I have been bartending, and serving, for nearly 30 years. It’s one of those things that when I say it out loud, it freaks me out a little, but it has flown by fast. When you spend that many years doing a job, you see and hear many things that don’t always pop up in other careers. I was never a big job hopper either, so I spent a lot of those years at very few different places, so I get to know lots of regular guests. Some better than others, but I am a recognizable and friendly face behind the bar.
What’s been getting to me a little lately is the chronic drinkers. The ones that are alcoholics but don’t really know it yet. Particularly this one group that comes over in the afternoons in between their shifts at a neighboring restaurant. First I want to say that I used to drink a lot, but I was always more of a post-shift drinker, never a between shift drinker. I just couldn’t function with half a jag on, and I didn’t usually work many split shifts anyway. But they are really common for many servers.
This group is over by us 3-5 times a week, and in that 2 hour break they are drinking 3-6 cocktails before they head back to work. They tip me obnoxiously well, but I am beginning to feel awful about their visits. Like I am overly contributing to their eventual downfall. I know that if I am not the one serving them, there are plenty of other nearby bars for them to go to, so it is their choice ultimately that they are doing this. They are adults, they have the ability to decide when and where they drink or don’t drink. But they always drink.
This is something new for me, the guilt side of being the one serving these chronic alcoholics. Since I have been drinking less and less over the past few years I notice more of how much some people drink, and I think a lot of how much I used to drink. But I love doing my job, and I am well aware of how hard it is to find good bartenders. I make a pretty good living doing it too, so I have to reconcile it a little bit. But these people are depressing, and I just dread it when I see them cross the parking lot headed in for their break.
If this is what growing into a more mature adult is then I am not a fan. I don’t like the feeling that I am partially to blame for someone else’s behavior. But am I really? They do this to themselves, don’t they? I can tell you stories about people and how they act in bars. I had a lady that came in all the time with this one guy, and she told me one time, when he went to the restroom, that he was her boyfriend, and that if she came in sometime with her husband that she would appreciate if I didn’t ask where Brian was. What? How about keep your places you cheat separate from where you go with your husband!!! I have no control over her infidelities, why do I feel bad about someone’s drinking problem? I am no angel, but things I have witnessed could crumble empires if I decided to divulge things I know.
Choices. We all have the ability to make good ones and bad ones. And I am ultimately responsible for my own choices. I have learned the “hard way” on multiple occasions that I am not always the best at choices. I know I am not responsible for the choices that group makes when they take their shift breaks each day. I serve them and try to not participate in their story beyond that. I have to make a living too, you know? I can’t keep people from cheating on their significant others, and I can’t stop a lot of things that I have not chosen. Personal responsibility is the name of the game, or at least it should be I guess. I am doing my best at making better choices for my life, and some of them even work out. But I still worry about others, and what their choices will ultimately do to them. I would be upset to learn that something happened to one of the group I mentioned, but it isn’t my fault what they do each day to their health and livelihood. I am coming to terms with my angst about it, and that is my choice.
*** I very purposely try to be vague about people I mention in these blogs, but some of my regular people will know who I am talking about here, and they know how I feel about the whole thing. I struggle some days, and others I just count the money at the end of the shift and head home. To write about it is cathartic, and I hope you do not see yourself in this anywhere. But if you do, know that there is help available to you if you want to get control of your choices. I try not to judge, but I do know that is hard when you see what I see almost daily. I would happily help anyone that needs to get pointed in a direction if they feel they need to change their choices, and stuff.