There’s a notion still out there in Barland to me both flattering and downright baffling… that long held notion that barmen are shrinks and life counselors. You’ve heard of this, right? This thing where customers lay down their problems along with the price of a drink, and the bartender pours not just spirits but pearls of wisdom. We pour, we listen, we ponder (they say) with great deliberation, then lean in and guide the patron on the path to well being. Well, being that as it may, I don’t mean to be a myth buster here or to downgrade those who in earnest toil behind the stick, but are any of the following the Freud’s of which they speak?
The Actor: Now we all know the thespian who pours our drinks who is in the game for the short term, who uses the bar as his stage til The Great White Way calls. But though likable enough and fun to watch as he “Methods” his way through his shift, isn’t he more about hamming and jamming and checking his puss in the mirror, than one to be deemed what many might call august counsel? In other words, is this the guy you want to lean in and ask (after he’s just done De Niro’s “Are you lookin’ at me?” for the third time!!!), “I’ve been going through some pretty weird shit lately, man, whenever I stand in a bank line I feel like I’m gonna faint. What’s that about, Deke? Oh, and I dreamed this morning that Hitler invited me to tea. ” Does Deke have this covered?
The Gambler: Though I’m loath to report such a startling fact there are many in my profession who’ll put down a wager. Or two. On anything!!! Whether it’s ponies or football, baseball or hockey, boxing or whether the rain will fall by noon, the gambler has more conversations with his bookie than his customers. (Unless those customers have “inside stuff” he can use.) Yes, dividing his attention between ESPN and the phone on the wall or his cell phone, he barely has time to fill your glass let alone your head with good old fashioned horse sense. And you can always tell the gambling barman, just watch him as he watches the scores run across the TV screen. His mood swings will range from the zenith of joy to the nadir of utter despair in a matter of seconds. He can actually appear nuts!
So, that said, is this the guy who most likely can help when racked with fear and trepidation you ask most hopefully, “I’m thinking of switching careers, Lenny, after twenty five years on the job at State Farm. It’s with one of those boutique hedge fund outfits just three months old, but there’s the wife I haven’t told yet, three little kids still in school, and a balloon payment due on my next mortgage payment. Any ideas as to how I should tip-toe into this?” What are my odds that Lenny can nail this down?
The Lothario: You could be dying of thirst if this is your guy (let alone bereft of counsel) if there happens to be an attractive female in the house. For his only purpose in punching in is to punch some woman’s dance card… even more a priority than filling his tip cup. He’s the head lizard in a lounge full of crawlers who’s actually being paid to be that head lizard.
So in between winks and pecks on the cheeks and jotting down various phone numbers onto a bev nap, does one really want to break into that mess and ask this guy the answer to the following questions? (sotto voce) “I feel funny even saying this, Antonio, and it’s probably nothing, really… but last night I had a dream I was making love to my boss. And I’m married for Christ sake. And my boss is a guy!!! What the fuck is that about? Oh, and while I have your attention, what are your basic feelings on cap and trade?” Go get ’em. Antonio!
The Juggler: Now this is the clown who thinks his job is more about flipping bottles than actually emptying them. In the glass!!! For he once saw Tom Cruise in the movie “Cocktail”, found it a life altering moment, and after leaving the Barnum & Bailey Advanced School of Juggling, applied for the nearest job where spillage doesn’t count. In fact, so into “bartender-as-performer” is he, if they’d let him he’d wear a sequined shirt and leotards. So I ask you… in between flips and dips and whips do you really want to stop the show and say, “Sorry to stop the show, Zambini, and I know this is the big finish… the part where you light the drink and do a back flip… but after you manage to put out the fire could you please tell me how I can balance career and motherhood? Thanks, babe!” It’s all yours, Zambo!
Mt. Rushmore: Well we all know this guy, right? It’s the Iceman cometh… that miserable bastard who folds his arms, stares right past you into space, and responds to any of your requests like you’ve asked for a loan. This is the guy who hates his job, hates you for being a part of it, and will get to you and your drink when he damn well pleases. So again, using your basic instincts here, is it wise to ask this man, “Do you Feng Shui?”
And those are just some of the Bar-land “shrinks” whose antics to my way of thinking don’t rate the doctoral shingle, and of course there are more. Which now begs this question. Is there any kind of bartender out there to justify this long-held myth… some person behind the stick who can double as “shrink”? Well of course there is, silly. I charge forty five dollars an hour plus the price of a cocktail!
Over and out from the couch, see ya’ next week-end!
By the way, I did a post a while back called “A real flaming asshole” which covered the true antics of bartender-as-performer. (Click here) if you’re interested.