Despite all the bitching I do about it sometimes, I really do like bartending and I like bartending at my bar. It’s slow sometimes a lot of time time and I don’t make all that much, but the owners have been good to me and it’s better than sitting at home and getting loaded by myself.
That said, I’m starting to burn out. Unless you’re one of those ultra-rare bar lifers or one of those pretentious-beyond-belief-“mixologists” who don’t really bartend, bartending is not something that most people can happily do for extended periods of time. It’s hard. You’re on your feet all night. You’re working when everyone else is going out. And you deal with a lot of fucking assholes.
Every bartender has a “thing” or “things” about their shift. Most say they don’t allow talk about religion, politics, or money, but I don’t really care as long as fisticuffs aren’t involved. Others don’t allow Beatles songs on the jukebox, or more than one person in the bathroom at a time, or whatever you could think of that would piss off someone in a bar.
I don’t like the N-word.
Yes, I said “N-word.” I don’t say the whole word not because I’m afraid of black people being mad at me, but because when I was raised, no one said that word. Ever. My parents didn’t say it, my grandparents didn’t say it, and it was implied that there would be unbelievable ass kickings if myself or my sister said it. It is a bad word. I know that I have a special affinity for most other bad words out there (fuck ass bitch shit fartsniffer, ha!), but I do not believe in using, even offhandedly, especially not offhandedly, words that denigrate an entire race of people.
I also don’t believe in the N-word being said in my bar when I’m working. Number one, the reasons I listed above. Number two, who’s to say that I don’t have a customer somewhere in the bar who would be sickeningly offended by the word because of someone in the family, or someone close to them, or whatever, it doesn’t matter, because it’s an ignorant, insulting, ugly word? One of my jobs is to pour drinks. The other is to take care of my customers.
Last night, one of the regulars came in with a friend of his. Both were nearly too drunk to walk, and judging by their facial expressions, they’d run out of coke a short while ago and weren’t about to get more. This isn’t a rare occasion, but it’s never pretty because this guy and his friend are pretty much the dictionary illustrated definition of “pathetic.” Like, supremely. They bitch about money but they’re constantly at bars. They drive drunk and refuse taxis. They rarely motherfucking tip.
Total customers are this regular, his friend, Graham, and some girl I’d never met before. The regular’s friend keeps talking to me when I’m doing other things, which is annoying but it’s not hard to politely ignore at first. Then he says the N-word, loudly and three times in a row, at which time I say in a quiet voice so as not to publicly embarrass him, “hey, that’s not necessary.”
He then asks me to repeat myself, but it’s in that tone. The one used by drunk, angry guys all over the place, the one that, if I were a dude, would soon be followed by either “you wanna take this outside?” or “you think you’re better than me, you wanna take this outside?” Both are equally dangerous, because it’s always a bad situation when an intoxicated moron senses his own inferiority.
I tried to change the subject and even thought I’d succeeded for a hot minute. But drunks don’t really exhibit a wide range of interests, so he was soon back to saying the N-word repeatedly. Again, I said, “hey, it’s not necessary to use that word to me.”
He then proceeds to tell the story of why he used the word. I won’t bother telling it here because it’s disturbing and sad and in no way makes him look like he’s not a galloping racist, which is precisely what he was trying to tell me. “I wasn’t trying to use it in a derogatory way!” he insisted, which was really hard to ignore but I did it, anyway.
Because I’d wanted to say “Really? In what other way can you use that word if not in a derogatory form? The word exists to be derogatory.”
And then he said all the standard stuff that racists say. A lot of his friends are black. He loves black people. They use the word, why can’t we? What’s he supposed to do when they call him “honky?”
Give me a break. Number one, no, sir, you don’t have black friends. Unless your friends are mentally retarded, they see you for exactly what you are. Number two, it’s their prerogative to use the word themselves, but odds are, if they’re using it freely, they’re just as low class as you. Number three, you really get offended by “honky?” Sounds hilarious to me. But then again, I don’t use the N-word so I’ve never been targeted with “honky.”
BUT I DIDN’T SAY THIS. I was ignoring the guy, looking very intently at a Budweiser mirror on the other side of the bar. Graham was ignoring the guy, too, which I’m thankful for because I don’t feel like cleaning someone else’s blood from the floor. Despite my efforts, not only did this guy scream louder (“you’re not LISTENING TO ME!”), his regular friend told me to stop. Yes, that’s right. Apparently, I was supposed to stop ignoring his friend and engage in a conversation about the validity of the N-word to hillbilly assholes who should be bathing in a vat of fryer grease at a NASCAR event.
I told the regular that he was not my employer and didn’t have the most stellar record as one, so he could keep his opinions to himself. Then I turned to his friend.
“You want to keep going? I wasn’t going to respond because nothing I say will make any difference to you, but fine. You’re an idiot. Using a disgusting word repeatedly is idiotic, and so is trying to defend your use of it to people you don’t even know. I’m not talking to you because I don’t want to, and because nothing you’ve said in the past five minutes has made you look like any less of a disgusting idiot. Shut. The. Fuck. Up.”
So they left. Not without a fair amount of screaming, though, which included the phrases “N––s die!” and “Suck a N–—!” And then he slammed the door of his rapist van (no joke), peeled the tires, and sped off. Drunk. In a rapist van. Screaming the N-word.
You’re right, sir. It’s not ugly at all.