The very first job I got was a hall staff at an Italian restaurant near my house and I still remember how thrilled I was to be a part of so-called ‘adults’ lives’, those of the money-making, self-sufficient population. Yes, with my educational background, I could have chosen a job little more wisely, but I always wanted to be that girl who works in a restaurant, serving mouth-watering food to gentle people, who would tip you a lot and smile back at you. At the age of 18, I still had hopes in a fairy tale version of world where most things, like flowers and rainbows, just fall into my knees.

Little did I know that waitress in a restaurant had to clean the floors, and windows, dry dishes, and throw heavy bag-full of garbage and broken glasses. Oh, and how hard it was to smile and be nice to the people who needed a high five on their faces; yet, I have never spitted in their drinks or food, even though many times I could not resist the urge to spit on their face. You are welcome.

Then, for about another year or so until recently, I worked as a bar girl – bar girl is a term I chose to use here, since I was not exactly a bartender, or a server but a girl who kind of did everything – in Soho, and that experience completely turned my life around, in both good and bad ways. Here’s what it’s like to work in a bar as a girl.

1

One of the first things I learned was that nobody cares about who you are, and especially what you are going through, as long as you get their order right. Did you just break up with your boyfriend? Did you catch cold? Aww you poor thing, but let me tell you what, nobody gives a damn. So, put that pretty smile on your face, and recommend your favorite cocktail to customers.

2

If you want to see me suffering, order a mojito, especially on a friday night, when the whole place is packed with drunk people who cannot even remember how many glasses they had. Muddling those lime and mint is not as fun and easy as you think, so make sure to tip your bartender well.

What many people misunderstand is that if you work in a bar filled with alcohol, you’ll get wasted every night. The truth is, after handling alcohol for hours till your right hand smells like beer and left hand smells like vodka cranberry, you get sick of it, and you just want to go home and pass out. If you saw me drinking or going out after my night shift, that was only because either I had a bad day, or it was a quiet night at a bar.

3

In the beginning, I could not handle drunk guys at all. Whenever things were about to escalate, I just called my manager or senior staff for help with puppy dog eyes, but now I am the one in front, dealing with them; we, staffs, judge you people, and we talk about you the whole night, sometimes for days, if you make a fool out of yourself. And this is why I always watch myself to stay sober, or only tipsy, because I don’t want to look like one of those drunk people I hate.

There mainly are three types of drunk people you see in a bar: angry drunk, happy drunk, and flirty drunk. Angry drunks will get into either verbal or physical fight with their friends or strangers, and as they get more and more drunk, you can sense the air. That’s when I jump in and clean the glasses around them, to make sure they don’t break anything. I think I cared more about glasses than them getting hurt.

Happy drunks are always good to be around, because a) they usually are heavy drinkers, and will spend a lot of money, b)when they get drunk, they buy us shots, c) they are friendly and hilarious in general, and brighten up the whole place.

But I have mixed feelings with flirty drunks; My boss was cool with telling assholes to f*ck off when they tried to grab my ass and what not, but as a girl, it could be pretty irritating and scary in some cases. Yet, if these guys were being playful, and were actually interested in talking to me, I manipulated them into buying some premier liquor, or more drinks, and made good business out of them. Did I ever fancy any of them? Well, when all that flirting happens multiple times, it just becomes part of your work, and you don’t take it seriously.

4

I genuinely liked my job mostly because of people there. I love meeting new people and getting to know them since everyone has such great stories to share; sometimes I spent most of my working hours just talking to people. In the end, I got to be really good friends with the regulars, who would always ask ‘‘how are you” and chat for about 10 minutes before actually ordering anything, and some other cool people. They treated me just like one of them, a person, not their server, and I really appreciated it. I now have friends in almost all industries: journalist, hair designer, photographer, pilot, architect, banker, chef, teacher, bartender, and etc. You name it.

5

A lot of my friends, and even parents, have asked me why I work in a bar even though I could spend that time doing something better. Well, here’s why; without this work experience, I would have been a completely different person who doesn’t know a value of money, people, and manners. Whenever I go out to eat or drink, I always am nice to the staffs because I know what it’s like to work in such places, serving hundreds of people a day. I never forget to smile and be kind to them, tip them, maybe pick up a conversation, and say thank you. I know how hard they work and how much they deserve to be treated well. I now know.

Stella Ko

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