think you're funny, we do not.
9. The more you wave at us, the less we see you.
Of course I see you. How could I not? What with the wild bug-eyed expression and arms flailing like an orangutang, you stand out extraordinarily well amongst the other five hundred patrons waiting their turn. But remember this: while you are getting buzzed and acting like an endangered primate I am sober and doing my job, which involves taking orders on a first-come-first-serve basis from hundreds of people. Do you perform your little monkey dance in line at the AutoZone, thinking Greasy Dave will skip the other customers to find a Windshield Wiper for your Mini Cooper? Try to be patient like the others, you poor little monkey, man, you.
8. Don't tell the bartender to smile.
Yes, you're smiling, but that smile is directly related your rapidly deteriorating state of being: Two shots of schnapps into this lady and you can see the audio reels of Alicia Bridge's 1978 near chart-topper 'I Love The Nightlife' spinning in her eyes. Suddenly 'Aunt Nell from Parkridge Elementary' thinks she's the Queen of The Rodeo. She's rocking and swaying, hooting and hollering, and it looks as if she's getting up onto the wood. Clearly she's confused the center of my bar for the center of the stage in her imagination upon which she plays the lead role. Everything is a riot now that the gang's all here! "But goddamnit the bartender just won't smile! Come on, Sam - or whatever your name is -ain't this fun? Give us a smile! Cindy!" she calls, summoning a woman who's big-ass orange bouffant marks her territory like a bloated traffic cone, "Come over here and make this bar boy smile!" Please, Patty Poole, come over here and make me smile: Take Inebriated Miss Muffet back to her country lodge -or at least to the other side of the room-so that I can tend bar in peace, thank you.
7. Have your money ready and organized.
There are few things more annoying than serving a drink to someone at a crowded bar and instead of handing over some form of legal tender they stare back in wild wonder as if fireflies were mating in my suddenly vacant eye holes. Please have your money ready in an effort to keep it moving. Be a team player and we all win, que rico! Seems simple, right? But no. Did you know that 95% of all bar patrons who are unprepared are coincidentally unorganized as well? Out from the pockets come crumpled balls of singles, one...by...one, until there are five crumpled singles on the bar, equating the exact price of a beer, gathered into a collective pile and pushed towards the bartender. But no worries there friend - I love to un-crumple someone else's dirty strip club stash while other patrons watch and wait. And here's the real kicker-not only did you waste my time, you also stiffed me. I'll remember this on your next trip to the bar...
6. Do not tell the bartender who is next in line.
The bartender knows much better than you who is on deck for service. Although you might be standing next to the orangutang from # 9 and you want to help release him back into the wild, or another man's impatient trophy wife who you think you'll impress with your 'suave' ability to command the bartender's attention, there's probably a reason why we're not serving that person, including a) it's not their turn, b) they're acting disorderly and we are purposefully ignoring them c) they're the guy from # 7, d) they have already been cut off. So please don't tell me who's next. Enjoy your beer and let us steer the ship.
5. Don't tell the bartender that you're a bartender, too.
Sweet Jesus help us all, little blondie at the end of the bar is a bartender, too! And no doubt, she most likely is. After all, who would lie about being a bartender? Yet over the past 15 years I've served many a fellow bartender, and the only ones who feel compelled to commiserate with my livelihood are a) newbs, and b) people who talk too much. "It sucks to run out of limes- I'm a bartender, too!" "That guy needs to be cut off... I'm a bartender, too!" "There's no soap in the bathroom...I'm a bartender, too!" Frankly, it doesn't take a seasoned bar professional to realize that the soap is out or the drunk guys needs to be shut down, and even my two year-old will tell you that it sucks to run out of limes, no matter who you are. Don't get me wrong- if in conversation the topic arises, by all means tell me that you're a bartender, too; I'm sure we'll have plenty to discuss.
4. Use the word try accordingly.
According to the Merriam Webster-Learner's dictionary, the verb try means to investigate judiciously, to or sample something to find out if you like it. Therefore, "Could I try the IPA?" means you are asking for a sample of the IPA so that you may investigate it judiciously. But when you say "I'll try the PBR," then stare at me with your bratty scowl when I present a sample, as if I should have known all along that you actually wanted a full pour - like I'm the fucktard in this transaction? Well here's a hint: perhaps you're the fucktard.
3. Don't shout your order at the bartender, especially when he's not even looking at you.
This one really gets under my skin. The guy who shouts his order- 'Three Miller Lites and a Redbull Vodka, Buddy!' -while I'm engaged in other activities such as working the register, pouring drinks, or for even talking to another customer. What kind of arrogant bastard are you? Do I look like an automated teller machine or a soldier from the 1987 British-American war film Full Metal Jacket? What is your major malfunction, man? Do you really think that I'm going to stop what I'm doing and get your Miller Lite and Redbull vodka, just because you shouted it into the air? Suppose everyone else took your lead and starting shouting their orders, too; where would that get us? Absolutely nowhere. And that is exactly where you'll get using this amazingly ignorant tactic: Nowhere. I will look at you when I'm ready for you; otherwise have your money ready and keep your mouth shut.
2. Don't come behind the bar.
For the love of all things sacred and holy, what are you doing behind the bar? What with the neon lights and the empty beer cans strewn about did you mistake this place for your living room and me for your wife? Besides the fact that it's completely illegal for you to be back here for any reason, I've been knifed behind this very bar and I'm instinctively on the defense. In fact my man Scoop here had the mace trained on your forehead the instant you crossed the threshold, and even though you're an innocent sixty-nine year old lady you are dangerously close to getting dropped. So you want me to know that the dirty old man is performing his 'tricks' on the patio again, the stinky hippie fell and hit his head for the third time, or you just want another beer? Come to the front of the bar like everyone else, and we will be glad to help you from there.
1.Act nice and we will act nice, too.
As bartenders we are doing all that we can to provide you with prompt, friendly service. Approach the bartender with the same respect that you'd give anyone else during the daylight hours, and you'll be surprised to find that the bartender will do the same for you - we are full of good information regarding local attractions, insider info like late night food and locals-only bars, best cab drivers, local bands, probably even a witty joke or two. But when you approach the bar like an undomesticated ass, we shut down real quick. Remember: we work for tips, and those of us seasoned bartenders can spot a time-consuming non-tipper right away, for whom we have little patience or regard. If your bartender has done a good job keeping you happy, be sure to reward him for his efforts- a little tip goes a long way. It is much appreciated and you'll be taken care of on your next visit. And if you've had an exceptionally good experience, give us a good review - as you may have realized, we could use it. Until next time, happy drinking!