So I worked a little job as a barman. In Scotland. In winter.
The good news is that they played the current music of the time, and you’d be surprised how much ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’ grows on you after the 58th listen, and how, if you block your ears, Lou Bega's ‘Mambo No. 5' is pretty much ‘Eine Kleine Nachtmusik' but with more trumpet.
So I worked a little job as a barman, and everyone was Scottish, even the barmaids. Their drinks were beer (‘A Pint of Heavy,') beer (‘Aye Ken, I dinnae order nae buttery!') vodka and Irn Bru, and some cocktail that tasted like Robitussin, that was only to be bought for your fiancé, or some guy from Celtic who may or not have kicked the winning goal against Rangers.
Courtship rituals consisted of shouting swear words into your potential partner’s ear, while Will Smith’s ‘Miami’ played really loud. The bar girls were given note tips, sometimes five, ten pounds. By the end of the night, they'd have twenty, twenty-five quid.
I’d have one pound seventy, give or take a pound seventy.
My barmaid in arms, Luce Penny, broke glasses; this thing that she did while trying desperately to be Tom Cruise in Cocktail, arms blocking imaginary punches, a start-stop body-pop that inevitably ended in a smash.
Aaron filled the fridges, and Morvern was some sort of sorceress from Lord of the Rings, who just happened to be working in a bar, and, being the only bar maid who wasn’t regularly breaking glasses and yelling ‘faaaark!’ at the top of her voice, was pretty much the holy grail. That is, were she not already going out with the manager, Jamie. Who was not all that handsome but was definitely a manager. Whereas Aaron and I were not management material. We weren’t even allowed to do stocktake unless Jamie was there with the key to the back room cupboard.
Learning Scottish was hard, partly because things rarely had the one word to describe them, but also because I could never tell if someone wanted to fight me or french kiss me, and often they wanted to do both, because that’s what vodka and Irn Bru will do to most folk in a strong enough dose.
Did I write much while working there? I did. One time I wrote ‘Fuck off’ in capital letters to show to Des, a guy with a bald head and a bald gut that used to poke out from the bottom of his soccer shirt as if to say, ‘Peek-a-boo!’ Another time I wrote ‘Please turn off that poxy Lou Bega/Ricky Martin/Spice Girls hot-mess nonsense,’ and handed it to the DJ, but he just shrugged his shoulders as if to say, ‘Oops, I did it again, I made you believe we're more than just friends.'
I worked there for the longest time. We’re talking three, four weeks. Did I ever pull? Yep, I pulled at least three hundred pints, around two hundred of which had massive heads of foam on top. Did I pick-up? Yep, I picked up all the broken glass that exploded around Luce, and only cut myself say three, four hundred times.
Should you work at a bar? Well, that depends. If you think people are nice and you want to cure yourself of that then, by all means, find your way to the rubber, slip-free floor. If you're not familiar with ‘Flower of Scotland,' and you want to hear it sung by a man as you try to shove him out of the front door, then this is your job.
But if you’re in it for the tips, then I’d try something more potentially lucrative, like cleaning the Dundee public toilets, or shouting on a corner, yelling, ‘Pay me.’