As promised, my tale of woe which was my time at ‘The Pub’.
At this moment in time, I have a job as a hostess at a football stadium and when I first started working this second job, it wasn’t out of necessity. My parents and I decided to go to one of the many pubs in the village that I live in for dinner – seriously, the village isn’t all that big yet we have 3 pubs and 3 churches (priorities sorted here) – but found that the main pub we use was fully booked. So we decided to walk down the road to the smaller, less commercial pub. It has one of those typical pub names, like ‘Red Lions’, ‘Rose and Crown’ or ‘Kings Head’, but for today I’m just going to call it The Pub – original, I know. We walk in and find it more or less empty, only to be greeted by an eccentric man with glasses that seem too big for his face who declares he has no room. My Dad uses a few charming words and he relents, saying that we’d have to wait a while. We sit down to order, and surprisingly it comes reasonably quickly. The customers seem friendly, all locals, and I overhear the landlady saying that they really need some help so, without thinking about it, I offer to help out. I write down my name and number on a piece of paper and that was that.
I did not see what was coming.
My first shift, I discovered that ‘eccentric’ doesn’t even cover the landlord – who we’re going to call Frank. He doesn’t run or walk, but does this strange leaping, shuffle glide all over the place whilst wearing a discoloured netted hat. My first job was essentially a dishwasher, but I’d wash up everything and then put it into an actual dishwasher. Wait until it was done, unpack and put away – rinse, repeat. I’d be in the kitchen with at least one other, sometimes it was Frank and sometimes it was someone else. They would cook and I’d go out to deliver – also having to wear one of those checkered aprons and scratchy hats. Unfortunately Frank decided that I needed to be introduced – loudly – to every table, where he would declare ‘This is Eleanor Rigby – she’s new here!’. I swear, there is nothing worse than people actually knowing you’re new. Sure, if you mess up I’m the first to say ‘I’m so sorry, I’m new’ but when they know, they’re ready to criticise every movement you do. Not to mention that they were having Frank sing Eleanor Rigby whenever I entered the room. I’ve never wanted to hide from the world more than in those moments.
Luckily that sort of died down after a couple of weeks, but the crazy didn’t exactly end. Frank was as friendly as could be, everyone loved him, but he did every job there – waiter, bartender, cook, landlord and entertainment. For me he was like marmite, some days I loved him and the next I hated him. One day he’d tell me that I was doing really well, and the next his breath stank of gravy and his fingers were blacker than usual – on that note, one of my biggest issues with working in the pub was the food. It didn’t really click how pub food was actually made, but let me tell you that the main appliances used are the fryers and the microwaves. Fish and chips? Take them out the freezer, throw them in the fryer, put them on the plate and go. And the gravy? I get a jug, pour in a few tablespoons of instant and fill with boiling water – all which Frank insisted on taste testing, so his breath always stank of old instant gravy. When someone ordered a cappuccino, I wanted to cry as that too was instant.
Still, I kind of liked working at The Pub. My colleagues were fun and always ready to crack a joke or have a laugh. Frank wasn’t always so bad, apart from the time that there was a mouse in the kitchen and he told us to just leave it (luckily the mouse got out after a minute, but still). The only sort of sour note was the landlady, who would come down to complain to customers, yell at Frank, tell me that a strand of my hair was loose and then claim that she could leave for Scotland at any time. Unfortunately, it all went downhill pretty quickly.
It all started when I turned 18. All of a sudden, I was no longer just a dishwasher-waitress, but a dishwasher-waitress-and-legal-to-sell-alcohol. Frank announced that I was going to be put on the bar and to come for my next shift at 6.30pm to be bar trained. I was actually pretty excited, along with incredibly nervous, about finally being on the bar but I figured that it wouldn’t be too bad. Again, you can all guess that I was horrendously wrong.
It turned out that the only thing I actually knew how to use was the till, which was broken when I showed up for my shift. Frank also told me that if I needed anything he’d be in the kitchen, and so he left. Me. Alone. On. The. Bar. With no training. No clue. Not to mention that I’m a serial worrier through many years of practice and panic. There were two typical local blokes standing at the bar who had finished a day working as builders and were finishing their first pint of the night. The local alcoholic was also sat on one side of the bar, quietly drinking his beer. I was behind the bar, quietly panicking.
The two blokes then told me that they wanted a pint each, so I told them that I’d have to go get Frank to show me which of course set them off to loudly complaining and being insulting. Frank arrived, pulled a pint, and then left again. I tried to pull the second pint but ended up with a bit too much head. The bloke complained and told me that I had to redo the whole thing. Unaware that I didn’t need to completely redo the drink, I was soon met with laughter and more comments on how stupid I was being for a ‘blonde little girl’. Eventually, I sorted the drink, but by then a couple was up to the bar wanted their drinks. Frank was leaping-shuffle-gliding around the kitchen, too busy to help me. I managed to pull another pint for the man, but the woman wanted a drink I’d never heard of. I apologised and she told me, if somewhat reluctantly irritated, but I had no clue where anything was. Ready to almost burst into tears, the town alcoholic caught my attention and silently pointed to the fridge. I found the components of the drink and was ready to pour them one by one into the glass, but he stopped me with a hand up and made a motion to pour them simultaneously. I thanked him profusely and gave the couple their drinks, only for the man to tell me that I was pretty useless and that I took too long for two simple drinks.
I ended up being dismissed by Frank after thirty minutes. He stood next to the two blokes who’d been nasty to me earlier and seemed to be telling them a funny story whilst telling me to go home. ‘Look, you’re a girl who knows nothing, can’t pour a drink and I have customers – because of that I have no choice but to close the kitchen and I will have to do the bar’. He shrugged at the blokes in a ‘what am I to do’ gesture, chuckling as they laughed and drank their beers.
I don’t really care if it makes me a ‘wuss’, but I walked home with tears in my eyes and burst into tears when I got there. I worked at The Pub for the rest of the summer, but never called back again. Frank apologised after being told to by one of the cooks that had worked there for years, but I dreaded every shift that I was told to be on the bar for. My last shift was a week or so before I needed to start university, and I haven’t been back since. My word of advice? If you ever get asked to be a bartender, get proper training. Also, keep your hands and fingernails clean if you’re around food, that’s just basic hygiene.