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Beginning of a Bartender

As a teenager I was a little on the rebellious side, I spent my free time trying to find things to do that would satisfy my adrenaline thirst. I played sports, skipped school, tested my parents patience and pushed every boundry possible. I wasn't all bad and irresponsible, I started working at fourteen years old as a waitress at a Chinese food restaurant, I managed to gain enough experience to continue on to bigger and better places over the next few years. In Idaho at the time, It wasn't legal for me to be behind the bar serving alcohol until the age of twenty-one, so all I could do was be considered a server or a cocktail waitress until I came of age. I worked at sports bars and even did a five year stint at Olive Garden. I remember walking into my shift daily and seeing the bartenders in their sleek black bar shirts, while I was stuck wearing the boring white button up and tie, I so badly wanted to wear the black button up (everything I own is black). I know it seems ridiculous but dress code really does matter in the bartending world, sets the tone for our attitude behind the bar and gives us a certain confidence. Anyway, I wore the stuffy button up for years and overall ended up getting several years of service experience and not one inch closer to being behind the bar.

Throughout my twenties I worked in the medical field, thought getting a "big girl" job was the responsible thing to do, plus they offered insurance. Worked night shift in the ER, ended up as a PES (patient experience specialist) for many years and I was happy, happy but broke. Although there were great things about the medical field, it certainly was not as glamourous and exciting as I thought being behind the bar would be. Back to being broke, minimum wage is embarrassing in certain areas of this country and for a single mom it just wasn't cutting it. So what did I do, went back to what I know best, picked up a second job in the bar scene. Country bars, sports bars, dive bars, you name it and I've served in it. The cash was great, even as a server, and if I was lucky one of the bartenders would allow me to go behind the bar and practice when it was slow. I would stay behind on my shifts sometimes and watch in awe as the bartenders would sling drinks and work the crowd, they had so much talent and confidence in each interaction. I won't lie, I was a little jealous, I wanted to be them. Everyone was happy to see them, they had power, they were beautiful and most of all they were making money that I wanted to make. After all, being a single parent and working two jobs to support the kids was not my idea of the perfect life.

Then it happened, finally my patience and persistance paid off, I got my shot behind the bar. I wasnt working the cocktail server shifts, I wasn't covering the bar for an hour, I was taking over full shifts as the actual bartender and all I can say is it was everything I thought and hoped it would be.... Now, did it stay that way, sometimes. BUT that is for another time.

Moral of this story, if bartending is something you want to do but you are having a tough time getting into a spot, don't give up. Work your butt off, be persistant, show up and stay late to learn. You will not get behind a bar by being lazy, you cannot just show up and assume you will be in the spotlight. You really do have to earn your spot behind a bar but once you get there it is SO worth it.


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