three guys walk into a bar. wait… three guys on a bender of alcohol, cocaine, and klonopin walk into a bar. i should mention i’m working at the bar, it’s 8am, and they haven’t slept all night. no… they haven’t slept in two nights.
i love working the morning shift. the bar becomes my domain. everything’s calm, people are sober, and i play delightful wake up music at a reasonable volume -some reggae, manu chao, maybe a little calexico and other white boy shit, and some hip hop once the afternoon light begins to glow. i enjoy this routine, and i enjoy being a solo worker in charge of everything from the dishes to the ambiance. these three dudes are looking like trouble set on spoiling my good time. did i mention they’re my coworkers?
“yo, let me put on some cypress hill.”
“not right now, dude. i’m just trying to chill with my music.”
“don’t be such a bitch!”
“hey guys, can you give me some room and get on the other side of the bar, please?”
“duuuuuuude, angie’s having a hissy fit.”
or was it…
“i think she’s on her period. chill out, half pint!”
i stop engaging, laugh, smile, and breathe.
“uh oh, we got angie mad! do you hate us, angie? we got nothing but mad love for you. angie needs a hug.”
“touch me and i’ll cut your balls off.”
“oh shit! you knew what you were getting into when you started working here at the boy’s club.”
it’s true. i did. but i’ve never worked with so many people raised as boys. social work attracts a different set of folks. i’m not used to having them as bosses or coworkers. i dislike it. since they don’t consider me a part of their creepy, special gender circle, they have no respect for my space or words. if they did, when i said, “get out of my face,” i’d get, “chill, brah. no worries.” there would be no attempt to give me a massage or a hug; i’d get insulted maybe, not belittled, and left alone.
mind you, i can handle testosterone. i acquiesced to their musical requests, played nice, and was generally loveable and had fun with it. all this despite the fact they hovered over me, made me fuck up the till, were jackasses in front of guests, and gave me shit when i put drinks on their tabs. this nonsense lasted the entirety of my six hour shift, and, for the most part, i gave in to the universe and gave up on the morning i wanted. attachment only leads to suffering, after all. and i knew any other reaction would only be countered by older brother bullshit and references to my menstrual cycle. in the end, it didn’t matter. paper does not beat rock, and i don’t know the hand gesture for boredom. the boy’s club rules on.
this is the first job i’ve ever had (college work study not included) where i am not really responsible for anyone’s well-being. feels good; freeing. i’m paid in room and board. the room part lasted about three days. not for me. instead, i bartered for more free food. best of all: FREE non-bottled water. water, people! also free is the lessons i’ve learned about myself and the world around me.
you know you’re a bad bartender if…
– you’re always turning the music down.
– your o.c.d. compels you to clean up glasses and beers before people are done with them.
– you can’t remember anyone’s name.
– you can’t remember what anyone likes to drink.
– you refrain from socializing with customers for more than 10 minutes.
– you don’t actually know how to make any drinks.
– you’re constantly cleaning around people and making them move their arms.
– you drop hints about how everyone should go to bed soon.
– last call is about 30-45 minutes prior to closing.
– you refuse to give straws.
– you can’t recommend any drinks.
– you’re ridiculously bad at simple math and regularly give wrong change.
– it takes you a really long time to give wrong change.
– you’re a stickler for rules.
– you won’t drink with the customers.
– when girls get on the bar to dance you envision ceiling fan concussions and make them get down.
– you’re me.
i always feel inclined to dress up for air travel. i’m unsettled by people who get on a plane wearing short shorts and flip flops. partially, i feel like you should be prepared for disasters that involve running with protective footwear and the inevitable coldness while on board, and also it just feels tacky and inappropriate. a child of the 80s with immigrant parents, flying was an occasion for which we overprepared and overdressed. my mom would wear her sunday bests, my sister and i would don fancy leisure wear, our carry-ons included anything we could possibly need while in the air, and we’d get to the airport hours before our flight. it kind of felt like we were embarking on an ocean liner or a locomotive ala the roaring 20s. except we didn’t have fedoras, regrettably. at our destination, assuming it wasn’t colombia, we stayed at nice hotels and often had private drivers to take us around. this upper class mode of travel still hangs over me. when i book accommodations, i think of key cards, sleek bathrooms, and cable television. i’m willing to go budget, though i’m always disappointed, but hostels seem out of the question.
once i stayed at a hostel in seattle and, if memory serves, i’m pretty sure i checked out the following day. the whole communal, hippie, backpacker vibe made me feel simultaneously inferior and elitist. i dislike being confronted with my classism by people who likely fall into my same class category but purport to not. i shed a lot of these random constraints before i came here, and so am less hostile towards hostels. i have thus found myself not living, but spending all of my time inside a hostel here in santa marta.
yes, yes, i know it’s not a way to truly experience the surrounding culture. in my defense, there isn’t a whole lot to do in santa marta that i haven’t already done and it’s really a beautiful place with many free amenities. i dig my free coffee, wifi, rooftop terrace with shaded hammocks, tv room, convenient and regularly cleaned toilets, and, yes, gringo companionship. hostel life also offers me a glimpse into a society to which i’ve been completely oblivious.
“when did you get here?” “where have you been?” “when are you leaving?” “where are you going?” “where are you from?” “how long have you been traveling?” blah, blah, blah, blah. i’ve asked these questions so many times, i’ve given up on remembering the answers, or maintaining the ability to match the answers with the correct persons. it takes all my willpower to refrain from saying shit like, “did you strangle a turtle in the galapagos after you took its picture?” or “don’t forget to plant a plastic bottle at a peak in cousco.” i’m a wanker, i know it. i watch fresh faced newcomers arrive and witness them slowly wither in the heat, humidity, onslaught of mosquitoes, and the crazy haze of cocaine. it took me a couple of weeks to figure out how these people were so entertained at the hostel bar until 5am with no dancing, and then i realized they were all hopped up on goofballs. fyi, cokeheads, your high speed conversations are terribly trite and drab.
they are australian, british, united statesian, isreali, new zealanders, irish, swiss, german, etc. white, basically. i mean, there are some folk of color up in here from time to time, but not often. obviously, these backpackies are young and have the economic means to travel; a fact i remind locals when they make grand generalizations about the economic propensities of gringos. they all seem to have met each other previously in bolivia or panama or nicaragua or wherever. it’s a small hostel world, after all. in medellin and cartagena, i ran into folks i’d met in santa marta and then traveled along with newly met others and then saw them again when i returned to santa marta. i suppose this is quite ordinary for seasoned travelers, but not for me. i would never have thought it a good idea to meet new people and right away engage in an activity that has a tendency to end even strong, long-standing relationships: budget travel. it does seem to work out alright, though. it provides an extra person to split cab fare, and some times people are ok. even those that travel in flip flops.