So it’s been five months since I’ve started my bar job, and I have another three months to go, consciously aware that as the high season starts, my income from tips has nowhere to go but down. This is because the bar I work at does not have a patio at all. In Toronto, you don’t realize how important this is until late-May, the beginning of patio season, but from the perspective of a patio-beer enthusiast, such as myself, it makes total sense. From June to September, I won’t be caught dead at any bar that doesn’t have a huge, expansive licensed patio.
Anyway, last Wednesday, I worked a wedding during the week, and took home a modest tip out, we’ll say $100 for argument’s sake. The next day, Thursday, I was invited to an event that some friends were throwing at a bar that was NOT open bar (which they usually are). However, some key career contacts were present, so I went any ways, with the previous night’s tip out in tow (I didn’t get a change to deposit it or tuck it away for safe keeping).
I’ll spare you the details and only say that I easily blew through last night’s tips that night. The next morning, I woke up in my bed angry at myself, hungover, and with half a dozen texts from undesirables that I somehow thought it would be okay to give my number.
I guess I’m saying all this because it finally dawned on me why so many bartenders I know, especially non-students, complain or act broke all the time. It explains why so many of them will pocket tips that are supposed to be shared, under-report their taxes so obviously and straight up steal from the bar (whether through not reporting shortages or ‘forgetting’ to ring in a certain number of drink sales). Basically, the reason I see it is this: if you work a certain amount of time in a certain lifestyle vertical or industry, you are going to become that industry and live that lifestyle.
At many of the higher-end, high-volume establishments in the city, if you constantly serve supposed ballers/athletes, celebrities and heirs in a given night, who may generously tip you once every two years they manage to show up at your club, or invite you back to an afterparty at their penthouse suite, you truly start believing you’re part of that lifestyle and therefore entitled to it.
Like say, you work in a nice night club, and some aging playboy president of a real estate company invites you back to an after party filled with all the vices you could imagine, hot people, drugs, alcohol, the party still going strong after you’ve finished your shift. Well, if this happens often enough, you start to actually *believe* that you belong in this lifestyle, and are not some recruited accessory to fill a certain quota of attractive people in order to lend credibility to whoever the lecherous host is.
That’s when you go out with your own friends (new and old) and start consuming alcohol, etc. at the rate that you are used when spending your only spare evening/night moments at some rich person’s party where everything is taken care of.
You go out with your friends and find yourself spending all the cash you have with you on booze and the like, in order to keep up the level of consumption that you’re used to. If you have $100 in your pocket, you’ll spend it. If you have $500, well then, you’re operating at a higher level, and you’re damnwell going to spend that much as a result.
A couple times in the past month, I’ve found myself in this vicious circle and I’ve managed to keep it under control, but I see my doomed co-workers: gorgeous, much younger than me, sweet, kind, self-destructive, who don’t yet realize that for most of them, this is the most cash they’ll ever earn.