The bar was sticky with splashed beer and spilled booze. Ashtrays were washed and stacked, except the ones that weren’t. Limes and lemons rotted in the hand-washing sink. Dirty beer mugs lay on their sides in the “wash” compartment. Straws and peanut shells and bev naps and a dime or two were trapped at awkward angles in the floor mats.
It took me a half hour to clean up the mess and then another half hour to do my own opening side work.
When the nighttime bartender showed up for a beer or six at 8:30 a.m., he asked, “So was everything okay this morning?”
I could only stare at this giant buffoon whom I trained six weeks ago over two days and my co-worker trained on a third day.
“No, it was not. And if you ever leave the bar like that again, I’ll fucking kill you,” I calmly said, as if I always spoke in such parlance.
“What?” he asked in a tone that spoke of genuine concern, except that it wasn’t.
“You heard me. I don’t need to repeat it, but I will if you want me to,” I said as my morning regulars looked on, slack-jawed.
“Well, you never trained me to wipe down the bar, or wash EVERY mug, or anything like that, you know. Besides, I was kinda busy last night.” At which point he smiled and plunked his empty beer cup on the bar to signal his desire for another.
“Hey, haha, only kidding. Haha. Yeah, I know,” he smiled.
I walked away from him.
“No really, I appreciate the constructive criticism,” he yelled after me. “Remember, this is the first job I’ve had in 15 years!”
I pulled a draft and gently placed it in front of him.
“I mean it. I…” he started to say.
I am certain the cloud above my head was entirely readable to him and the others watching. Because he rightly stopped himself and the others bent over their drinks.
All at 8:30 a.m.
This is how I know I work amongst Ph.D’s.
He knows everything. Everything. Just ask him. Actually, don’t. He’ll tell you anyway. About the Gulf oil spill, about the Arizona immigration law, about the latest Supreme Court appointee, about…everything.
“Hey R.G.,” he smiles in his arrogant I-am-so-much-better-than-these-low-lifes-and-you-know-it-because-I-am-sure-you-and-I-are-almost-equals way, “When you’re finally getting around to getting me another draft, what do you think about…?”
Which is when I tune him out, banishing him to the outer circles of some Dante hell, because compared to the “low-lifes” he wants me to think I think are “low-lifes,” he is the ultimate bottom fish.
Finally? Have you ever waited longer than 35 seconds for your Bud Lite? the cloud above my head asks.
I smile at him as I gently place his icy pint glass on a coaster, even though I know he will remove it from the coaster in a matter of seconds and then “joke” minutes later about my not cleaning up the surface of the bar that is now puddled with the sweating residue of his beverage.
“Thank you, RG. And have I told you lately, you are one of the best bartenders around.”
At which point he leaves a single dollar for the six beers he’s drunk, two of which have been bought for him. When he returns hours later with his wife, 45 minutes before shift change, they both drink three more each. As I announce my “Bye Bye and Thank You” in dire hope of a buck or two from anyone still sitting at my bar, his wife asks, “Have you tipped her?”
“Yes, this morning,” he tells his wife as he pulls his remaining cash toward him.
This is how I know I work amongst Ph.Ds.
“Do you have any money?” she asks her friend, neither of whom I have seen in my bar before.
“You said you had money. I only have some unwrapped coins in my car,” the friend says.
“How much for a soda and a well drink?” the first one asks me.
I tell them the price through gritted teeth, because I know this drill all too well. Spend money on booze ’till it’s gone, hope a guy buys you more, and tip nothing.
Soon, they are hanging all over a guy who didn’t tip me at all yesterday, and he is now buying the next round. And the next. And the next. Not too stupid these Ph.Ds, eh?
By D.C. standards, I drink too much. By Keys standards, I am as straight-laced as they come.
By D.C. standards, I smoke, which is some sort of horrendous sin. By Keys standards, I barely smoke because I try to keep it under a pack a day.
By D.C. standards, I am wasting my life away in a dreary locals bar–to the point I had to take a second job and work seven days a week. By Keys standards, I am at least walking home with cash in my pocket every day.
By D.C. standards, I have all the symptoms of fatal Keys Disease. By Keys standards, I am just another Ph.D amongst whom they live.