In keeping with my commitment to being open to new experiences, I agreed to do some bar-tending at a local music festival this past weekend. I had visions of mingling suavely and charmingly with well-endowed and predatory older women and refined gentlemen such as myself while I served them drinks and collected large sums of tip money for my troubles. Perhaps I should have paid closer attention to the email which specified that I would be working in a beer tent
. It was a somewhat more…how do I say, plebeian
affair than I had imagined it would be. I do not wish to sound elitist; I am the last person who should cast stones in regards to drunken messiness, but I have to say I was a little crestfallen when I realized I would be doing less schmoozing and more beer-can opening. In fact, three straight hours of beer-can opening. In their quest to attain Henry Ford-like levels of efficiency and expediency, the organizers of the festival had broken down the serving of beer into three discrete phases:
1) The first group kept the coolers stocked with cans of Brava (it really is “the beer of summer” apparently)
2) The next group took the cans from the cooler, opened them, then placed them on a table
3) The final group (two older woman of above-average endowment, although I can’t speak on their predatory nature) picked up the open cans and presented them to the customers after receiving their drink tickets.
And so it was I was thrust into the center of this well-oiled machine, given the lofty task of expediting inebriation by popping the tops off of beer cans, the veritable linchpin of the whole operation. Being something of a roguish anti-hero, I was less than thrilled with the monumental responsibility which had been thrust upon me; kind of like Han Solo on Hoth.
I had decided to stay and open beers, but the bounty hunter I ran into on Ord Mandell changed my mind.
But, like Han, I ultimately decided to aid the rebellion/festival organizers and I was similarly frozen for my troubles. Let me explain: we all love to reach into a cooler full of icy water, grab a beer and crack it. But do you have any idea how cold icy water is? Let me tell you: it’s cold as ice. And when you reach into it several hundred times over the course of a few hours, it makes the whole concept of grabbing a cold one become a
chilling shitty prospect. In fact, some years ago, Men’s Health had an article about pain and suggested that a good way to test your threshold was to reach your hand into similarly icy water and see how long you could hold it there. So maybe I’m just a pussy, but after a few minutes I was in a bad way: my fingers managed to be both numb and in pain simultaneously, and the repetitive action of popping the tabs only served to exacerbate the situation.
But what was most notable about the experience was the company. Now, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret here: popping beer cans is monkey-work. With my university degree and professional training I was incredibly over-qualified. Not so for my partner in this endeavour. Not to say he didn’t possess the mental faculties for repetitive labour (on the contrary he seemed to be expert in many matters irrelevant to the job at hand), but he could not work and talk at the same time, and faced with the choice between the two he opted for the latter every time. What was worse was that he was an up-close talker and stared at me while he talked with all the intensity of a simian eyeing a banana.
For my part I really did try to be interested in what he was saying, but you can only hear about one’s guitar-strumming calluses and their benefit in the realm of beer-can opening so many times before you just stop caring. And then to be shown these calluses repetitively, well it was all I could do to keep an interested smile pasted on my face. Relief came when he went on a
poo-flinging smoke break which lasted the rest of the evening, leaving me free to observe the endless parade of drunk, middle-aged men trying to be smooth with the bartenders while ordering their Nth beer.
Now I don’t profess to be a “people-watcher,” mainly because it seems like a pretentious claim to make, as if the people-watcher is somehow above the drama of day-to-day life, watching the mere mortals from his privileged position at the right hand of God, he alone privy to some masterful and benevolent design from the almighty. However, I do sometimes watch people, and in this case I viewed many a drunk/fat/short man make overtures to the cougars I was working with. Asking for Molson Canadian or Heineken when they fully knew we were only selling Brava may have been funny the first time but it got stale quick. I admired the ability of the ladies to act as it it was the first time they heard it every time. Then there was the gentleman who played the psychic, putting his beer ticket on his forehead and divining that he was there for a beer. Now I’ll admit that this approach was somewaht more original and even amusing….the first time!! After five times, I was thinking “Jesus dude, go sleep it off!!”
My reverie was interrupted by the approach of a young lady with a bottle-opener tucked in the strap of her tank top. After seeing it in my peripheral I looked at it, then at her, then back at it, finally discerning what it was. It was a harmless glance to me, but to her an invitation to accuse me of giving her a weird look. Now, being no slouch at chatting people up, I can recognize that she was attempting to use the most insignificant little gesture as a segue into a conversation. Friendly guy that I am though, I bit, not knowing that her accusation would be the most interesting thing she was going to say.
She proceeded to regale with me with her master plan to buy the 32 American dollars in the tip pool at a 1 for 1 rate, not only saving money in the exchange, but also screwing the banks out of their surcharge in the process. I congratulated her for her business savvy. Then she told me how her Grandma had just given her $100 USD in birthday money for her upcoming trip to Connecticut and that how when that sum was added to the tip money it would “pretty much” be $150 USD. I congratulated her on her math savvy. THEN she went on into further detail about how if she didn’t spend her
$132 USD $150 USD over the course of her four-day trip she could always sell it to her neighbour at a premium, as her neighbour was of course planning a trip to the states in six months. I wanted to remark at that point about how strong her hustle was and how if she stayed on her “grizzy” in that manner she’d be pushin’ Bentleys and Maybachs in no time.
Pictured: The girl I was talking to and what $150 USD can get you.
But all I could muster was a nod of approval, and a slight one at that. I couldn’t help it: I just didn’t want to encourage her into divulging more secrets of the game.
I left not too long after that, wallet a little heavier for the tips I received, brain a little more clouded for the banal nonsense I was made to endure, but happy that I went out, met nice (if uninteresting) people and tried something new.