Saturday, March 29, 2008

Here Comes A Regular... Final Installment

What I miss and don't miss about bartending at the Beacon Pub:

Obviously I miss my regulars. I still see them every couple weeks or so when I go to the bar just to hang, but it's not the same as seeing them a few times a week and really talking to them.

I don’t miss the random total wackjobs. Like the chick that came in one afternoon in the first couple weeks I was working there. She ordered a drink, went to the bathroom for an extremely long time, came back out, swallowed her drink quickly, didn’t leave a tip and fled. Weird, I thought. Then I had to pee a little while later.... It smelled horrible in the bathroom. I opened up the first stall and found it covered in shit. Literally covered. Shit on the toilet seat, the tank, in the toilet. I almost puked. I was not cleaning that up. No way in hell. I did not earn enough for that.

I do miss the way my regulars would help me out. Like on my literally shitty day, Molly came in and I warned how about the bathroom. After a few vodka and cranberries, she was like, “I’m gonna do it. There are flies in there. It's gross. I’m gonna clean it up.” And she got some gloves and she did. And I always knew any of the guys would have my back if someone tried to fuck with me. I knew Pat would help me bartend if I got swamped and help me change a keg or troubleshoot any other problems. And when the water poured down between the fishnetted lady legs for the umpteenth time and I was about to cry, Carl happily found the mop and cleaned up the mess for me.

I don’t miss the random stuck up types who’d obviously taken a wrong turn on their way to a fancy restaurant in Oak Park. “Do you have Grey Goose?” No. Our top of the line is Stoli. “Do you have any wine?” Uh no. “Oh my god, you seriously don’t have wine?” I look over at the fishnetted lady legs and hope that the people upstairs pick now to fill their bathtub so a flood of dirty water rushes down or that maybe one of the little mice that hang out in the bar during the winter will scurry over their feet. “No, we don’t have wine.”

I do miss the regulars that would laugh at these types with me after they left and who would make mouse watching a winter activity. Especially Sue's husband Jim. He was like a little kid whenever one of the little guys would come out and try to grab a piece of popcorn from the floor. We all accepted the mice. They'd been using the pub as their winter home for years, apparently back in the 30s or 40s the place across the street was a meat-packing plant so they'd come in droves.

I don’t miss having to spending my Sundays watching football. Superbowl Sunday when the heat was out and I had a bladder infection and I had to work for nine hours, that may have been my worst personal hell.

I do miss baseball season at the Beacon. Everyone's a buzz about the home run derby pool. I still partake in that, but I’m convinced that I lost last year because I wasn’t at the Beacon getting shit everyday about how I was taking their money. And I miss watching Sox games with the regulars. The year they won the World Series I was in LA, living with a friend who was a Cubs fan. When the Sox won, no one around me cared (especially since they had totally kicked the Angels asses), so I celebrated by calling the Beacon and Jme passed the phone around to all the unintelligible drunk people and told me how there was champagne being spilled everywhere and now she understood why Scott waited until after the World Series to get new stools. And I miss going to ball games with Pat and Dave or Pat and Sean and the pathetic opening day that like 20 of us went to where we froze our asses off and watched the Sox get killed.

I don’t miss it when the regulars would get whiny about things that were not my fault like the fact that Scott was cheap and often ordered too little beer and we’d run out of their beverage of choice. I begged him for months to order a particular liquor for me and he never did. Get over it. Ditto the crappy stools. Oh and the winter that the heat kept going out and I was working in my winter coat because it was 40 degrees in the bar and they were whining??? Um, you don’t have to be here. There are other bars or your toasty warm house. And if you weren’t here, I wouldn’t have to be here!

I do miss the popcorn machine. Fresh popcorn twice a day as a snack. How good is that. Healthy and delicious.

I don’t miss kegs going out and getting sprayed with draft beer and stinking of booze and grease from the fryer and worst of all cigarette smoke. (Though now with the smoking ban, I can breathe in there.)

I do miss coming home everyday with sore feet but a pocket full of cash. Instant gratification for your hard work. I liked that.

I don’t miss the amateurs on weekend nights. You obnoxious newly twenty-one year olds who act like everyone I hated in high school and treat me like those people treated me. And you want fancy girly shots or bombs. We don't have Red Bull, sorry. And we're probably out of half the ingredients I would use to make Pineapple Upside Down Cake or an Oatmeal Cookie or even a Redheaded Slut. We drink straight Jager or Rumpleminze or whiskey or tequila here. Yeah, I know, you aren't that hardcore yet. I could make you a Lemon Drop? Not good enough? Madison Street is three blocks that way, you'll find plenty of people like you down there and we won't miss you. You're loud, obnoxious, and don't know how to tip because you're spoiled and never had to have a service job.

I do miss my coworkers even though we didn’t really work together. I miss Dan, who would always come to the bar and help me close on the nights that I worked even though he was in no way obligated to stay up til 2 or 3 and do so. And I miss Jme, who became a true friend. Who would come in on afternoons sometimes to keep me company before she had to go to class. She was there when Scott my boyfriend came into the bar for the very first time to meet me (he just had a coke because he had to go to work, but he wanted to meet me in person, it was adorable) and gave me her seal of approval, “He’s cute and totally your type. You should definitely go for it.” And within days we were dating and within months, Jme was teasing Scott about where’s ring. I’m sure he doesn’t miss Jme for that. I even miss Scott the owner. I always had a great relationship with the guy and sometimes during the day when he came in to get the money straightened out or set the schedule or place orders, he'd bring his little boys and I loved seeing those kids.

Ultimately I miss the Beacon more than I don't miss it. Though I was certainly ready to quit at the time, now I would jump at the opportunity to go back. I liked the people, I liked the stories they told me and the stories they inspired. I would definitely tell a young writer who was looking to expand their writing horizons that working at a neighborhood dive bar is a great way to stir the muse. Perhaps some people would look down on me for recommending that, but I honestly don't really care. There were more ups than downs and its one of the jobs I liked best. I found a real group of friends at the Beacon, a group of friends made up of people I'd never expect to bond with. That's why I'm doing my book release party there. I'd promised them all, especially Jme, that if I got published that's what we would do. It's scheduled for Thursday July 10th at 7 pm if you happen to be in the Chicago area and I've peaked your interest enough about this bar that you have to see it in the flesh.

Hope you enjoyed my whole topic of the week thing. I'll do it again soon, though maybe not this coming week. I gotta focus on my fiction this week...

PS. Everyone should celebrate Earth Hour tonight! I am!


keri mikulski :) said...

Thanks for posting, Stephanie. I enjoyed the stories. Reminded me of the 'regular' patients I met and got to know when I was a nurse.. Have a great weekend!

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Thanks Keri! And I didn't know you were a nurse, so is my mom. And my dayjob is actually at the UIC College of Nursing. I'd love to hear your nurse stories someday!

chris lempa said...

I like drinking beer with Stephanie and Scott at the Beacon.