Bar Therapy: Session 3 – Patron Training


Patron, the person, not the tequila, wiseguy. If you are a veteran of the bar industry, you’ll relate to what’s below. If you’ve never been behind a bar, please (oh, fucking pretty please) take heed to the advice below because you should not piss off any person preparing something you’re about to ingest.

I’ve been on stools and rubber floor mats for almost 40 years. I’ve seen things. I know things. Take my advice or pay the price.

Today’s Topic: How to tell if the bartender is busy or ignoring you.

When you walk up to a bar and identify the bartender, is this person making eye contact with you? If so, and if the bartender is not holding up one finger (the universal sign for, “Calm your thirsty ass down. I’ll get to you.”) it means we’re probably ready to take your order. You’ll know for sure when we say something along the lines of:

  • “Hi. What can I get you, boss?”
  • “Hey there. Would you like a menu or are you ready?”
  • “Can I get something started?”

Another way to tell that we are ready to serve you is if we toss a cocktail napkin or coaster in front of you. In those cases, fire away, handsome.

Here are some (should be really fucking easily) identifiable signs that we are busy, and you should wait your turn, just like you do at Subway. Don’t yell, whistle, or say, “Excuse me.” Unless you own this bar, wait … quietly. The bartender is definitely busy when:

  • In the middle of tapping a beer or pouring drinks.
  • Speaking with another customer or employee.
  • Changing the channels on 20 TVs, which each have their own goddamn remote, in order to find the who-gives-a-flying-fuck game.
  • My back is to you because I’m restocking a shelf or cooler. Look, shnookums, if I don’t fill the cooler, guess what? You’re not going to get your blasted Corona with salt and lime. (Why salt and lime? If you need to modify a beer with salt and fruit it means that beer sucks donkey balls. Drink something that isn’t a goddamn bubbly fruit salad. May I suggest Firestone’s 805?)
  • At the register either tapping the screen, counting out change, or waiting (for-fucking-ever sometimes) for the last customer’s credit card to process.

The bartender might be busy (tread lightly, sweetie) when:

  • You’re next to the person we have just finished serving. You don’t choose me, cupcake. I choose you.
  • Cleaning. If I’m holding a spray bottle filled with bleach and other deadly agents, do you want me shaking your Lemon Drop next? No … no, you don’t. Trust me. Wait until I make eye contact. If I don’t wash my hands, you have annoyed me. Be prepared to have your shit liquefied.
  • Writing stuff down. Look, if you see me writing, I’m not writing my next chapter while tending bar. My handwriting sucks and the only paper we have is thermal paper, which writing on is like running across an ice-skating rink in sneakers. I’m probably writing a note for the bar-back or pre-filling out my paperwork. Sit tight, sugar.
  • Speaking of bar-backs, let me edu-ma-cate y’all on what this creature is. A bar-back is NOT a fucking bartender. A bar-back brings me booze, mixers, and ice. A bar-back is NOT a fucking bartender. A bar-back changes the keg when it blows. (By the way, when a keg blows, it typically spews beer foam down my chest like a high school boyfriend screwing you between the boobies. It wasn’t fun for you, was it? It’s not fun for me either.) Lastly, a bar-back is NOT a fucking bartender. This means if you ask the bar-back for a drink, a good bar-back will remind you that a bar-back IS NOT A FUCKING BARTENDER. A soon-to-be-ex-bar-back will relay your request to the bartender, who is probably busy because you thought you could order from a bar-back.

The bartender is probably ignoring you if:

  • You left a shitty tip (that’s 10% or less).
  • You ordered a fucking Mojito last time. God damn it. I hate Mojitos. Do NOT EVER order a Mojito. You know what’s worse than a Mojito? Getting an under-nail splinter … just barely worse.
  • You’re looking at a drink menu. You know what’s on the drink menu? Overpriced, pain-in-the-fucking-ass-to-make drinks. Want to make friends with a bartender? Order a beer without salt and lime (see rant above). Not a beer person? Fine. One booze, one or fewer mixes. Think Vodka Tonic. You want wine? Right. And, I want five acres in wine country. At least look for a bottle that is already open or a screw-top. If I have to uncork a bottle, you have sufficiently annoyed me, you pretentious twatwaffle.
  • You ask for a drink while I’m making a drink and I stop and bow my head as if I’m either in mourning or mentally preparing to kill things.
  • You are sitting at a table in front of the bar, but think it would be better to get up and order from me instead of your server. Why would you think this? What the hell is wrong with you? Oh, you want a drink AND you want me to tell the server to add it to your tab? I’ll get right on that, in a week or so.
  • You’re ordering ANY-FUCKING-THING to go. Bars are not drive-thrus. You want something to go? Follow these steps: Go away, get in your car, drive to a drive-thru, order, and have a nice self-fucking.

Now, I hope I don’t come off too bitter here. I also hope my supervisors and managers never find my writings. I feel it is my duty to give back to society. I have a golden liver and many shot glasses. Treat me and my sisters and brothers behind the bar properly, and we’ll dispense your social sedation with a smile.

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About the author

Author of humorous essays about relationships and lifestyles.