Confessions of a Bartender

Erik is out of the office this week, so we're reprinting a column from 2003, with a few updates to make it more current.

Dear Bar Patrons,

This letter is a little late in coming. About 25 years late. And for that, I apologize. In fact, I need to apologize for a lot of things. When I was your bartender at that tiny little bar in northern Indiana, there were things I said and did, or things I didn't say or do, that I should apologize for.

First, I’m sorry for not being a smoker. I know that’s a strange thing to apologize for, but when you’re literally the only non-smoker in an entire building full of half-drunk smokers, you tend to make people feel self-conscious. So I apologize if I made all of you feel uncomfortable by being concerned about my lungs and my overall health. I also apologize for any second-hand smoke lawsuits that show up at your house in the coming years.

I’m also sorry I called all of you a bunch of cheap, non-tipping jerks. A couple of you were actually quite generous. But to the rest of you, I’m sorry I didn’t make it clear that this was how I made my living or that I had a new family to support. I’m also sorry I didn’t try to better understand why you tipped our female bartender twice as much as you tipped me. So I hope you understand why, if you were flirting with someone else, I ratted you out to your spouses.

Walter, I especially hope that you accept my apologies. You told someone that you didn’t tip me because I was a guy and you were afraid people would think you were gay. In retrospect, signing you up for having subscriptions to "Out" and "Hot Young Men" magazines sent to your workplace was probably a little harsh. So was telling your co-workers you were seen frequenting several gay clubs.

Eddie, I’m sorry I yelled at you when I threw you out of the bar when you called your mistress the "b-word." You didn’t speak to me for two weeks afterward, so I obviously hurt your feelings by not letting you call your illicit lover a nasty word. At least that’s what your wife said when I explained the situation to her. The entire situation. (I'm serious about that tipping thing.)

For you Bud drinkers, I’m sorry I served you Bud Light when we ran out of Budweiser one night. It was wrong of me to believe that all of you had the sophisticated palate of a congested warthog. I mean, it's completely true, but I probably shouldn't have taken advantage of that fact.

I’m also sorry that I never told you about the switch, since you never actually realized I did it. And I feel bad that I continued to do it to see if you ever caught on. You didn't, and I never switched it back.

The fact that none of you did was no excuse for my continued experiment. You asked for Bud, you paid for Bud. The fact that you actually do have the taste of a congested warthog is no reason to perpetuate a six month hoax.

I also apologize for wanting to leave each night at 1:00 am. I know you were all having a good time every single night, and that it was wrong of me to want to do selfish things, like get some sleep before I went to my day job the next morning. I realize you had your own jobs, but if your bosses don’t mind you showing up half-drunk on three hours of sleep, who am I to call and tell them? Or call you at your homes at 5:00 in the morning and then hang up?

Abby, I’m sorry I called you a poor excuse of a boss behind your back several times a day. The fact that you were a nagging, mouth-breathing shrew is no excuse to tell everyone about it. I mean, they already knew, so it's not like this was breaking news, Also, writing it on your bathroom walls may have crossed a line.

I’m also sorry I poured a little extra alcohol for my favorite customers. I should never have let their friendliness and tipping generosity influence the fact that they were getting more than you wanted me to pour. Hey, if you tell me to short all the drinks after 11:00, who am I to expect that we treat our customers fairly? This was a frequent discussion I had with many of them, which may be why most of them started going to the bar down the street instead. But I can't actually be sure. I'm not a mind reader, you know.

In short, I'd like to send you good wishes to most of you and leave you with this old Irish toast: May you always have a clean shirt, a clear conscience, and enough coins in your pocket to buy a pint.

And for the rest of you cheap jerks, a few coins is all you'll ever tip with, so enjoy your "Budweiser."

Photo credit: U.K. Ministry of Information Photo Division Photographer (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

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