Since writing my book on how to bartend, It has been my contention for some time that anyone can do this task successfully and learn it in a relatively short amount of time, which is why it was so disconcerting when we recently brought on a guy named Brad to help cover some shifts and, despite his appearance as a full grown man, I discovered that teaching him to pour drinks and help guests was not unlike asking a small dim-witted child to whip up a chicken risotto for dinner.
The first thing Brad ever said to me while shaking my hand was, “I was in the Marines.” He also told me that some people liked to call him “Bad Brad” and that I was more than welcome to partake in this whimsical nickname which I assumed he created for himself after several days of heavy thought.
Brad recently returned from the Middle East and after settling in he got a bouncer job at a bar around the block from us. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Brad’s dad and the owner of our bar were roommates in college together, so less than six weeks after his return, an arrangement was made so that Brad in all his muscled glory was offered a bartending position at my bar based on no criteria what-so-ever.
To say that Brad is a bit sluggish upstairs would be tip-toeing around the obvious. I imagine there is a hamster wheel where his brain is supposed to be except that the hamster powering the wheel is about 96 years old and uses a walker to make it go round. This information was made painfully clear while teaching him how to use the POS system. He would stand and stare at the screen for a good thirty seconds looking for the correct drink to ring in, his finger poised in the air as if he were contemplating his next thirteen moves on a chess board.
“It’s ok,” I told him, “you can touch the screen. It’s not a mine field.”
“I can’t find the Captain Morgan button,” he said.
“It’s right here,” I said. ”Under the Rum tab. You’re in the Burgers section.”
“Oh yeah,” he laughed. “That makes sense.”
The following day I foolishly left Brad behind the bar for longer than 90 seconds so I could change a beer keg in the back. Just as I finished tapping the keg, Brad came into the beer cooler and said, “Something happened.”
“Something happened? What happened?”
“The beer wand fell off.”
“The what? The beer wand? What’s a beer wand?”
“You know,” he said, making a pulling motion toward him with his fist. ”The shaft thing that you pull to make beer come out.”
“Oh, you mean the beer handle. It fell off? How did it fall off?”
“I was trying to be fast like you taught me and I poured a Coors Light and it fell off.”
“It fell off or you broke it off?”
“Ummm…I don’t know. There was like this cracking sound and then it just kind of fell off.”
This is Brad’s other downfall. He has lifted so many weights that walking behind the bar in a narrow space is like Godzilla trying to walk through downtown Hong Kong without stepping on or killing anyone. Negotiating simple things like handling glassware or pouring a draft beer without ripping the handle off its socket is remarkably difficult for him. This is because Brad was built to destroy things, not provide polite and delicate service to nice people looking to have a pleasant night out on the town.
On a brighter note, Brad is quite artistic, choosing to decorate his arms, legs, back and neck with a variety of tattoos–mostly of daggers and guns and skulls and one large “Semper Fi” tattoo which arcs from armpit to armpit across his massive, hairless chest. I know that he has this on his chest because Brad likes to spend approximately 97.6% of his time discussing his tattoos and his life in the Marines with anyone who comes within 100 feet of him, and at the request of a young lady (and before I could intervene) Brad unbuttoned his shirt and opened it up so she (and the other 120 guests in the bar) could see it.
“Brad,” I said calmly. “Please button your shirt up. This isn’t Thunder From Down Under.”
“I was in the Marines,” he said, as if this excused him from being held accountable to remained dressed during his shift.
“Yes, I think you’ve mentioned that once or twice, and I thank you for your service. Nevertheless, I would appreciate it if you served your fellow countrymen with your shirt on.”
“Ok, no prob,” he said, and then he promptly buttoned up his shirt in just under four minutes while telling the same young lady a story about the time in the Iraqi desert when his Marine buddies pushed him down the latrine hole as a prank that left him standing in the entire platoon’s shit and piss for approximately 3 hours in the 110 degree heat. This was all the guy sitting at the bar eating nachos needed to decide that he was no longer hungry.
Two days later I came back from the kitchen to find Brad making a mojito that a server had ordered for her table.
“What are you doing,” I asked.
“Whatta mean? I’m making a mojito.”
“You’re muddling it with a fork.”
“Yeah, I couldn’t find the stick thingy. In the Marines we were taught to improvise.”
“That’s a great lesson, but the ‘stick thingy’ is actually called a muddler and it’s right here,” I said, pulling it off the rail 12 inches in front of him.
“And what is it you’re muddling?”
“Limes and stuff.”
“Is that parsley?”
“Ummm, yeah. I couldn’t find the mint either. I’m hoping they won’t even notice.”
“I’m pretty sure they WILL notice. I don’t know if you’ve ever tasted parsley and mint before, but they’re quite different.”
“So, should I stop?”
The next day I made sure that Brad stopped everything related to bartending. After speaking with our owner, it was agreed that Brad would no longer be allowed to bartend but that we would keep him on as a bouncer. So now he stands outside our door and checks ID’s and during slow times admires his tattoos and shadow boxes with imaginary Al Qaeda members, I assume.
All I can say for Brad is that he does his best with what he’s got. I still have moments when I require several deep breaths to calm myself down, like the other night when Brad let in an underaged girl after she presented him with a library card and a photo ID of her high school student body card. When questioned about it Brad’s response was, “Yeah, but she was smokin’ hot, and besides, she shouldn’t have lied to me. I’m a Marine.”
I guess it just goes to show you that getting a job really is all about who you know and not what you know, and I suppose that means there are some people out there who think Brad is pretty fucking awesome!
Cheers, until next time.