Did you ever find yourself bartending a party station and looking out and realizing no matter how fast you go, there is never going to be an end to that line for the next 6 hours?
You are just screwed. You immediately throw 5 bucks at the BEST busboy–you know the one–speaks enough English to understand…“more forks, big plates, bring more bread and butter…” and is excited to be in America; but more important for tonight‘s purpose, understood when I said “make sure I don’t run out of ice for the next 6 hours…” It was Sommy Tankanitlert, the best busboy I have ever seen in the business. A man with no counterparts. I’d tell Sommy I needed a table for 6, knowing that the first guests were just leaving and he’d say… “bing ‘em in.” He never let me down.
But I digress, tonight the deputy superintendent of the Chicago Police Department was retiring. In attendance? 500 of the most alpha males, (even the ladies) whose domineering personalities were made even worse by alcohol. Everybody from d.e.a. to f.b.I. to a.t.f. to transit authority badges. We had locals…. We had staters …. and they weren’t interested in food … and they all had a hard day …and they all wanted drinks … NOW!
A little background is in order here. Now what I’m about to say, you may consider conjecture, or satire, or literary license or whatever you need to consider it so I don’t get sued or shot. Anyway, all day long the service elevator has all these different organizations delivering case after case of hard liquor, beer, wine…. Case after case of steaks & fishes … now I don’t question how these items of the party were acquired but I do know with certainty that no invoices went through that liquor license … enough said.
Somehow my bar ends up about 10 yards away, and in a clear line of site of the chosen roost of the managers about 4 layers above me in authority. The General Manager is hawking me all night long.
This is where it gets a little weird. In theory, each of these guests had 2 purple tickets, each good for a cocktail. The nuts in charge were trying to limit this crowd to 2 drinks!!! And me, the bartender was supposed to be their muscle. Some nerve…And they had brought in their own booze!!!
Geeze… these guys had side arms and automatic weapons!
The party was moving along fine for about 30 minutes… and then everybody started running out of purple tickets … and then things started to get really, really nasty. “What do you mean I can’t have another drink” … “you know I had to handcuff a suspect to my bumper just this afternoon” “you know, I use hollow points so they won’t go through a wall” … I was o.k. with all of that … I can be a stubborn jerk when necessary …And deep down inside I gotta admit there was a certain, sweet satisfaction being that way with about every third one in line who said “Do you know who I am?” That’s the one that sets me off… My beady little mind was now racing … “No…and I don’t much care… the law is the law”.
“But ever try to be a stubborn jerk to a group that practices that same attribute every day??? It ain’t easy, I wasn’t being paid enough, and when one of them started threatening my family jewels… PURPLE TICKETS JUST DIDN’T MEAN A THING TO ME ANYMORE.
So I just go to town pumping out cocktails, not giving two hoots about collecting purple tickets. This creates a very weird dynamic in a room where there are some 30 bars set up. Pretty soon all the other bars have 3 or 4 people in line, and they are pouring in a slow, casual manner, you know who that bartender is … the one who didn’t speak enough English to get the busboy job…and meanwhile I’m just flyin’… and Sommy keeps dumping ice bucket after ice bucket in my bin… The general manager himself is running for more bottles of whiskey for me and my bar has about 3 or 4 dozen stacked up in line, waiting for drinks.
Now remember, this General Manager has been hawking me all night. And he’s one of the smartest men I’ve ever worked for. He had served the pope, U.S. Senators, his wife worked for the Governor…we served a party for the 50 wives of the fifty governors, but I digress….. This is a guy who knew EXACTLY what was going on… and when he asked me to stay late and chat with him, I figured I was toast.
Now here we are, the party is over, the staff is all gone, there’s one light left on in this huge business, but instead of giving me the bad news, he brings me a double shot of the best whiskey in the house … no ice…3 hours later, we are walking out together, him the General Manager and me the new Banquet Manager with a huge salary increase, bumped up about 3 layers in a union property, remotely owned by the Kennedy family. That night really went from ying to yang for me and my rapid rise offended quite a number of those more deserving than I… but it worked out pretty well for me for the next couple of years…
Post submitted by Mike the Waiter
Mike's bartender story is great. I especially like how he eventually became a banquet manager...sounds sorta like how I got into this crazy business. But that's a story for another day.
Please visit Mike's blog and support the people that support THIS blog.
Next Post: Wadda Mean It's Raining in the Meeting Room?