“Allez Chloe, juste un verre!”

It’s always been a dream of mine to learn about bartending. This year I was lucky enough to get a job as a “Barmaid” or bartender at a bar in the center of La Rochelle. I’ve learned so many things, not just about bartending but about taking care of myself and working amongst drunk people. It’s been quite a crazy experience so far.

When I started working I didn’t realize that I’d be drinking on the job. In fact the first day that I was working , someone wanted to buy me a shot. I assumed I shouldn’t drink during my shift but I figured I’d ask my boss just in case. She said, “Make sure he pays for it then if you want it take it, if you don’t throw it out!” I was so shocked but excited that I could do that. I didn’t want to abuse of that advantage though so I decided I would only drink on the job if customers bought me a drink. That was until I was taught, “A table”. I never understood why my coworkers kept saying that while we were working. Turns out that at the bar I work at, if someone pours shots for everyone on the staff and then says, “A table!” that means it’s time to drink! It didn’t happen too often though especially when the bar was packed. We didn’t have much time to be pouring each other drinks because we were too busy running around and pouring drinks for actual customers. I never really got more than a little buzz while I was at work which I was happy about because I didn’t want it to affect my work.

That was until my first day working at the small bar right next door. This bar is connected by hall way inside the bar and is still under the same ownership of the bar I originally worked at. This bar is specialized in shots. We have about 20-30 different flavors of shots and we can make others upon request. The first night I worked it happened to be one of my coworker’s birthdays. Boy did I underestimate the amount of “A Tables” there would be during the night. I was not ready… By the end of my shift, I was drunk. Luckily, I was still able to do my work. Some would even say I was more fun (I wonder why)… But after that night I realized that I would have to be more careful. Since then I have been. There have been a couple of slip ups because it’s difficult to keep track of your drink number and be aware of your body when there’s always a customer to serve or drink being put in your hand. Lucky for me I have found ways to be responsible. I hope none of my coworkers are reading this but, I’ll sometimes fake drink when shots are handed to me so that I don’t get completely wasted. It works really well and no one has caught me yet. I always eat decently heavily before heading to work and I never forget a snack. I always bring my giant water bottle to stay hydrated and try my best to avoid a hangover. In the end I am still on the job and I would like to be responsible about it. Overall, it makes the job so much fun.

Another thing I’ve learned is how to say no and that “one drink” is NEVER one drink! When I first started working at the bar I was nervous about what my coworkers would think of me so I never really refused a drink. I wanted them to know that I was fun and I didn’t want them to think that I was “prude”, which I know is the wrong reason to drink but it is what it is. One night though, I was hungover from the previous night of saying yes to every drink offered and I decided I need to put my foot down and say no. Everyone understands, it was totally fine. My coworkers know me now, I don’t have to worry that saying “no” to one shot will make me less likable. I shouldn’t have worried about that in the first place but I’m glad I know that now. Once you say yes to one drink, it’s a downhill spiral. You begin to think, okay it’s only one it’s fine. But then it’s only 2 and then 3. By 3 you’re back in the game and ready to drink. You forget about the fact that you weren’t supposed to drink tonight because hey, it’s too late you already drank! So, I’m happy I have learned to say no so that I don’t have to wake up on Sunday morning after 3 days of work (and drinking) with an accumulated hangover.

Working a night job so much harder than I expected. Being a person that often goes to bed around 9-10 pm on week-days made it very difficult to end my working shift at 3 am! My sleep schedule has completely gone out of wack but I’m learning to cope with the late hours and take care of myself even with the occasional lack of sleep.

I have had many odd experiences with drunk people on the job. Granted, if I’m drinking as well I don’t notice it as much but if I stay sober, it gets weird. Some guys are very forward which is uncomfortable but expected seeing as they are drunk and I am a woman (sad but true). I’ve had guys reach over the bar and grab my head to then kiss me on the forehead. Another asked for my hand so that he could kiss it in a very old-fashioned sort of way. The other day a guy asked me to play the game “What are the odds” in order for him to win my number. Some guy I had gone out with came to the bar, got really drunk and then put a ring on my ring finger. Haven’t gone out with that guy since, but I still have that ring. I really hope he doesn’t think we are engaged… Some guys just stare when they’re drunk.

I think that they think it’s sexy, but really it’s just pretty creepy and uncomfortable. Guys aren’t the only one’s that get weird when drunk though. Girls and guys in general sometimes get kind of aggravated, impatient and particular about their drinks even though there is nothing wrong. That get’s pretty frustrating especially if there are a lot of people. Once, at the end of the night when we were closing I refused to serve a guy another drink and he got mad and threw the remainder of the drink he had on me. Pretty humiliating on my side, but now that I think about it not only did this guy not get another drink from me but he also wasted his current drink by throwing it on me. His loss honestly. Many people make jokes that I don’t understand in French which also get’s frustrating because their expecting me to laugh but I don’t. I can now kind of tell when things are supposed to be jokes so I just fake laugh to make the mood less uncomfortable. I’ve definitely encountered many odd incidences on the job, not all bad, not all good but all fun learning experiences for sure.

There are a lot of fun things that people do when they are drunk as well. People climb onto the counter and dance, they sing, and just have a blast. Some even call me out and have me come drink or dance with them! As a bartender that is the best thing to see. Knowing that people are having a good time in the bar you’re serving at is pretty awesome. It feels like I’m fueling the party. People are also a lot more open and talkative so I’ve been able to meet a lot of great people from all over the place!

Another great thing is that my coworkers are awesome. When I go to work it doesn’t feel like something I have to do, it’s something I want to do. The people I work with make it fun and even though I’m not going out on the town with my friends, I’m having my own fun at work. I guess that might sound kind of sad but I’m serious, we have a good time. Getting to drink on the job, pick the music at the bar, dance, sing, meet new people, and serve drinks. What better college job could you ask for?

Overall, I love working at the bar. Every negative incident has been a learning experience and every positive one a fun time and a great memory. I feel privileged to work with such great people at such a lively bar. I’ve had some of the greatest “soirees” of my life working as a bartender, highly recommend!

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