One of the more colorful jobs I’ve held is that of a cocktail waitress and bartender. My first taste of this life came when I needed a second job after purchasing a home. I had no waitress experience but plenty of bar experience so I figured how hard can it be? I got a job at a well known bar and my education began. It’s funny how different it is to be in a bar and not be the one drinking. Boy, drunks are an obnoxious bunch! This bar had lots of college students and the tips were not great but you have to start somewhere, eh? I worked with some nice girls who would always call me to see if I wanted to go to the beach with them which I always thought was so nice until I overheard them tell someone that when they go to the beach, they always lay next to the fattest woman there so they feel thin! It only went downhill from there. When I had the opportunity to work at a classier establishment, I gave my two week notice and the owner was so furious with me for quitting, he fired me on the spot!
My next position was at a much nicer place with an attached resturaunt and hotel. We had uniforms we had to wear and when I interviewed for the job, I had to try on the uniform to see how I looked in it. It was one of those horrid “Swiss barmaid” type costumes. Thank goodness right before I started, someone in their right mind decided that cocktail waitresses have enough problems with male customers so they changed the uniform to black pants and black vests and white shirts. Whew! Now back in those days, there was this brand of pants called “Bend Overs” (don’t ask me why they were called that, maybe cause when you bent over they stretched with you?) that were made of pure polyester and wore like iron. But they didn’t really hold any excess flab in so eventho I was pretty thin, I wore these things called “long-legged girdles” which really held you in from your waist down to your ankles. But just to be sure I looked my slimmest, I would also wear support pantyhose underneath them. I was packed in so tight by the end of the night, I had no feeling left in either leg (when I would take it all off, I would explode like dough from a Pillsbury bisquit container). Now one night during my shift, I had to “go see a man about a horse” (if you don’t know what that means you are too young to be reading this anyway!!!) and ran to the lady’s room. Everything was going fine until it was time to pull up the layers. I was struggling with the support pantyhose when my hand slipped and it flew and hit the toilet paper dispenser and became instantly numb and I had no strength left in it. Now, even at the best of times, it took great two-handed strength to hoist those suckers up and here I was, stuck in a stall with them at half-mast. Try as I might, I couldn’t get them up. Time ticked by and I was getting more and more concerned as I knew I was being missed and would be in deep trouble when I got back. Finally after 20 minutes another waitress came in looking for me. I had to have her come in the stall with me and help me get all my layers up and then go back and explain to the bar manager why I took so long in the bathroom and he didn’t like me all that well to begin with. Thankfully the top of my hand was bruised and swollen so he knew I was telling the truth but I was quite mortified to have to tell him that I had on a girdle!
Another night at this same place, I had a very large tray of drinks and I was serving a pair of older couples (which were probably only in their early 40’s but when you are only 24 anyone older than 30 was elderly) and one of the women asked me if the tray was heavy and I said yes and that by the end of the night my wrists swell. Well the night went on and this group nursed a couple of drinks and finally around 10:30 they called me over and asked me to repeat what I had said about the tray being heavy. So I replied that by the end of the night my wrists swell. All at once, they all started laughing and one of the women said they had thought I had said that by the end of the night my BREASTS swell and their husbands didn’t want to leave until they had seen this phenomenon!
My next foray into this exciting low-life experience was my tenure at a neighborhood sports bar. I went from classy to trashy. I had been “let go” from my above job and was in dire need of another when I met the manager of this bar and he said he needed a waitress. Well here I was, a waitress in need of a bar so it was a match made south of heaven. I found out my first night of work, that not only did I have to waitress but I also had to make the drinks. I had never actually made a drink, just served them so this was a whole new learning process. You can’t imagine how hard it was for me to open beer bottles at first. I just couldn’t get the hang of how to grab the bottle and tilt it just so so it would go into the stationary bottle opener on the coolers and the tops would pop off. The manager told me that at first I was so bad he thought he would have to fire me but then I got the hang of it and how to make the no-frills drinks. This was not a martini-type bar. We had tap beer on sale twice a week for 15 cents a glass so you can imagine the type of clientele we had. I had worked there just a couple of nights when one of the regulars decided to “break me in” and gave me a “full moon” after he had ordered his drink.
This place was just like Cheers. We had our own Norm and Cliff and Carla. The bar manager was exactly like Sam Malone….exactly. I guess you could say I was the Diane Chambers character. I always wore nice clothes instead of jeans and a tee shirt so I was an oddity from the start. One night I had on my Bend Over pants and a tuxedo jacket and a sequined tube top (remember dear reader, I was MUCH smaller back then….everywhere…..) and this old guy sitting at the bar asked me in a drunken tone, “What time’s the show, sweetheart?” Getting back to the characters in this bar, the manager who I shall name, “Sam”, had a long-time girl friend but always had other girls on the side and sometimes he would have three of them sitting at the bar, all waiting for him to go on break and he would tell me to go sit down and take a really long break! It was amazing to watch him juggle all the women that would come into the bar to be with him. He had it down to a science. If more than one was left at the end of the night, he would escape into the office and I would have to tell these girls that he had to do “bookwork” and wouldn’t be back out that night. I don’t think he ever got caught in this web of deceit!
Part of being a bartender was you would have to wash the bar glasses using this machine that had brushes that you would place the glasses on and the brushes would spin. First you would dunk the glasses in a sink filled with soapy water, then do the brush machine and then dunk the glasses in a sink of bleach water and then put the glasses on a rack to air dry. So one afternoon I had to open up the bar and I got there an hour before I was to open to do the prep work and for some dumb reason, I picked up the brush machine and tipped it over so the brush heads went into the soapy water and I felt this bolt of electricity shoot thru my arm, up my neck and out my tongue….I had electrocuted myself!
There are many more stories to tell but not tonight. I can tell you that not all my time at that bar was negative. I made a few good friends who are near and dear to me even today and we probably would not have met otherwise so for that I am grateful.