Being a bartender isn’t all that glamourous, or as rowdy as a movie like “Cocktail” would have you believe. I don’t recall a scene where Tom Cruise has to wash his glasses in the 3 sink glass washer. Or cutting endless limes for Cinco De Mayo. Or rolling silverware. It’s a job, one that has paid my bills for about 30 years. I have worked late nights, day shifts, doubles and got sent home when it’s slower than normal. It’s what I do and have done for years. I knew I wanted to bartend since Isaac cruised on the Love Boat.
I meet people, lots of people in my line of work. So many, that I don’t always remember everyone and I don’t recall every interaction. That’s ok, not everyone will remember me either. There are those that find their bartender or server just a faceless part of the masses, a means to an end of getting a drink or getting fed. But I have also made great friends and connections, gone on trips, been to ballgames and lots of fun things as a result of my ability to connect with people. It’s a benefit that doesn’t show up on paper.
Yesterday, I got a lesson on what an impact I can make in someone else’s life. A middle age woman, maybe about 40ish, came into the restaurant and sat herself in one of my booths. I think I was in the kitchen when she first came in, so I saw her as our chip guy was giving her chips and salsa. She saw me behind the bar and told him she wanted to come up by me at the bar top. So I said hi, she looked familiar, but I don’t know her. She ordered her margarita, and when I set it in front of her, she had tears in her eyes, and I really noticed how distressed she looks. Like about to fall apart, but trying really hard to hold it together. (I am thankful it was a slow afternoon, because I may not have had time to notice if it had been busier.) I asked her if she was ok, like really asked, because I could see she was not ok. She said no, asked if I knew if Harbor House, a local women’s shelter, was open today. Oh no, this woman is in trouble.
I didn’t really catch her whole story, I didn’t need to know all of it. But she was terrified about something, she didn’t feel she could use her own phone, and she didn’t know where else to go, and she remembered me from some previous visit to my restaurant. She was frantic and she came looking specifically for me, a stranger who had been kind to her on some occasion. I helped her, I found the number for the shelter, called for her, and let her use my phone to talk to the volunteer that answered the phone. She lives in a different county, so they directed her to the appropriate shelter for her area. We again used my phone to call, and talked to them and got her information. I have never been in this situation before, but I had to try to help her.
She said she was so scared, and she had thought about killing herself if she couldn’t get to the help she needed. I told her that she shouldn’t do that. I would help her, I would get her an Uber or whatever to get her to a shelter. Please hang on, get through the next few minutes, we will get you what you need. I thankfully could help, even if I didn’t know why I was in this spot. I gave her my phone number, and begged her to call me when she got to the shelter. I held her hand and encouraged her to be strong, that she will be ok. I am about to cry now thinking about the look she gave me, like she believed me and that she could be ok. Then she left, and I finished my shift. I posted a small thing about it on Facebook, because I had to get that out. It was a moment I needed to share, not looking for praise, but to release what I felt in that moment.
It took about 2 hours, but the shelter called me to let me know she was there, and she was safe. That was a tough 2 hours, although I didn’t really know her, I felt very invested in her after this. There was something big going on with her, more than just an abusive situation, it was something else. Her fear was real, it was tangible. I have no idea how I became the person she needed when this all happened. I just thank God I was at work and there when she needed me, because as desperate as she was, things could have gone very badly had I not been there. As I have thought about it for the past 14 hours or so, I am overwhelmed with the idea that I could make that kind of an impact on someone. It is truly humbling.
Be kind. Be someone that would help if someone asks for it. Your job may not be the greatest, your life may seem like it doesn’t affect anyone. I go through the motions many days, because that is part of adulting. I had no idea I could make that big of an impression on someone just by setting drinks in front of them. I do not know what led her to me, or why I was the one who could help. I am just thankful that I could. This is going to affect me for a while, I get that now. I would do it all again, and I hope I never have to.