Special Issues » Drink

It's not your turn

A bar is like kindergarten - always wait in line and don't talk smack to the person in power

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An introduction: Hello, legal drinkers. I'd like to tell you a story, or perhaps a collection of stories, from years of watching you guys get drunk – and sometimes, even helping you get there. I've been a bartender in Orlando for nearly five years now. I've worked in a bar for almost 10. In this new column, On the Rocks, I plan to tell you about the best, the worst and the most ridiculous parts of working in the industry. Some stories may be shocking. Some might make you laugh. Some might even educate you so you can better do what you do best – drink up and get crazy. I can't wait to tell you all about it once you sober up.

As children, we are taught the concept of patience. We learn to wait in line, take turns and be respectful to others. We practiced these skills in elementary and middle school and perfected them throughout high school. In college, apparently, some of us managed to slam-dunk these skills right into the trash can on our way into the bar.

Here's how it should work: You enter a bar, wait for the bartender to approach you, then order your drink. It's typical bar etiquette that most people understand. The problem is, most doesn't mean all.

There are always a couple of people who see a packed bar and push and shove their way to the front. They pull out a credit card or cash and wave it around like a lunatic. "Hey! Hey! Over here! Over here!" the would-be drinker screams and hollers every time the bartender walks by or looks up.

There's nothing more frustrating for the server. The bar is three people deep and you've got a dozen drinks in your head: two vodka sodas with lime, one with lemon, a Jäg bomb, two Washington apples, and then the guy at the corner of the bar starts screaming.

"Excuse me. Hi. Hello! Can I have three …"

No.

And you keep going.

The look on the face of the rude customer is priceless. Sometimes I turn around just to see it. Some people are stunned and even a little embarrassed, but most move right along and try again and maybe even reach farther over the bar, waving their cash around like a flag.

"Three vodka and …"

You don't skip the line at the movies and demand that the clerk sell you Harry Potter tickets. You don't rush into Subway demanding a five-dollar foot-long when the sandwich artist is serving someone else. You certainly don't jump in front of someone in line to pay at a liquor store – they'll throw you out for that. So why do you do it at a bar?

A bartender's role is to serve you alcohol. We're here to make sure you get a drink and have a good time. If you're at the bar, or even within five feet of it, we assume you want a drink. Contrary to what you might think, we can see you, even if we're not looking right at you.

There's actually a system to how most bartenders serve – in a line, just like every other business establishment. If we're really busy, we might follow a rotation. We go from one end of the bar to the other. And repeat. All. Night. Long.

In reality, it doesn't matter how thirsty you are or how bad you want a drink. If you're not sleeping with the bartenders, living with them or related to them, you have to wait just like everyone else. Relax and chat up the cute girl next to you. We'll get to you.

Until then, it's not your turn.

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