Greg the Bartender

Last Friday I worked my last volunteer shift at Artomatic. My first two were a little lackluster; shift #1 was during set-up on a weekend when it was so gorgeous out that the volunteers outnumbered the artists actually setting up by over 2-to-1, and shift #2 was a very quiet 12-5pm shift manning an information booth (that only really picked up in the last hour or so). This time, though, Karon and I (who had unknown to each other ended up with the same final shift) were working a 5-10pm Friday night shift, and were assigned to run the bar on the 1st floor next to the Cabaret Stage.

Waterplanet's Millie LandrumNow, this was admittedly a very rudimentary bar. There were five types of beer, four types of wine, three types of soda, two types of Red Bull, and water. So I’m not talking about us mixing drinks and putting out the shot glasses with hard liquor. And early on it was a tiny bit slow, but that worked well because I got to take a few pictures of the first band to play on the stage that night. But with all of that in mind? We worked our butts off and had an absolute blast; when we left, I turned to Karon and said, “Wow, bartending is where it’s at.”

Part of it was that Karon and I had a pretty good system, coupled with a strong work ethic so that we did things quickly and smoothly; why have a medium-sized line for all eternity when you can work a little harder and end up with little breaks here and there, right? So we hustled to serve people, and rotate in new bottles of beer into the tubs (so that they could cool down), and occasionally restock from the secret beer closet. (In some ways it reminded me of being a cashier at Giant Food way back in the day; there were some who were content to poke through an 8-hour shift every day, but I always felt that I’d rather get people out the door quickly and efficiently.)

But there was more to it than that; there was something enjoyable about interacting with the customers, that shared experience of flashing a smile as you took their orders or popped the caps off of the bottles. They were there to have a good time, and just about everyone was chipper and polite. It helped that (especially once the two 9pm-2am people arrived in the last hour) I wasn’t afraid to go to one side and give the, “Who’s next?” call and wave, and you could tell that the people lining up for their booze were happy to be served quickly. (I will never understand why some bartenders seem content to just ignore half the customers. Great way to earn a tip.)

Alas, we weren’t working for tips, but the number of people who left money in the tip jar (which also went to Artomatic) was pretty darn high. I like to think it was because Karon and I dazzled them with our awesomeness. Or something.

One fun thing to note was that there was a real pecking order in beer selection. From most to least popular—and I won’t deny that I completely approve of this—was something like this:

  • Flying Dog White Belgian-Style
  • Flying Dog Pale Ale
  • Flying Dog Amber Lager
  • Yuengling
  • Miller Lite (of which we only sold one bottle the whole night)

Seriously, it warms my heart that Artomatic patrons don’t want Miller Lite.

So, just another fun, new experience. At the next Artomatic, I think I might try and get all bar shifts if possible. And down the line if I need a career change, well, something to think about.