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On the other side of the bar

Wednesday 22nd July 2015

A night out looks a lot less glamorous when you're sober and have to clean up vomit.

Photo: 123RF

As a self-confessed party girl and prolific drinker, my first year of studying was spent guzzling $10 bottles of wine each weekend and heading out on the town with the remainder of my very slim course living costs - without spending a cent, of course.

Once I realised I had gained that fresher five thanks to the Jacob’s Creek moscato range, I thought maybe it’d be best to hold back on the drinking and get a job to pay back that nasty alcohol-induced overdraft.

I saw jobs going for glassies and bartenders at the newest hot-spot in Christchurch - what better way to make money and stop my party-going ways by working instead?

 ... the novelty wore off pretty quickly when I realised the DJ played the same tracks in the same order every weekend and someone had to clean up that vomit on the dancefloor.

Three days later, I found myself in a very revealing, low-cut t-shirt and a little brown apron carrying glasses through the crowd at a packed-out bar.

Despite the several ass-grabs, seedy photo requests and drunken slobbery, I found working there was like being paid to be out partying, but not waking up with a hangover. I loved it.

For the next few weeks I came to work feeling excited. My co-workers were like a big incestuous family. After struggling as a student for a year, I was now making more money than I knew what to do with and I’d built up such a rapport with the security guards I was granted access to bars and clubs around the city just by mentioning where I worked.

As great as the compliments, cheap food and drink and privilege to Christchurch clubs were, the novelty wore off pretty quickly when I realised the DJ played the same tracks in the same order every weekend and someone had to clean up that vomit on the dancefloor.


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After two weeks of collecting, washing and stacking glasses, I graduated from glassy to bartender.

There’s a certain honour bestowed upon you when you make the transition to serving drinks. No longer did I have to endure touchy-feely guys, squeeze through dancefloors where bodies were flailing and drinks were often spilled, or carry arm-achingly heavy ice buckets and packs of Redbull to the bar every 20 minutes.   

Behind the bar no one could touch me and I was invincible, but I also realised I was once probably that trashed punter begging to be served.

Now I hated going out, not that I really had the time to anyway since I was working Friday and Saturday nights.

I also became conscious of what other bartenders might think of me. I was always extremely polite, I tipped and I tried to make their job as easy as possible. I acquired a taste for expensive whiskeys and gins that your average 18-year-old girl probably wouldn’t order. Maybe they’d realise “Hey, you're a bartender too. Respect.”

Being a bartender at one of Christchurch’s busiest bars was a rude awakening that spawned my disdain for self-righteous, vapid girls that think they can talk down to you because you’re being paid to serve them. I felt the same about the poorly-dressed, seedy boys out to pounce on the girls.

I also realised that I used to be one of those clowns dancing foolishly around the club saying things I wouldn’t dare say in broad daylight and talking to guys I would never look at twice.

It’s not ok to click, clap and yell orders. It’s also not ok to shoulder charge, elbow or shove other punters. And if you need to go to the bathroom, it’s definitely not ok to shit all over the bathroom floor.

When people start drinking, they forget all social rules and cues. Some treat the bartender like a peasant. It’s not ok to click, clap and yell orders. It’s also not ok to shoulder charge, elbow or shove other punters. And if you need to go to the bathroom, it’s definitely not ok to shit all over the bathroom floor.

Before working in a bar, I wish I’d been told what a diabolical place the restrooms can be. There was soggy toilet paper thrown everywhere, broken locks, lipstick marks on the mirrors, smashed toilets, flooding, clogging, urine, feces and people having drunken sex in the cubicals.

After a while I became desensitised to the behaviour I saw because I happened so often. But it made me realise there’s a big problem with the way people are drinking.  

Preloading culture is so normal - it’s accepted and it’s expected. This time last year I was doing exactly that.

When I would meet up with my friends before a night out I wouldn’t watch TV and grab a bite - I’d be getting ready to hit the town. I would slip on my shortest dress, throw back the remaining drops of my supermarket wine in one hand, apply another coat of mascara with the other all while the taxi sat in the driveway waiting. I wanted to make sure I was achieving maximum drunkenness at the cheapest price.

If you want to get reasonably drunk at a venue like the one I work at, that will cost you around the $50 mark. But when your student living costs offer you just over $170, that doesn’t exactly work out.

If people aren’t already drunk by the time of arrival or the preloading effects have worn off, they’re trying to get drunk on the skint. From the other side of the bar, I’d be asked: “What’s the cheapest shot?”, “What can I buy for $10?”, “Can we split that?”

Some punters bring their own. Every Saturday I find empty miniature spirit bottles stashed behind the girls’ toilet and cans of pre-mix bourbon and cola in the pot plants when I’m scrubbing the place clean at 3am.

Bartenders are pretty good at reading the type of drink people are going to order and how much they’re going to spend.

Typically, girls will only buy one drink - they very rarely shout their friends. I don’t think they realise there are other spirits apart from vodka. Vodka, lime and soda is a standard. Or a lemon, lime and bitters. After it’s made they forget to mentioned that was “with vodka”.

Boys will go for a beer or something with vodka. Every young person loves vodka, right? Or maybe a bourbon. They’re more inclined to help out their mates and shout the round.

But if you are anything like I was when I was a chronic booze-sinking student, then you probably won’t be shouting anybody - you can hardly shout yourself.

Regardless, the bartenders I know collectively agree they would much rather serve someone older because they’re going to make more money from them and they usually aren’t as off their face.

Next time you’re getting ready to go out, think about the night ahead. There’s a formula to a night out that soon enough I cracked and became bored of quickly. Most nights out generally end with a hangover and an evening of regrets. Try your best to make good choices and you’ll save more than just yourself a headache.

 


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