Shmuck of the Irish

It’s March, people!  We all know what that means:

Corned beef and cabbage, dying things green which should never be green, and most importantly, conspicuous over-drinking by hordes of amateur alcoholics.

Don’t start swinging your shillelagh, I’m not slamming the Irish.  Nor am I mocking their holiday, even though it has morphed into some kind of national day of auditions for the next season of A&E’s “Intervention”.

Nothing says St. Patty's Day quite like sugary shots with whipped topping! (Extra credit if you can name the bar the coaster came from)

As a former bartender, I’ve earned the right to speak regarding this holiday.  People who aren’t in the hospitality industry often believe that snagging a shift on St. Patrick’s Day, New Year’s Eve or Cinco de Mayo would be some kind of coup for a bartender.  In truth, working any of these three days should be avoided at any cost.  St. Patrick’s Day will typically go something like this:

Your bread-and-butter regulars will stay home, not wishing to share their comfy watering hole with a bunch of yahoos who will all be gone by March 18th.  Instead, hordes of novice boozers pour into your establishment.  Essentially, these people have no business being in bars at all.  Not only are they inept at the actual consumption of alcohol, but they also don’t know how to order, tip, or generally behave in a drinking establishment.  They cram in there and start waving twenties or corporate credit cards while bellowing out orders.  Once you’ve supplied them with their giant order, which invariably includes some sort of lace-panty shots involving whipped cream and six kinds of sweet liqueurs, they add on another couple of drinks for their friends who didn’t order the first time.

The noise is insane.  The bar manager, with visions of dollar bills dancing in his empty head, has taken the normal music off and is cranking up some sort of hideous fiddle jigs in hopes of inspiring these chowderheads to drink even more.  If Michael Flatley came river-dancing in, one could only hope he’d slip in a puddle of green beer  You wish someone had reminded the manager that U2 and Van Morrison are both as Irish as Patty’s pig.  Sinead O’Connor would sound like a choir of  angels compared to what you’re hearing now.

You lean way across the bar to tell a customer with a bad toupee that the batch of drinks you just made for him is $27.50.  By leaning across the bar, you don’t have to scream at this dolt – it’s going to be a long night, and you don’t want to lose your voice too early.  He gestures for you to lean back over the bar to him, as he has some pressing news of his own.  You do so.  He brings his mouth within an inch of your ear, then screams out his request for a few more drinks, filling your ear with both the annoying sound of his voice and a fair amount of spit.  You recoil from him, wiping out the Wet Willy he gave you as you make the additional drinks.  His toupee resembles a flattened ground hog you saw on your drive to the bar, and there’s a snail-trail line where his skin meets the pelt – he’s not that good with the glue.  His total is now $35.  You deliver the second batch and he gives you two 20’s.  There’s no way in hell you would give this guy a 5 dollar bill back.  That’s a risk even when it’s not amateur night, so you put five ones down in front of him.

You turn to wait on the next person, but before you can, he wants your attention yet again.

“HEY!!” he screams.

You turn back to him hoping he’s not going to give you a third drink order.  He’s holding one of those singles in his hand and making earnest eye contact like he’s about to give you life advice.  Obviously he wants to make sure that you know that he’s the one leaving you this wildly generous single dollar.

“That’s yours, man!” he yells.  Luckily you’re far enough away this time to avoid the spit.

As a seasoned professional, you know better than to take it personally when someone gives you a lame tip.  You nod to Toupee Boy then turn and toss the buck into the tip can, which is entirely too empty for a bar as crowded as this.

You move onto the next money-waving stooge and hope for a more favorable outcome, but really, you know better.  This one is a woman who is out with three of “her girls” from the office.  Everyone knows they’re here, because despite the horrifically loud penny whistle and bagpipe soundtrack on the speakers, you can hear this lady and her cohorts screaming out “WHOOO!!  ST. PADDY’S!! WHOOO-OO!”  Her blouse is opened two more buttons than it was at the office just a few hours ago.  Apparently, displaying her chubby taters more brazenly, along with a crooked shamrock tiara, is the dress code to let the world know that she and the other girls from accounts receivable are out to par-tay.

She orders, badly.  Her spit mingles with the spit from the last guy and you can’t help but wonder whether real petri dishes would be jealous of the science project which is undoubtedly growing in your ear by now.  The slim hope for avoiding infection is the high alcohol content in their saliva.  The only silver lining is that the gobs of spittle help to drown out the infernal fiddle music.  You together her drinks, making a mental check list for the bar-back to bring more whipped cream and energy drinks.  She doesn’t tip at all.  Apparently, she feels that blessing you with her presence and ass-like cleavage is payment enough.  Hopefully, her presence will eventually pay some dividends – not likely in terms of financial gain, but because she may eventually be a player in some sort of idiotic shenanigans.

Speaking of Shenanigans, you can thank your lucky stars you don’t work at that dump.  Since it has an Irish name – officially Shenanigans House of Ale and Fun-tastic Tavern (or SHAFT to its employees) – legions of rookie  drinkers consider it a mandatory stop during their night of revelry. They don’t serve a single Irish beer.  Rumor has it that management briefly considered Guinness Stout, but scratched that idea when they realized it looked ickier than usual with green food coloring in it.

You turn away from Cleavage Girl before she can add on more drinks for you to fetch.  Let that pervert Jimmy the Weasel or one of your other cohorts behind the bar deal with her.  There’s none of the teamwork that pooling tips usually brings – everyone is just trying to survive the night.  The best chance of income is some rube forgetting his money on the bar.  You see Toupee Boy out of the corner of your eye.  He’s snagged Jimmy to fetch his next round of drinks.  Jimmy rolls his eyes as he slides past you toward the back-up cans of whipped cream and the mini-marshmallows.  He has a clover-covered bar nap in his hand which he’s using to swab out his ear.

A chronically short man has joined Cleavage Girl and her entourage.  You christen him “Stumpy”.  Stumpy has odd splash stains down the back of his suit jacket from bumping into his fellow drinkers at hip height.  He’s drinking a glass of white wine, which couldn’t look worse for a guy in a bar scene, unless he’s wearing an ascot or is sitting with his mother.  The wine glasses here are over-the-top big, and look even bigger in his stubby little hands.  If the glass didn’t have a stem on it, he would likely have to use both hands to hold it.  Despite his obvious shortcomings, Stumpy has thus far proven to be a decent tipper, bless his heart.

Cleavage Girl has to keep bending over to hear what Stumpy has to say, increasing the already obvious boob show with each bow.  An adjacent table of foreigner men has abandoned their lively conversation – presumably about goat herding.  They’ve swiveled their seats to enjoy the spectacle.  These guys look to be from some distant land where alcohol is forbidden and women cover most of their faces in addition to all of their cleavage, hair and ankles.  It’s a sad reflection on what passes for entertainment these days, but you enjoy watching them jump back and glare at her every time she let’s out one of those “WHOO!! ST. PADDY’S !!” war cries.  The looks on their faces make you think that if she carried on like that back in the old country, they’d stone her to death, cleavage or not.

Stumpy has approached the bar to order Cleavage Girl and her cohorts a round of “Screaming Yellow Monkey Farts”.  This is another convoluted, stupid drink consisting of enough sugary liqueurs and Red Bull to keep you awake and put you into a diabetic coma at the same time.  Much like half of the micro-brews on the market, the best feature of this drink is its name.  It tastes more like some kind of licorice-tinged lemonade than alcohol.  As with most of the shots favored by teenagers and St. Pat’s patrons, the recipe is a major pain in the neck to make.   Sadly, the flavor is not easily duplicated just by pouring vodka and Galliano into curdled sour mix, so you have to actually mix them to order.  Stumpy looks like he has to resist the urge to rest his head on the bar, which is only an inch or two beneath his chin.  He’s ordered five shots, so one is for him.  Mixing your intake of different cocktails is a classic mistake of the amateur drinker.  While a beer and a shot of whiskey is perfectly acceptable among legitimate drinkers, it’s not the same as combining copious amounts of pinot grigio with Screaming Yellow Monkey Farts.  This cannot possibly end well.

Stumpy has got to play this just right.  There are only a few days a year when looking like an elf or a leprechaun has any perks.  If he grew a beard and wore shoes with big buckles on them, drunks in the parking lot would be shaking him down for his pot o’ gold. Actually, even without the leprechaun costume he might be in for a little trouble – that massive wine glass is like a beacon for the wrong kind of attention.  He and the girls all whoop and laugh as they throw back the shots.  Ironically, the concoction lives up to its moniker, as each person drinking them makes a face afterwards which looks like they’ve just caught a whiff of the drink’s namesake.

The night drags on.  The screeching fiddle and bagpipe music does not grow on you, and it’s disturbing to note that as the loop plays over and over, you’re actually able to recognize a few of these hideous ditties.  Toupee Boy eventually gets into trouble when, after being rejected by one of Cleavage Girl’s posse, he becomes despondent.  He chooses to show just how pissed he is at the world by doing just that in an artificial palm tree in the lobby.  The management and most of America take a dim view of public urination.  It’s no great loss in management’s opinion, as he was already cut off from drinking and therefore was done parting with much more of his money.

The foreign contingent has departed without anyone noticing.  It’s difficult to believe that their view of American culture (or of Irish culture for that matter) has improved much over the course of the evening.

Stumpy appears to be diligently wearing Cleavage Girl down.  Her girlfriends have drifted away from her.  You have to admit that you’re pulling for the little guy.   The last shots he bought aren’t being tossed back just yet.  Cleavage Girl has her shot of S.Y.M.F. in her hand on Stumpy’s shoulder.  She leans down, teetering in her work heels to listen to whatever the hell he’s yelling over the screeching bagpipe solo.  Unfortunately, the shot is not a high priority for her by this point in the evening and much of it is snaking its way down the back of Stumpy’s now irreparable suit jacket on its way to the floor, leaving little clumps of whipped cream along its trail.

Stumpy looks to be positioning himself to close the deal.  His face looms closer and closer to her cleavage.  It appears that Stumpy is a little less than discrete in his ogling of the goods – though at his height, it’s hard for him to miss the view.  Then suddenly in what can best be described as Sam Pekinpah slow motion, the time bomb of white wine, shots of sugary booze and dairy topping reaches its unfortunate, inevitable conclusion.  Stumpy spectacularly looses his lunch and a sizable financial investment in alcohol, right between the aforementioned boobies.  The screech which issues from Cleavage Girl makes her earlier whoops seem tame by comparison.

She recoils violently, as you’d expect.  This awkward movement, combined with her inebriated state and the puddle of spilled Monkey Farts is more than she can maintain.  Her arms pinwheel and she executes a magnificently awkward fall.  Stumpy has not quite finished and is letting go with a final spew onto the floor, which she lands directly in the path of.

Jimmy the Weasel has scrambled to your side behind the bar and it looks like he might have a moment of bladder incontinence as you both watch the show.  Cleavage Girl’s last remaining colleague has come to her aid, baby-stepping to keep her balance, like the trainer at an ice hockey game trying to get to a fallen player.  By the time they repair to the women’s room, her shirt is just about off, but unless you’re as depraved as The Weasel, there’s not much of a visual thrill when a shirtless woman is covered in this brand of glaze.

Stumpy takes advantage of the break in the action to leave as discretely as he can, stumbling into a cab out front.  Cleavage Girl, looking pale and dressed in her friend’s coat, skulks out soon after.  Amazingly, her green tiara is still on her head, albeit a little more crooked than before. It’s a safe bet that cabbies aren’t big fans of St. Patty’s day either.

Tomorrow, the regulars will be here, the music back to normal, and civilized drinking by seasoned professionals will commence once again.

As for tonight, you just enjoyed payment in full for a night spent tolerating the amateurs. We’ll see you guys and gals on Cinco de Mayo!  You hope to hell you can get that night off…

My Life As A Wise-Ass

I’m a wise-ass from way back.  I have the natural inclination to look at things through the cynical, mischevious eyes of a true ball buster.  If there are no balls available for busting, I’ll look for something smart-alecky to say about whatever’s handy.

Hats off to my orthodontist! Those Invisaligns worked wonders!

If you’re lecturing me in a seminar, please don’t have on a bad toupee or speak with a goofy accent – I won’t be able to focus on a damn thing you’re saying.  If you’re going to say something which could unintentionally send 13 year old boys into fits of snorting laughter, try not to say it in front of me (think Beavis and Butthead with careers and mortgages).  I have just enough self-control to keep from snickering, but I also have the rotten impulse to make my fellow audience members start cracking up if at all possible.  If I can’t find a willing audience member to listen to my side-splitting commentary, I’ll text someone.

It’s not that I’m a bad person, I’m just a firm believer in laughter being the best medicine.  The way the world presents me with crap to poke fun at, the people who surround me could quite possibly live to be 150 years old.  The thing is, I won’t likely be joining them.  I don’t actually laugh all that often.  I’m more of a pusher-man of laughter than an actual user.

I’m sure all of you armchair psychoanalysts out there will see my comedic stylings as a sad attempt at making myself popular. It’s likely rooted in my being shunned as a child due to my eczema and pathetic inability to keep from crying for no particular reason. My derisive comments are clearly a desperate cry for acceptance. Perhaps I use my barbs to build a wall around my soft inner core, like a partially frozen Three Musketeers Bar.  Good for you Sigmund, but let’s talk about your wacky accent;  you sound like the kindly old shepherd caught in a cheap motel with a cute little lamb from your flock.  The two of you look so cozy, smoking cigarettes and watching Animal Planet on cable as you lay in the tangled sheets.  Get yourself some help, you sicko!

In most workplaces, my humor tends to be more subversive. In one particular job, my boss was an aging hippy named David (Never Dave – like me, always David – like me when I’m in trouble).  I guess he was more “new age” than hippy.  He would have these meetings and I couldn’t focus on anything he said because he was such a screwball.  I began to think that irrespective of the topic of discussion, it was only an elaborate scheme to eventually try to convince everyone in the meeting to become vegans.  I started sharing this theory with my buddies in the office.  Since people are fundamentally bored in meetings anyway, the concept of us being pawns in the clandestine recruitment program of radical vegetarians caught on.  We got to the point where no one could really focus on anything the guy said.  We would all just cast smirking glances at one another whenever David would stroll into the meeting in his funny looking, leather-free shoes and carrying a platter of edamame hummus.

For reasons which probably had nothing to do with people not listening to what he said in meetings, David moved on and was replaced by another manager, named Michael.  Michael was quite different than David.  He was an old-school businessman and looked like he might be having a stroke at anytime.  He spoke with a distinctive accent which I quickly pegged as being nearly identical to that of William Daniels, playing the voice of Kit the Car in Knight Rider.  If you could get Michael to say his own name you’d swear you were sitting right there in the passenger seat next to Hasselhoff (say it with me now – My-kull).  True to form, I wasted no time in pointing out this similarity to my colleagues.  Michael’s meetings soon provided us with endless hours of amusement.  It didn’t hurt that Michael was fond of using some really bizarre phrases.  Imagine this one in William Daniels’ voice, emanating from the flashing dashboard of a Trans-Am “..well, if they don’t like it, that’s just hard cheese“.   I’m not kidding, he’d actually say that.

I moved on to bigger and better things.  Their laying me off proved to be a blessing in disguise.

I left those lofty, professional ranks for the position of bartender – worse hours, better pay.  There may be no career better suited for the terminal wise-ass than bartending, except perhaps morning-drive disc jockey or United States Congressman.  People don’t normally enjoy being mocked, but in the world of alcohol consumption, it’s close to an honor.  For an accomplished wit such as myself, mocking the booze-addled clientele was like shooting tipsy fish in a barrel full of vodka.  If you’re a regular at a given bar, the staff, particularly the bartenders, should point out any of your flaws on an hourly basis, or even more often if you’re a good tipper.  If, as a customer, you’re greeted by a demeaning nickname despite repeatedly asking not to be called that, then you are officially bar royalty.

Despite being so well suited for the career, I was smart enough to see the lack of long-term potential in bartending.  Besides, I kept getting canned.

The years have flown by since those halcyon bartending days.  I’d love to tell you that my wisenheimer ways have mellowed with the years, but no one I know seems to think so.  I like to believe that my taste has improved to the point where I’ll wait for the best opportunity to lay out a primo snappy remark, rather than forcing my humor wherever I can cram it.  These days, the amount of ridicule I heap upon my superiors is tempered by the delicious smell of money and the comforting arms of job security.  I end up relegating my mocking and busting of chops for the select few who I know to be able to take a joke and those clueless enough not to realize that they are the brunt of one.

I remember hearing in an art history lecture about an artist who went to be with his mother as she lay on her death bed.  He was frustrated with himself because though he was at her side, he couldn’t help but study the light and shadow on her face.  I would tell you who the artist was, but I was almost certainly too busy coming up with something funny to say to pay sufficient attention to learn that part of the story.  With that story in mind, I know that when I’m laying on my own deathbed, with some clergyman trying to give me last rites, I’ll be listening to his words and hoping I get a chance to crack wise before I croak.  You want to leave them laughing.