Dearest Stephanie,

I am really super mad!

Again.

Still.

This thing happened a while ago, and even though I realize I should let it go, that it’s not a reflection on me (except for maybe it is a little bit), I’m still very angry! See?

😡

And I would like to vent. (Again. Tee hee.)

As I’ve mentioned to you, Asian-Fusion Two was sold, and a new restaurant opened in its place. So Boo and I went to check it out.  Wouldn’t you know it? All the douchebags who so vexed me when I bartended in that same little bar had reconvened.

They recognized and greeted me when I walked in, and you’d think my chilly “oh, hey” would have put them off. You’d think the way I stood as far away from them as possible would communicate to them, I’m not in any way thrilled to see you. Nor do I wish to engage in conversation with you. Apparently, it doesn’t pay to be passive-aggressive.

Because a short while later, I went to the bar to order some food, but because it was so busy, I had to stand there behind thedouchbags while I waited for the bartender (which I totally understand and am sympathetic to, by the way).

Douchebag #1 (turns to Douchbag #2): That woman behind you, she really wants you.

Me (in a loud, authoritative voice that simultaneously expresses shock, offendedness, and disgust): No, I really, emphatically do not.

Douchebag #2: Don’t say that!

Me: I have to say it. I don’t want there to be any confusion.

Douchebag #1 says something, which I can’t remember, and I tell him, “That’s really just so disrespectful.”

The weird thing is that I was kind of consumed with rage. Ha! My disproportionate reaction was almost funny, except that I was really, really mad! How many times do I have to say it, fucktards?

I am not your midlife crisis plaything!

I’m all, Really? You really think you can have this? Because you totally can’t!!! Even though my rational side tells me it has nothing to do with whether or not they actually believe I’m there for the taking. I think what really grosses me out is that they think I am in some way receptive to being co-opted in this kind of banter. Hello out there! I may not be!

I loved when you figured out why corporations love you—it’s your eagerness to please, you theorized. I loved this because it totally provided me insight into my own experience.

Middle-aged men, I think I’ve figured out, love me for the same reason corporations love you. They labor under the delusion that I’m eager to please. Well, for a long time, it wasn’t totally a delusion. I used to be that way, but then I started thinking about it, and I was like, what the fuck?

Clearly, there’s something in my appearance that cries out, “I am pliable and agreeable! I will attempt to meet your every need! I am so sweet, you will need to visit the dentist after spending some time speaking at me! And while we’re on the subject, please tell me your problems! I really, really want to hear them!”

At Starbucks, I’m the first person the middle-aged man looking for a seat will approach. Never mind that empty seats abound. He will inevitably come to my table, where I have engaged a spare chair to prop up my feet, and he will ask me, “Are you using this chair?”

Well, let’s see. My feet are on it, so I think it’s fairly obvious that, yes, I am using it.

But of course I will surrender the chair. I do not point out that there are lots of other empty chairs because I’m not enough of an asshole.

Yet.

The most I can do is look annoyed and surly at being disturbed (even though I’ve already said it doesn’t pay to be passive-aggressive!), which takes the man by surprise pretty much every time so that he wordlessly removes the chair.

As a bartender, I obsess over the way people seem to single me out to take shit. I mean, it drives me crazy! The class of men who sit at the bar and look at me like the leopards at the zoo look at visitors on the other side of the chain-link fence? Aggravating!

“You look so vulnerable and consumable,” the leopards are thinking, and you know they’re thinking this. It’s all telegraphed in their intense stares, in the way they huddle together as if they’re plotting some sort of break out. “You’d just love to be our next meal. You know you do.”

Even when they’re gorging on the raw meat their trainers throw at them (or, in bar terms, sitting at the bar with their wives or girlfriends), they look over at you, blood dripping down their hairy chins. “We would like to devour you. Yum. Yum. You would be so much tastier than this, but alas, the chain-link fence…”

Sometimes, it’s hard for me to come up with the perfectly witty yet slightly cutting response because I’m so distracted by being skeeved out. For emergencies of this kind, I’ve collected a handful of essential, all-purpose phrases, which I will now share with you:

“Haha”

“I don’t know about that”

“Oh, now” or “Oh, you”

“Oh really?”

“Huh” (not to be confused with “Huh?”)

You’re wondering how I put it all together, aren’t you? You’re thinking, Stella, I don’t see how these will all work together. Will you show me?

Of course, love!

Scene: Your bar right around closing time.

Customer: I’m going to Other Bar.

You (having turned your back to do important things with your computer): Oh, really?

Customer (while looking directly at you): Who wants to go to Other Bar?

You (glancing at him over your shoulder): Haha

Customer: What time do you get off?

You (still attending to your oh-so-important computer): Oh, now.

Customer: Come to Other Bar with me.

You (punching away on your beloved computer): I don’t know about that!

Customer: You wanna come to Other Bar with me?

You (leaving the bar area to do important things somewhere else in the restaurant): Haha. No. Thanks though!

Customer slinks off.

I feel like I really accomplished something here. I feel like I’ve been really potentially useful to you, and that feels really satisfying, you know? Being helpful makes me smile! See?

🙂

I feel so much better now!

Love,

Stella

Advertisements

The best of the bar

April 8, 2010

My dearest Stephanie,

Four seemingly unrelated tidbits…in short order (patience, my pet!), you will know how they are all connected.

Part I

Before Ruben left for Columbia, he worked as a server at a Spanish tapas restaurant, and I’d head over to Spanish Tapas to see him after I finished my shift. Usually, I’d be finished by 10, and he’d be finished by around 11. Just enough time for me to lounge at the bar with an after-work cocktail while he closed out. After, we’d go to a diner for chocolate chip pancakes (me) and an omelet with potatoes (him).  Then around 2am, I’d get a text from him: “omg…I just shit my brains out!!! Fucking potatoes are haunting me!”

TMI, Ruben, TMI.

But anyway. It was as I wiled away my time waiting for Ruben that I got to know Joe, Spanish Tapas’ bartender. He’s funny because he will be a total asshole to whomever but then he can be profoundly sweet, and I so deeply admire that ability to do both well. I aspire to it! Plus, he’s a really good bartender—he knows how to flatter without being scummy, and he’s so chatty. The cherry on the sundae is that he makes this awesome martini with amaretto in it.

For all of these reasons, I still go by to visit him—alone or with friends—even though Ruben is far, far away now.

Part II

I ate a fuckload at my parents’ Easter gathering. Plus, I had a Tangueray and tonic, and I think Tangueray does not do me right. So on Monday, I had the worst stomachache ever, so to make myself feel better, I decided to get a pedicure on Monday. Right when I walked through the salon’s doors, I ran into a mom I know for whom I’m doing website copy (she’s an interior designer). We chatted briefly about her business, how committed she is to eco-friendly design, how committed she is to living her values through her work. I felt all over again how satisfying it is to give a language to a client whose work I value.

Part III

I was re-reading But Enough About Me for inspiration because Jancee Dunn, the author, has intersecting chapters that I thought might be relevant to our project.

I love Enough About Me because it’s laugh-out-loud funny and because she’s sort of a shy person who somehow manages to make her most outrageous dream come true: she becomes a reporter at Rolling Stone and gets to interview lots of famous people.

Synthesis

It was as I was driving home from my pedicure that I began to ponder this whole “making your dreams come true” business, courtesy of Jancee Dunn and my mom client. Who are these people who can make things happen? Also, what happens if your dreams change over time, and all the time you spend making the previous dream come true now is relegated to memory, and you’ve got to figure out how to make the next set of dreams come true?

If I hadn’t eaten so much at Easter, I probably wouldn’t have gone to get that pedicure as a way of making myself feel better, and then I wouldn’t have run into my mom client. Then, I wouldn’t be thinking about what I’m thinking about now, which is how I had told my manager at Asian-Fusion (when he told me I needed to flirt more to bring in more customers) that I know a lot of moms, and I could get the mom crowd in here.

“That’s not what we want here,” the manager had said in his typical cryptic fashion. I cannot tell you how often, after a conversation with him, I’d sympathize with those ancient Greek’s who had to decipher the Delphic Oracle.

As I turned left onto my street (pedicure complete), it hit me. I realized what he had meant: moms weren’t the desirable clientele because moms have meaningful things to do with their lives—namely raise their children. Moms are not going to come in night after night in search of bottomless Bombay Sapphire martinis then order one course after another so they look as if they’re hungry. They’re eating! They’re not out to drink their stress and problems away night after night.

What my manager had meant to say is that a bar wants lonely people, people who are searching for something but don’t know how to find it, people who want to be distracted. In his view, moms won’t be fooled like that. And even if they are lonely (which, let’s face it, they certainly can be), they are busy people with time issues and commitments.

What we can learn from this

On Saturday evening, when I had no plans other than to work on my chapter outline and summaries, I was going to sit at Starbucks (also known as “my office”), but then I thought how I’d get better food at Spanish Tapas, plus Joe bartends Saturday nights, so I could also get some conversation. And wouldn’t a tasty martini loosen me up a bit? What better place to write about bartending than while sitting in a bar?

I was sitting with my elbows on the bar, fingers interlaced forming a cozing little bed for my chin, and I was staring at the gin selection wishing I could make a bottle of Hendrick’s magically appear. Of course I couldn’t. I’ve learned my lesson: I cannot control the material world with my thoughts.

“You’re brain’s just always going, isn’t it?” Joe asked me (rhetorically) as he uncorked a bottle of wine.

“Mmmm, pretty much,” I replied regarding him thoughtfully. “That’s what I loved about bartending. It demanded so much physical exertion and concentration. It was like taking a vacation from my brain.”

He nodded vigorously as he twisted away on the cork.

I sometimes feel lonely, but I have a lot of meaningful activities and people in my life. I stopped at one course, one drink, and I enjoyed breaking up my work with fun chit-chat with a good conversationalist.

This is the best of bar life—providing an outlet but not a substitute for meaning. That was a scene I enjoyed presiding over, and it’s what I do very much miss about bartending.

Love,

Stella

How to tip like a rock star

February 19, 2010

My dearest Stephanie,

A priest and a douchebag walk into a bar. My bar, to be exact. I’ll talk about the douchebag and his boorishly douchey behavior another time. For today, we’re going to focus on the priest and assorted related implications.

The priest orders hot tea and an appetizer, both of which he receives in a timely manner due to the excellent customer service I, the bartender, provide. We’re talking quality all the way. Needless to say.

Eventually, he asks for his check, which he also receives in a timely manner despite the fact that it’s incredibly busy and his freaky douchebag friend keeps distracting me with creepy questions like, “Do you live alone?” (Next time, I’ll tell you what I said in response!)

After opening the check wallet, he looks up at me incredulously and asks, “Did you charge me for the tea?” even though he knows I charged him for the tea because he’s looking right at the receipt. Line one clearly reads: TEA $2.50.

I hate stupid rhetorical questions.

“Uh huh,” I say, all wide-eyed and confused. Of course I charged you for the tea. You ordered and subsequently drank it, didn’t you? Don’t bother answering. It’s a rhetorical question!

This may come as a shock to you, Stephanie, but I do not in fact set the prices at my place of employ. Nor do I decide what customers will and won’t be charged for. For example, I’m permitted to provide crunchy noodles and duck sauce to my customers free of charge. This also applies to peanuts. I am, however, supposed to charge for tea.

So I did.

“I can’t believe you charged me for the tea!” he says. “I’ve never been charged for tea before.”

I shrug. It’s $2.50. Suck it up.

“We always charge for tea. That’s why there’s a button on the computer for it,” I explain. “If you have concerns about that, I’d be happy to get a manager for you.”

I always say this to customers who have complaints because my attitude is that they need to own their dissatisfaction not passive-aggressively take it out on someone who is powerless to change the situation, i.e. me. Recently, when a couple complained about how one of their dishes was prepared and told me they weren’t going to eat it, I removed the plate, told a manager, and he deleted the item from their tab. This requires a password, by the way, which I do not have access to.

But of course the priest doesn’t want to speak to the manager. Why speak to the manager when he can express his displeasure by fucking over the bartender, which requires less effort and has a predictable outcome? Passive-aggression is so much easier. That’s why it’s so popular!

I go to the manager anyway.

“Do you know that guy?” I ask him. “Because he’s kicking up a fuss about the fact that I charged him for his tea.”

“We always charge for tea,” says the manager.

“I’m aware of that,” I reply. “But he doesn’t seem to be.”

“Well I’ve never seen him here before, so…” He trails off meaningfully. Meaning: this guy is full of shit, most likely, and he’s not aware that we charge for tea because he’s no kind of regular here.

I return to my post behind the bar and continue going about my business, meaning I run the priest’s credit card and return the check wallet to him. The priest and the douchebag huddle over the credit card receipt and engage in muffled conversation.

After they leave, I open the check wallet to close out the transaction. Of course, the tip column has a line running through it. I wasn’t surprised. Are you? What’s happened is that the priest paid for his tea with the money he would otherwise have left me as a tip. Another way of saying this: He used my tip to pay for his tea.

The priest probably felt pretty good about himself. Maybe he even felt holy. In his not-so-humble opinion, he probably felt like he made an important point. It’s the principle of the thing! Honestly, I’m not crying over it. It’s $2.50. I can suck it up. I’m well aware that the priest is a self-righteous ignoramus. And that, really, is the point of my story.

What the priest doesn’t know and probably wouldn’t care if he did know is that his antics cost me money, and I’m not referring to the fact that he treated himself to tea on my tip. I tip out the runners based on my food sales, so they get a cut of my sales whether I get tipped or not. And The Government? It’s got Its greedy little paws all over my sales total too. When It sees a line through the tip column, It does not assume a priest stiffed me. It assumes I received a hefty cash tip. Or at least two dollars.

So in addition to paying the runners out of my own pocket, I also paid taxes on at least two dollars that I never made.

Once again, I didn’t sweat it because, really, on a piddly little tab like the priest’s (I believe the total was $11 and change), the difference doesn’t cost me all that much. Certainly not enough to let it spoil my night. But what about my friend Jade, who was stiffed on a $125 tab by two upper-middle class women driving luxury cars because they were offended by the price of the wine and so decided to tip Jade based on what they thought would have been a reasonable sales total?

I was there that night, and the two women were livid that they paid $14 per glass from a bottle they could have purchased at a liquor store for $12. Of course, my question is, Why not stay home then? Go to the liquor store, buy your bottle of wine, and save us all the aggravation. I suggested they complain to the manager or owner (who happened to be on the premises) if they were that angry. But like my buddy the priest, they took the coward’s route—they took it out on the bartender.

“She doesn’t set the prices, you know,” I told them because I was sitting next to them, and their whining was pissing me off.

“I know that, but $14!” one of them said. “I’m not cheap. I have money, but I mean…”

But nothing, bitch! Guess what? You leave a shitty tip, and the owner still profits on the wild mark-up. He still gets his money. The Government isn’t interested in how you feel. Jade still has to pay her taxes on her actual sales total not your imagined one, and she still has to tip out her runners based on that actual sales total. But hey, congratulations! You just took money out of the pocket of the person who can probably least afford it. Hope you sleep well tonight on your 5000-thread count sheets.

In case you didn’t catch it, allow me to be explicit. The key phrase here is

Sales Total.

The government taxes you based on presumed tips as a percentage of your sales total. It knows your sales total because these numbers are carefully documented. So even if you try to hide your tips, The Government can do the math, and It wants Its money. After all, It’s got a ghastly spending habit and absolutely no scruples whatsoever.

If you don’t believe me, check out this blatant lie from the IRS’s ever-so-handy “Tipping Guide.” I don’t know about you, but I know I’m gratified to know that, according to the IRS, “Tip Reporting may increase your social security credits resulting in greater social security and Medicare benefits when you retire.” Obviously we all know we’re not going to see a red cent of that money. But let’s stay focused.

If you want to tip like a rock star—and I know you do—tip 20% of your sales total. Forget what the Ms Manners of the world tell you about “a dollar per drink” or “quality of service.” If you don’t want to pay $17 for a glass of wine ($14 + $3 tip), there’s always your friendly neighborhood liquor store. If the service is not up to your standard, ask yourself if the service was so bad that the server should pay for it. Really. Like, literally.

Otherwise, 20% on the sales total is not only the standard but how the server or bartender can actually make a living.

Love,

Stella

Bullshit 102

August 18, 2009

Dear Stephanie,

What an excellent job you’ve done putting your high IQ and PhD to work for you practicing the fine art of bullshitting! I will be sure to remember these useful tips if and when I next find myself interviewing for bartending jobs!

As a way to return the favor, I’d like to take up a secondary definition of bullshit, namely that of the so we were sitting around bullshitting variety.

As you commence your new job, you may find that some days are busier than others. Non-busy days pose quite a challenge, financial and otherwise, and here’s where bullshitting comes in handy. What you don’t want is to find yourself standing around with nothing to do because, as the bartender who trained me said (though he does not himself practice this), “If you can lean, you can clean.”

As satisfying as it can be to wipe down every last surface in the bar—I hate grabbing a bottle and discovering that it actually sticks to my hand—you in particular will find the perpetual Windex-ing sickening.

Literally.

So some things you can do instead include:

I. Ask the servers to bring you crunchy noodles and duck sauce from the take-out station in the kitchen (or, if your establishment does not have crunchy noodles and duck sauce or a take-out station, ask for pretzels, chips, nuts—really any snack will do). Remember to ask nicely. I recommend cocking your head to one side, batting your eyelashes, and smiling sweetly. Throw in a “pretty please” for good measure.

Next, invite the servers to partake of the snacks with you. Hunch over the little bowl and shovel them down your gullets. No need to talk, just gorge together. It builds community.

Now there’s a pretty sight for customers to witness, if you had any.

II. Slip out from behind the bar, and head for the bowl of fortune cookies at the front entrance. Grab a few fistfuls, and distribute to the servers. Finally, compare fortunes together. Some recent goodies:

A short saying oft contains much wisdom.

(Is it possible for a fortune cookie to be self-reflective and self-aggrandizing? I’m experiencing a “meta-cognitive” moment here.)

First learn to “give” and then the universe will reward you.

(Super. I’m still fucking waiting…)

A love relationship takes on an added dimension.

(Like, what kind of dimension? Something freaky would be cool.)

As a side-note, if your establishment does not have fortune cookies on the premises, you may choose to bring them with you. You may be able to find them in the “Asian” section of your local supermarket.

Also, bringing some sort of chocolate treat—m&ms work well—for your servers will, with minimal expense, endear them to you. Pour said snacks into a rocks glass, and set them somewhere your servers can reach them easily. Then keep a private stash for yourself because you can be sure the servers will make those snacks disappear in the amount of time it takes you to whip up a single Cosmo. I’m just sayin’.

III. When a runner delivers three small bottles of grapefruit juice in a brown paper bag (these can also be obtained from the take-out station in the kitchen or, again, at your local supermarket), turn the paper bag into a puppet. As an additional community-building exercise, invite the servers to decorate the puppet with you. You can even use the blade from your wine key to cut out “button holes,” then draw squiggly lines around them, for added decorative detail.

“Feed” the puppet crunchy noodles (or whatever snack you have handy, perhaps from the garnish tray), and offer it a sip of your diet coke or, in your case, water.

The puppet may also enjoy singing along to the “music” or even dancing a little.

Using the puppet to provide verbal support to the servers is also encouraged. Anyone worth bullshitting with loves a sense of humor. “Don’t you worry, Bri Bri. By 7:30, the dining room is gonna be packed. The puppet knows!”

IV. Speaking of the garnish tray, when you have exhausted all other snack options, it can make for an excellent buffet. Just try to avoid blatant health code violations, like picking through the maraschino cherries to find “a good one.” I recommend a trick I learned from Bri Bri: use the wooden drink sticks as mini-chopsticks. It’s fun and health-code friendly. But if you have trouble with this, you can just use the drink sticks to spear the garnish of your choice. You will need to keep the big jar of olives close  by, as you will be doing a lot of refilling.

V. Take frequent smoke breaks. Well, maybe not you.

VI. Hunch over the menu that you’re supposed to be memorizing. Furrow your brow, and purse your lips so that you look focused and studious. Looking mildly troubled also helps as this is the precise state-of-mind management hopes to invoke in you. Owners trouble management, and management troubles bartenders and servers.

It’s the Circle of Life.

I mean, no one wants to pay someone just to stand around bullshitting.

By the way, this strategy should seem familiar to you, as we practiced it while instructors at Fancy U, for example, when we were hunched over what appeared to be notes on Serious Intellectual Work when in fact what we were actually hunched over were crude drawings of poo with smell lines emanating from them.

Now, as then, avoid giggling maniacally as this will draw attention to the fact that you are no closer to having discerned how to inspire 18-year olds to write essays of profound beauty and import. Nor are you any closer to having memorized the exact ingredients in a Komodo roll, Singapore rice noodles, or the Dim Sum Platter (it would help if management itself knew the precise ingredients, but, as they have told you, they don’t serve these dishes to customers, so…).

Oh yeah, and try to avoid ruminating on life’s many petty injustices as this will get you no closer to memorizing anything.

VII. Spend your time hunched over the menu deciding what to have for dinner. Think it over carefully. Do you really want the Sesame Chicken? It’s delicious but contains mucho sugar. And yes, the Vegetarian Fried Wontons never disappoint, but you know what fried food does to you. I recommend the sushi. Not only is it light and cost-effective, but it provides an additional source of entertainment as you can watch the Sushi Chef prepare it, or, as the case may be, not prepare it because for some reason, he thinks it’s more important to eat the shit dinner provided by the kitchen than to make your sushi.

In such a case, you are permitted to amuse yourself by directing an inner monologue at him:

Make my dragon roll, motherfucker. Make it. Make it now! Oh sure, you’ll get off your ass to make a rainbow roll for Table 14, but what about my motherfucking dragon roll? What?! Are you fucking kidding me? You’re gonna go back to eating those fucking chicken feet—CHICKEN FUCKING FEET, I KID YOU NOT!—instead of making my dragon roll? What the fuck? I’m HUNGRY, motherfucker. I want it now! Maaaake iiiiiit!

Inner monologues are cathartic and will free you up to smile gratefully when he finally presents you with your yummy delicious sushi. Eat up!

If your establishment doesn’t serve sushi, well, I’m sorry. I can’t help you.

VIII. Stare at the front door, and imagine your soul mate walking through it. Don’t be picky. For the looks department, my recommendations include

a) Michael Vick (I know, I know, the dog fighting thing is horrifying beyond words, but he did his time, confessed his wrongdoings—and isn’t a man most appealing when he can admit he’s wrong?—and he so very, very beautiful)

b) Bradley Cooper, preferably in the all-black ensemble he wears in Hangover because then you can invite him to join you behind the bar as a guest bartender

c) That Japanese film student from four years ago, the one who, when asked to discuss an editorial, commented that it reminded him of a poem, while you gazed adoringly at him, in an appropriate teacherly-way of course…oh wait, or was that me?

I realize your recommendations may be completely different. Feel free to substitute as necessary.

IX. Concoct new recipes for inclusion on the Specialty Drinks menu. This is most highly recommended when you have friends coming to visit you as you can provide them with free drinks while seeming to be serving the needs of The House. If management is hovering over you, don’t forget to say, “Would you like to sample some potential new cocktails?”

As an added bonus, you too can get a little tipsy. And, as always, don’t forget to include your servers!

Love,

Stella

Dear Stella,

Today I had my second interview at Hotel Bar in Pittsburgh. Already, I’m suspicious. Neither the blonde perky human resource of the first interview, nor the soft-spoken female manager of the second emphasized how dispensable I am, how grateful I should be that I made it to round two, or that I am, basically, the smelliest, most insubstantial piece of poo.

The second woman even gave me hints about what they will ask me in the third and final interview, as if she were helping me and trying to put me at ease! “Nothing to worry about,” she said, “I know it can be nerve wracking having three people staring at you, but it’ll be easy.”

What a freak!

There are other suspicious signs, like the fact that this job’s hourly wage is more than any other bartending job I’ve encountered. Rather than the usual $4.15 an hour, this job starts at $7 something an hour, and in a few months, rises to $9 an hour! And—brace yourself—I’D GET TO KEEP MY OWN TIPS.

Unlike the two months training at The All American, training at Hotel Bar would be 3-5 days tops, then I’m good to go.

I can only imagine the sinister powers at work in this establishment…

love,
Stephanie

My dearest Stephanie,

Yesterday, Cranky cursed out the manager and quit. Just like that. The cause? Well, he’s not the happiest camper on the block. But there’s another reason.

The manager told us that he’s going to be quizzing us on the food menu–all 200 items (now there’s a familiar number)–and if we fail three times, we’ll have shifts taken away.

I was not happy to hear this news either, needless to say. Partly because I’m just so bad at memorizing out of context, and I don’t deal with the food often enough to remember how each dish is prepared. But also because I felt an immediate sense of injustice that my livelihood should be taken away when I am not a server. I am the bartender. It put me in a mind to quit too.

“I can’t have you out on the floor,” the manager said, “not knowing the menu.”

“But I’m not on the floor. I’m behind the bar,” I protested.

To no avail.

“I think it would be self-defeating to take shifts away from me,” I told him at the end of the night. “I bring in customers because I provide good customer service. And I’m hard-working and trustworthy.”

“I could replace you,” he said.

“You could,” I conceded. “But why would you want to when you don’t need to?”

I understand the need for everyone to know the menu, I really do. On its face, the request isn’t unreasonable. But I do think it sucks to terrorize your employees and threaten to take away their livelihood. On the other hand, the threat has stepped up my efforts to learn the menu. So I guess he’s on to something, right?

Still, I hate the fact that the “tear you down” approach has encroached upon what was such a nice and pleasant working environment.

I’d love to write more, but I gotta go memorize what’s in a momji roll.

Love,

Stella

Dear Stephanie,

Have you ever seen the leopards at the Bronx Zoo? They pace feverishly back and forth behind what, to my eye, appears to be a very flimsy chain link fence. I took my little boy to see them when he was a baby, and this one leopard kept looking at us. You could tell he or she was thinking, “Damn, that’s some succulent looking, tasty human. Mmmmm.” Even when the trainers threw the leopards big hunks of raw meat, and they were breathlessly devouring them, that one leopard kept gazing at us longingly, raw, bloody meat dripping down its bloody chin.

I just tightened my grip on the baby while I eyed the chain link fence nervously thinking, that shit’s gonna hold, right?

I pace the length of the bar pretty feverishly myself sometimes, but instead of being the hunter, I often feel like the hunted.

I have a confession to make. One of the things I like about my new profession is that I don’t have to hide under a burka, metaphorical or otherwise. Early in my academic career, I noticed that being cute and perky was not compatible with being intelligent, at least to my professors—male and female—who tended to see me as weightless and unsubstantial.

This offended me!

I can be cute and perky and still be smart! Nevertheless, I felt burdened by others’ stereotypes and expectations.

It’s somewhat satisfying that cute and perky often nets me more than 20% tips on my sales total. I mean, I’m like that normally, so it’s nice to be appreciated.

On the other hand, when you realize that it’s five hours into your shift, and you haven’t had a single female customer, it can be a little bit disturbing. You inevitably have to think about the stereotypes and expectations your customers carry with them, right? (And by “you,” I of course mean “me.”)

On at least three occasions over the past week or two, my manager has had to “keep an eye” on certain customers, noting (in particular) when they leave and by which exit, and has felt compelled to accompany me to my car. It’s not that I have treated these customers any differently; I treat any all my customers—regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, or sexuality—the same way. Cute and perky does not discriminate!

It’s just that some of the male customers sometimes interpret my behavior in ways not intended by me. Sometimes, they stare at me in a way that’s creepy. Sometimes, they hang around the bar for hours and hours, ordering drink after drink, meal after meal, offering me food off their plates. And sometimes, they do all of the above and want to buy me a drink to boot.

A fellow did that last night, even though I had to say, more than once, “There’s no drinking on the job here,” adding with mock horror, “I hope you don’t drink when you’re working!”

When they go on to tip me 50 or even 100%, it’s creepy and gross and takes away the satisfaction I feel at providing good service as I do when, for example, a couple or a straight woman tips me well. I would like to tell these men, What are you, delusional? Can you not see that I’m doing this for everyone?! What the fuckity fuck is wrong with you?

What also happened last night is that two gay men sat at the bar for a drink. When I offered them menus, one of them said, somewhat uncertainly, “I think we’re gonna get a table.” At this, I put my hands on my hips and my most offended looking expression on my face and said, “What?! You’re leaving me. That hurts my feelings.” To which the other one responded, “Well now we can’t leave her. She might spit in our drinks.” And I said, “Nah, I wouldn’t do that to you. But since you said you’re gonna stay, you might as well.”

And they did. And they were so much fun that I didn’t even feel like I was working.

Once again I’m reminded of the wisdom of our superiors encouraging us to desexualize ourselves. And also of how this covers over but does not solve the problem.

Love,

Stella