Tales from Behind the Bar (Part 1)

I’ve been in the service industry for ten years.  I have to admit, I get cheekeir and less patient as the years go on.  The things that I used to let slide I speak up against now.  And while it’s a good job most of the time (or why else would I do it?), there are still moments that shock me, fluster me, and surprise me.  Here’s just a handful of stores from my side of the bar.


A ton of people come into my bar all at once.  I run around pouring beer and ringing in sales.  When the rush dies down, I use the lull to close out the tabs that have been signed for.  As I run through the credit card receipts and adjust the tips, I find one that stands out.  There are words where there should be numbers; in the tip line.  I flatten out the paper and read my tip.  “Sorry, I’m broke.”


A skinny white dude walks into my bar.  He orders a whisky coke.  After I give it to him and he pays, he says, “Hey, do you have any of those little umbrellas?”

“No…” I say.

“Oh.”  He looks disappointed.  Then he brightens.  “How about one of those little swords?”

“No.  This is a sports bar, not a tiki bar.  Sorry.”

He nods sadly and walks away.


Not too many people walk into my bar, because it’s a lazy Saturday afternoon.  I pace and drink water, willing myself to have to pee so I can get a change of scenery for a minute or two.  I hit the bathroom and take the stall beside the handicapped stall.  I hear grunting beside me and wrinkle my nose in disgust.  Someone is constipated.  I look at the feet in the stall next to me and see large tennis shoes with saggy jeans layered around the ankles.  More grunting continues.  I quickly finish and stand up to flush, and that’s when I notice a second pair of feet: painted pink toenails with strappy gold sandals that face the other direction- towards the back of the toilet.

I quickly wash my hands and run out of the bathroom.  I go to one of the bouncers and say, “Someone is having sex in the women’s bathroom!”

He takes a step towards the bathroom then stops and turns.  “What am I supposed to do about that?”

I  laugh.  “I don’t know, I just had to tell someone.”

“Tell someone what?”  My coworker asks, hearing the tail end of our talk.

“Some couple is having sex in the bathroom!”

She laughs and tells another coworker, who tells his friends at the bar, who spread it down the row of patrons so that everyone knows what’s going on.

Minutes later, the couple emerges holding hands, and the bar erupts in applause.  The girl hangs her head and picks up her pace, while the guy grins and follows her out the door.


A man from Alabama walks into my bar.  After I make him a drink, we start chatting.  “Are you from here?”  He asks.

“Yep, born and raised,” I reply.

“Like it?”

“Love it.”

“Hm.  I don’t know about Milwaukee…” he begins, brow furrowed.  “There’s a lot of, you know… men holding hands with other men here.”

“Yeah, we’re a pretty liberal city.  Not a lot of bigots either.  Which is yet another reason why I love it.”


A large group of coworkers come into my restaurant.  They take up half the tables in the dining room, while other patrons sit in twos and fours at the other tables.  As the work-group begins eating their deserts, one of the men pulls out a guitar.  He stands, setting one foot on his chair so as to balance his guitar on his knee.  And then he begins to jam.  He belts out some 90’s rock for the last 30 minutes of his group’s dining experience.  Occasionally some of his coworkers join in, but the rest of them, I believe, wondered why somebody thought it was appropriate to bring a guitar to a steakhouse.


Two black women walk into my bar with a little girl.  I make a point to serve them before the white man who walked up to the bar alone, because I follow the principles of ‘ladies first.’

“What can I get for you?”  I asked

“I want a shot of somethin’ white.”

“Clear, or white?”  I ask.


“Like Rum Chata?”

“No.  White like vodka, or Ciroc, or gin…”

“Okay, you want me to make something up?  Do you want a chilled shot?”

“I want a shot of Absolut.”

“Me too,” says her friend.

“And orange juice for her,” the first woman adds, pointing at the little girl.  I serve them, run the credit card, and am not surprised when they don’t tip.

I turn to take care of them man.  He orders several drinks for his friends and I get to work, muddling, mixing and shaking.  As I pour, the little girl leans across the bar and reaches for the complementary wasabi peanuts.

“Those are hot!”  I warn her.

She pulls her hand away.

After the man takes his drinks and leaves, the first woman waves me over.  “Why did you tell HIM that those were hot and not US.”  She says it pointedly as though she wants me to know she thinks I’m racist.

“I didn’t tell him, I told your little girl,” I said.

“Well.  I didn’t know they were hot and I ate one.”

“I’ve been a little busy and didn’t see you grab for it.  I try to warn everyone who reaches for them, but I especially try to tell kids.  Most children don’t like spicy things and I didn’t want your little girl to hurt her mouth.”

I grab some clean dishes and walk to the back to put them away.  When I return to the bar, the women are gone, and I see they’ve tipped the jar of nuts upside-down, scattering wasabi peanuts across the bar for me to clean up.


Two older couples come into my bar.  One woman is wasted and I learn that it’s her birthday (65th or so by the looks of it).  Her husband’s shoulders sag with relief when she drinks the water I give her instead of ordering a drink like the rest of them.

After she slams a few waters, she eyes up the bottles on the shelves behind me.  “How much for a shot of Jameson?”

“Five dollars.”

“I work at a bar in Kenosha.  We have Jameson there and we charge two dollars a shot.”

“Wow,” I say.

“Yeah.  So what can you do for me?”

I blink.  “Jameson is five dollars a shot.”

“I’ll give you four,” she says.

“Sorry.  This is a bar, not a flea market,” I say.

Her husband laughs, but she just crosses her arms and turns away.


A musician walks into my bar.  Without taking his eyes off the hot brunette beside him, he orders a tap of Belgian beer.  I pour it and set it down in front of him.

“That’s $7.50,” I tell him.

He doesn’t turn.

I clear my throat and repeat myself.  “Sir, it’s $7.50 for the beer.”

He glances at me and says, “I’m the band.”

Before he can turn his attention back to the girl, I start talking loudly and brightly.  “ARE YOU!? AWESOME!  You actually can drink free domestic taps all night!  We have Miller Lite and Bud Lite.  Let me know anytime you want one.  But this is $7.50.”

He lazily opens his wallet, and I nosily peer inside.  I can see piles of bills.  He pulls one out.  “Can you break a hundred?”

I nod.  I take it to the register and return with his change, counting it out in front of him.  “$92.50,” I say.

He takes all his change back, tipping nothing.


A drunk dude walks into my bar and slurs at me.  It takes a few tries before I realize he’s asking where the bathroom is.  I point to the back of the bar, and watch him stagger away.

Minutes later he returns.  He’s standing near the bar entrance, right beside me as I add soda to the cocktail I’ve just made.

“Wann-see sometheen?”  He says to me.

“What?”  I ask, trying to decipher his language.

He steps around the corner- into bartender territory, and starts to release his grip on his belt.  I notice that he hasn’t zipped or buckled, and that his pants are going down fast.  I screech and run the other way, grabbing my male coworker by his shoulder.

“Please deal with that!” I say, pointing behind me.


Several middle aged people walk into my bar.  The women all order food, and I run back to make it, leaving the other bartender in charge of drinks.  The kitchen is out of pizza, so I zip out to our backup food fridge, and return to the bar.  As I step back behind the bar, I see that one of the women is really close to the garnish bin.  I realize that she has taken the lid off the cherry jar and has been reaching inside with her hand, fishing out maraschino cherries.

Stunned, I loudly ask, “MAY I HELP YOU!”

She jumps, busted.  She’s been caught red and sticky handed.  “I wanted cherries,” she mumbles.  She inches away from me and into her circle of friends, as if they’ll make her disappear.

Very carefully and obviously, I grab an empty cup and a spoon.  I scoop out the remaining cherries into the cup.  “MA’AM!  MA’AM!” I say.  She turns.  “HERE’S SOME CHERRIES.  ENJOY.”  She takes the cup from me and starts eating.

I walk to the back, shocked that a full grown woman could be such a child.  I start cooking their food.

My coworker comes back moments later.  “What just happened?”

“That old ass bitch was fishing around in the cherry jar with her bare hand!  I gave her all the cherries in fake-politeness.”

“Oh.  She doesn’t like you.”

“Well I don’t like her!”

“She says you’re giving her anxiety.”

“She’s giving me fucking anxiety!  You deal with them from here on out.  I’m done with them.”


to be continued…


1 Comment

Filed under Milwaukee

One response to “Tales from Behind the Bar (Part 1)

  1. Awesome stuff 🙂 My wife and I met you at the hotel bar last weekend (We have a new venue eMbers in Indiana). You were a joy to talk to. Best wishes and look forward to more Tales from Behind the Bar…

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