How To Fail At Being An Underage Bartender

Graduate high school and decide to spend the summer in the city you were born in, Prague. To that end, decide to acquire some sort of gainful employ so as to mitigate the feckless-sheltered-kid-taking-advantage-of-really-sweet-family-apartment factor. During the day, get a relatively boring job selling overpriced hand-tailored clothes to lipsticked American ladies in the Old Town mostly on the strength of your English fluency and your ability to be cloyingly charming on command. The job pays terribly, so attempt to acquire another job as a bartender near New Town.

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Shift nervously as the proprietor gives you the once-over. You’ve heard he hires people mostly based on looks. Make the cut probably by virtue of your long hair and childlike face. Realize that this is kind of like how the girls in high school used to brag about being hired to sell $70 polos at Abercrombie in the mall, another job based on looks. You mocked those girls with no sympathy. Feel a little sad inside. Be relieved he never asked you how old you are – you’re seventeen, but you look around fifteen.

Realize how bloody difficult it is to serve beer on tap. It needs to be filled perfectly to measure-line (to be even a little under measure-line is a huge affront to the patron), not overflow, be the right consistency and have the right amount of head. It also needs to be served fast and with the everyday nonchalance that comes with Prague’s simple, exquisite beer culture. When you eventually recount how you got fired, one of your friends will remark that it was due to “not enough head.” Enjoy this immensely.

Get a crash-course in panini-making, tapas-making and dishwashing by the proprietor. Fumble things. Have the proprietor say something concise but condescending about how Americans are so impractical, how you’ve never done a day’s work in your life, have you, how you’re probably a rich spoiled kid. Be profusely apologetic while resisting the urge to scream that you may be entirely useless at this but this is probably because it’s your first day on the job and you’re seventeen, god damn it, not because you did high school in the states, could he stop projecting his blanket assumptions about your Americanness and America in general, for the love of god, please.

When a patron asks for wine, ask what kind, have him say red. Grab any red. Realize five minutes later how profoundly stupid that was by any standard.

Similarly, ask whether cappuccino comes with extra milk. Dear gawd, you’re not so good at this.

Return to the 2 meters by 1 meter kitchen. Find a random Saint Bernard dog already occupying most of it. Attempt to have a wrestling match with said dog to kick him out. Give up and start getting drinks and filling orders with frenetic pseudo-efficiency.

Get hit on a lot. Respond awkwardly and brusquely. Have patrons make fun of the fact that you have a slight speech impediment in Czech. It’s a common one here, brought on by the fact that this is a language where “Chrt pln skvrn vtrhl skrz trs chrp v ?tvr? Kr?” is a legitimate sentence. Wish that they could be a little more creative with their insults, and wonder how it came to be that you have either an accent or speech impediment in every language you speak.

Have to leave around midnight because your parents don’t want you wandering around dark alleyways at three in the morning. Find this profoundly unreasonable at the time. Have your boss make another remark about how useless you are in that case.

Work another few afternoon shifts with a laid back busty girl. Watch a scruffy guy run up a huge tab and asks her to take of her shirt for ten dollars in accented English. She holds her own and tells him to shut the fuck up. Later, when you’re walking down the street in jeans and a hoodie and someone on a pub patio casually yells that you should blow him for taxi fare, or when three years later a seventy-year old American truck driver asks to sleep with you for fifty bucks, cry in a sort of desperate rage that we, the luckiest ones, are still here, in this place, as society, in the first world.

Watch an unkempt old lady negotiate some sort of international publishing and media deal with a guy thirty years her junior over two bottles of wine. Marvel at her charisma, at the way she transcends everything one would assume, at how thoroughly it doesn’t matter that she’s by conventional standards “unattractive,” at her self-assurance, at her chutzpah.

Eventually get fired – the owner cites the fact that you can’t work until the wee hours of the morning, but suspect that it’s more because you are profoundly useless.

Have other jobs later on, as a backcountry tree-planter, as a map-maker, as a math tutor. Be good at them. Realize that it’s really okay to not give enough head. TC mark

image – nekidtroll

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=599484915 Natasha Kal-Papangeli

    Uhm… If that was wrote in fist person, I guess it would be way more awesome and interesting… imho ofcourse!

    Otherwise…interesting article, quite hard to follow but interesting nonetheless :D

    • Bernie

      “If that was ‘wrote?'” Umm…

  • Phil

    Not a big fan of the whole present-tense thing frequently used here, but a good essay nonetheless.

    • Susan

      Seconded. Hate that present tense thing like any of the things that are written about here will ever happen to me.
      I need a trust fund, yo.

      • Tereza

        I do not have a trust fund. I work as a manual labourer to help support my studies. But thanks anyway.

  • What?

    Wow. I must say I got fascinated by this article. Well done girl!

  • http://twitter.com/iamthepuddles irreverent puddles

    you probably should have sat on this article another day and looked at it with fresh eyes; i think it could have benefited greatly from another edit. but this is pretty sweet and i like the way you construct the sentences, though this style of writing (i.e. “realize you don’t like this”) is decidedly limiting, and getting a bit old in my opinion. but COOL! 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    read it as *get hit a lot. respond awkwardly…* felt surprised and hesitated to read it over

  • Guies

    As a professional young lady, seeing/meeting “unkempt old lad[ies]” like the one you describe take care of business and hold their own in a boys’ club buzzwordy business world—while completely owning their unbotoxed faces, body fat, and pantsuits with strange floral prints—always gives me the hope I need to keep from jumping off a ledge when I turn 40.

  • Bernie

    Great piece! I particularly related to the bit about being made fun of for a speech impediment in your native language. I’m Polish, raised outside of Poland, and when I go back to visit I constantly get made fun of for the way I talk. Not cool. I also wish people would be more creative with their insults.

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