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The Barmaid Blog™: Life for a 30-something Manhattan Barmaid


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Green Drink
"Hey, are you new? I don't remember seeing you before."

"I'm just filling in for a week," I smile. "I'm Debra. What can I get you?"

"I'll have a Sam Rebel IPA, and I'm Caleb."

"Coming up, Caleb," I say, and grab a pint glass. The few Samuel Adams craft drafts this bar serves are in the row of taps closest to me, so I don't have to go far. I'm pouring off a little extra head to top off the pint when Caleb starts in on the questions.

"How do you hire a bartender to fill in for a week, is there a temp agency or something? Is someone on vacation? Why don't you have a permanent bartending job somewhere?"

I set the 16 ounces of hoppiness down on a coaster in front of him. "I'm a Soviet secret agent sent here to gather military intelligence in Brooklyn, and tending bar is just my cover. If I stay in one bar for too long, they'll find me, and that'll be the end of Natasha. I mean Debra."

I expected a chuckle, or at least a smile, but Caleb's look is blanker than the page at the end of a standardized test booklet. "What's a Soviet?"

You've got to be kidding. "Russian. Russia used to be part of the Soviet Union. You know, like on the TV show 'The Americans'? Keri Russell plays a Soviet spy pretending to be American."

"The girl who played 'Felicity' is in a new show? Man, she was hot."

"She still is. Anyway, I used to have a permanent bartending job, but filling in gives me more flexibility." And allows me to observe a bar's operations from close-up to do a good job as a consultant without having to pretend I'm a customer, I don't add. "That's seven dollars."

Caleb digs around in his wallet, looking at neither his wallet nor me. "When I first moved to New York after college, I used to binge-watch 'Felicity' on Netflix all the time. Then they got rid of it a few years ago. I used to masturbate to fantasies about Felicity having sex with her roommate Meghan all the time. Here you go." Did he really just say what I think he just said? He finally throws a credit card down on the bar, and for a moment, I'm afraid to pick it up. Of all the reactions I could choose, I opt for pretending I didn't hear him.

I'm putting the charge slip and a pen down in front of him when he asks, "So, do you masturbate to any TV stars?" So much for pretending.

"Why would you think it's okay to ask me that? You barely know me."

"Tracy and the other girls who work here talk about stuff like this all the time. I guess you're not cool with it?"

Danger, Will Robinson! goes the red-flag meter in my consultant brain. Do the women who work here encourage customers to talk about sex in order to get better tips? Is the owner aware, complicit, insisting upon it? This could create serious issues, up to and including for the bar's liability insurance. I file that away and deal with the more immediate problem.

"No, I'm really not. I'm a pretty friendly girl, but the only guy allowed to ask me about my sex life is my husband."

"You're married? Why aren't you wearing a wedding ring?"

Crap. Because it doesn't fit the character of "sexy fill-in barmaid" I'm supposed to be playing right now. "Debra's not married, but Natasha is. Her husband's back in Moscow praying for her safe return."

Caleb nods slowly, and sets about filling out the charge slip. Hard-won experience tells me not to count on much of a tip. "Nice save, Superstar," I hear Vince's voice say in my head.

"Am I allowed to talk about Keri Russell's tits? That's not about your sex life, right?" I'm getting paid well for this. I'm getting paid well for this. I inhale, remind myself that "Choose your battles" has always been one of the most difficult personal rules to follow working behind a bar, and smile.

"I'll tell you what. If you're willing to refer to them as 'breasts' instead of 'tits,' we can talk about any celebrities' breasts you want."

Caleb smiles. "Okay, then --"

"Porn stars don't count," I quickly add.

He shrugs. "So what do you think Keri Russell's breasts taste like?" He takes a few sips of his beer, looking at me with what seems like genuine earnestness, and I try not to cringe. This may not have been the conversation I intended to agree to have, but I did agree to have it.

"A White Russian," I reply, and Caleb laughs hard enough to dribble beer on himself. Great day in the morning, people, victory is mine.

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