Bar of Luck
It was one of the lowest times. My marriage had failed, my husband never helped us or paid child support. The few jobs I found were short and paid next to nothing, so going on welfare was the only choice. My energy was low, but focusing on the kids and doing things that were free helped keep life 'normal'. We went for walks, a lot of them, and now and then had enough gas to go visit my Mother 40 miles away. I had no vision of any future and during times like that a person has to make the most of the moment and hope something comes along... because, something always comes along. What we do with it is up to us and decides our future.
My brother-in-law drove up one day, got out of the car, looked around at the low rent, next-to-the-river dump we were living in and said: "There is a job for you in your Mom's town, she has agreed to babysit while you work, there is a rent free place to live and we will all come here with our trucks to move you next weekend."
I have to say in deep gratitude to the positive energies around us, that moment saved my life. It opened the actual door to a future I did not envision or even knew existed. My goal in life had failed and I had never once thought what I would do with my life if my marriage did not work. I blame nature. I think a woman's hormonal nature almost forces her to seek a partnership. Maybe it's the natural urge to have children, I don't know. But when a woman talks to me about how she feels because the man she wants is not returning her love, I know exactly what she means. Learning to be a good productive individual, with or without a partner, is something to teach female children at an early age. Reality and nature do not always match.
But I got lucky. I did not know what the job was my brother-in-law had found for me, but at that moment I suddenly realized my future depended on me, no one else! It was like a light went on! My life is my life! For some reason everything finally made sense! And in retrospect it’s a very, very good thing my 'self' came into light at that moment because when I walked in to the job my brother-in-law had arranged it was apparent my future was dangling on the edge of disaster. It taught me the most important lesson of my life: Your life depends on You! And if nature gives you crap, plant a garden!
My brother-in-law was a quiet, loving, friendly, powerful man. He had been in special forces in the military, and had done things even he could never talk about. When his military time was over he came back home to the tiny, tiny town in the hills of the coast range mountains. Going from world wide travel and excitement back to that tiny town did not affect him a bit. He was strong and knew that he was capable of anything. Nothing bothered him. He went to work, he married my sister and got on with life.
He had told the old, tough, female owner of the large old bar in a tiny old town that he wanted her to hire me and teach me to tend bar. She did not want to, but had no choice, he was that influential. So the first time I walked into her place she stood there with her hands clenched together and an angry look on her face. She pointed at a door at the end of the bar. "I live in that room." she said. "I agreed to train you, but I expect things to go exactly how I want, and will watch everything you do!" I just stood there. The bar was mostly a big old dark dance floor with an ancient jukebox, a few tables here and there, and some stools at the bar. It was all old and dark and brown and smelled like an 80 year mix of booze, drunks, smoke, vomit and pee. I didn't care. I said: "I thank you, I will do my best."
There was a time I, like so many, would look down my nose at someone saying they were a bartender. For some reason people think of a woman who is in a bar around drunks for 8 hours must be trash to choose to be in a situation like that. It taught me that a person is often judged by those around them, and tending bar is one of the most challenging, informative, tricky occupations that ever existed. First of all the person behind the bar is sober and no one else is! Every moment of the shift is spent being sharply aware of everything that is going on around her, what is said, physical actions, how many drinks a person has had, or act like they have. She has to be friendly and welcoming but also must be considered the judge and jury of all actions of the people around her. She has to learn what to say and how to say it and when to seek help. I learned that most of the time a person who has had a drink is not the same person who walked in and ordered that drink. If she’s lucky, the lady bartender has help in some form such as a cocktail waitress, or a manager/owner who is also working, but in small towns with small bars, it’s usually just the bartender doing a job that I found totally amazing. It did not take me long to see that all of my talents would be put to work every hour behind that bar. Plus I had to learn HOW to mix drinks, how to greet people, what to allow and not allow. To say I was dumb was an understatement. I had lived my 24 years doing as I was told while taking care of someone, but never in charge of anything, never in a dark room where I had to be sharp as a tack using all my instincts to create an order given by a person who was totally unpredictable. I loved the challenge. I learned I was a lot smarter and sharper than I knew. I learned that all of those in my family were wrong; there was nothing stupid about me.
Several months later I had learned a great deal. The main thing I learned was a room full of drunk loggers and truck drivers was not always a lot of fun. Most of them were nice people, and in a small town like this one, everyone knew just about everything about everyone, so any secrets that came out in the bar had to be kept in the bar. I knew things about people that no one else knew! It took me a while to figure out this was why all regular customers were always so nice to me when met in different circumstances, such as in the (one) grocery store with their wife! Instead of feeling like a low life, I felt power and confidence. And a bit bored, and tied down. I felt I had a ‘trade’ now and maybe it was time to get on the road, find my own little town, start a life of my choosing for the first time ever. When I told the owner that I was considering moving, she said: “Well, don’t look for a job as a bartender, you will never be a good one!” She was finally out from under the obligation to my brother-in-law. She had done as she was ordered.
How I got to my small, lovely coastal town is another story, but once there I put in an application as a bartender and waitress in one place. A few days later there was a knock at my door, and the man standing there said: “Word is out that you are looking for a job”.. I was amazed! I nodded my head. He said: “ I manage the country club and need a good worker, when can you start?” I said: “Tomorrow”. And that was the beginning of the most wonderful 15 years I ever had. I turned out to be a super good bartender, I learned to get along with just about anyone in just about any situation. I met people that turned into life-long friends. The schools were high quality and the kids turned out wonderful. And to the old bar owner who had gone ahead and took me in as a student, you were wrong! This super good bartender turned out to be the assistant manager of a country club! Maybe she learned we can not always judge any book by it’s odd looking, inexperienced cover!
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