The Closer

There are regular shifts… then, there are my shifts.  I’m The Closer – the Mariano Rivera of my profession.  I’ve always been The Closer.  I’ve often hoped I wouldn’t always be, but that’s not how it works out.

I’ve just about always worked with a large group of bartenders at sizeable bars.  There is a pretty big bar schedule to juggle. Managers have to do their best to find equity between: girls, guys, full-timers, part-timers, drama queens, the quiet guy, actors, day gig holders, BFFs who happen to work there, senior barkeeps, newbies, speedy bartenders, shitty bartenders, and a host of other variables.  As you can imagine, it’s not easy. I’ve had to do it in years past and I don’t envy them one bit.

So how is it that I always sink (or rise, depending on you look at it) to closer status everywhere I go?  Maybe it’s because I’m the somewhat jacked “older” dude who can take (and dish out) a whalloping and deal with the after 2am crowd? Perhaps it’s the fact that I never complain about the schedule and instead make 1 or 2 occasional requests weeks in advance? Maybe it’s my (a) high tolerance for stupidity (b) professionalism under fire and (c) appropriate response when it comes to “altercations?”

For those not in the know, and I guess many of you are in blatant denial, nothing good happens after 2am at the bar.  Well, I guess it could be “good” if your definition falls into the categories of: 2nd string heifer hookups that you sincerely regret the next day, rampant cheating, lots and lots of coke, inebriated spending of rent money to become more inebriated.  Then there are (1) the bloody fights (2) falling asleep and having your pockets cut on the subway (3) missed trains (4) cabbie follies (like having the driver try to jump your bones) and of course (5) curbside wallowing in chunks half-naked.

Whatever the reason, I come in late and I stay late.  My shift often ends at 4am – after 9, 10 or sometimes 11 hours on my feet.  It takes time to break down the bar, cash out, tip out and get my tired ass home.  This all boils down the the fact that I may not walk in the door until 5:00 – 5:30 am.  I don’t know about you, but even at that time, I can’t crawl straight into bed – even if I have to be at work at 9:00am the following morning.  I need me some night snack, a quick shower, and a few moments of “me time.” I like checking a few key porn news sites, watching a show, or kicking my wife awake in a vain attempt to get some well-deserved Strange Familiar (this ploy rarely works and I usually wind up getting slapped).

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m in this business to pay the bills.  A hella beans can be made late night. I’m frequently alone at the bar at that time as it’s slower than prime-time. All it takes is 2 or 3 really good tippers, or large parties, to put one to two hundred extra dollars in my pockets.  I’m more than grateful for that bump when it happens.

“No man left behind” doesn’t apply to me.  For better or worse, I’m the reliable one – the workhorse. I sometimes hate myself for it. Most of the other servers and barkeeps are long gone – the last holdout stayed until 2am.  They’re all at the staff watering hole getting shitfaced. I’m the ass who’s left to unfurl, face and rubber-band $1,283 in singles, reconcile all the credit card vouchers, and figure out the tip division.  I’m the douche who’s categorizing and boxing empty bottles for recycling.  I’ve got to make sure the open liquor bottles are all married, the wells are free of sticky crap, the ice is burned, the mats are hosed down and the empty kegs are put by the door. I’m The Closer – “The Inglorious Basterd.”

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