This past Wednesday I decided to head to The Spot and the Getaway Cafe, two of the most popular bars around campus. Knowing that I had the fortune of no classes on Thursday, I decided to break my normal routine of drinking and talking with friends and chose to sit down and talk with the bartenders that many of us interact with in our day-to-day lives without a second thought.
My first stop was The Spot, which only had about a dozen people present, most of them trying to hold conversations over the loud music or playing pool with their friends. Most of the times I have come to The Spot, it hasn’t been crowded, likely due to the fact that isn’t as well-known as the more established pubs. Following my normal pattern of sitting at a table and waiting for a server to come, I tried to pick the bartender out of the staff hurriedly moving behind the counter and in the kitchen. After inquiring as to whether I could grab the bartender for a few minutes for my interview, I was introduced to Whitknee, who brought our drinks to the table and sat down with us, trusting the upkeep of the bar counter to the rest of the staff. Though initially shy during my first questions, she soon warmed up and her bubbly personality become apparent as she giggled profusely before and after each of her responses, often apologizing for being “brutally honest.”
She explained that she naturally gravitates to people and that is why she enjoyed bartending. In the way that Cupid delights in pairing people through love, Whitknee seemed to thrive on pairing groups of friends with alcohol. She described the major drawbacks of the job, which included people who disrespected her while she was working, criticized her drink-making, or repeatedly barked orders at her. Oftentimes, male customers mistake her kind demeanor with flirtatiousness, and she laughed, “This is my job, and I’m not here to be a dating service.” All of her answers were in the form of humorous anecdotes, from describing customers’ common complaints about drinks being too weak to the time when a customer attempted to bludgeon her with a beer bottle while she tried to break up a violent fight at her previous job.
She also shared insights for enjoying time while out drinking. Tipping your bartender heavily will result in fast service during crowded hours. Drinking Jaegerbombs or shots of Fireball whiskey is the key to a nasty hangover from the excessive amount of sugar, and the best money-to-alcohol ratio for getting buzzed fast is tequila, be it shots or margaritas. As I finished my pint of Fat Tire, I inquired as to the best way to avoid the hangover I was currently creating for myself. She reminded me to drink lots of water when I got home, and bid me farewell with her familiar giggle as she headed back to the bar after our interview. I made sure I tipped 50 percent when I got my bill.
The Getaway Cafe was packed from the moment I stepped instead until hours after I left. The queue to order was 10 people deep, and Moe, the manager, apologized profusely when he explained that there wouldn’t be any time to answer questions on such a busy night. Disheartened, I began drinking my schooner of Hangar 24 on the patio, wondering when I would have the time to come back for questions in time to write this column. My salvation came in the form of Ponce, who came onto the patio for an impromptu break and was kind enough to answer my questions in the few moments he had before he headed back to the throngs of people waiting at the counter. For him, he worked at the Getaway as a job, and although he didn’t see bartending as his calling, he did describe it as “1000 percent better than working at Denny’s.” His main grievance came from the tendency of customers to bunch up in the pathways around the restaurant, obliviously blocking his path as he tried to deliver food and drinks around the restaurant.
Much like Whitknee, he had do’s and don’ts for what to order while at Getaway: Don’t spend the money on cheap domestic beer when there is a wide selection of craft beers that are hard to find at local liquor stores, and buy a pitcher to save money when drinking in a group or a schooner when drinking alone. He didn’t have any tips for preventing a hangover, but said that the key to surviving one is to have a healthy breakfast the day after a night of drinking. Before he left, he mentioned Denny’s again, and remarked on how it’s amazing that he had seen more wasted people stumble into a Denny’s than out of the Getaway at closing time. Turning to leave, he reminded me, “If you want to work at a place like this, you have to be ready for anything.”
I know there will probably be more nights I spend perched on stools and gathered around tables with friends in my life, and the tips that Whitknee and Ponce will likely improve my time spent indulging in society’s most acceptable vice. There’s often a sense of separation and dehumanization between the server and the patrons, but the key thing to remember when at any business is that your server is a person, and they deserve the same respect we’d want anyone else to give us. Also, there’s a Denny’s at the University Village if you need a place to simultaneously sober up and eat pancakes.