This week Picador is publishing Bill Loehfelm’s The Devil She Knows, a “gritty and lyrical” crime novel set in the seedy underbelly of Staten Island. To celebrate we’ll be featuring the book here on the Tumblr for the rest of the week. In the mini-essay below, Bill describes his many years in the service industry, a place his heroine, Maureen Coughlin, knows all too well.
One of the things I enjoyed most about writing The Devil She Knows, was writing about the service industry, where I spent many years, and about the things, good and bad, that I learned about people. Below are some things good for those being served to know:
We see you: If the bartender isn’t serving you yet, it isn’t because she doesn’t see you, it’s because it’s not your turn. What we’re doing might seem random to you, but there’s a system, a modified first-come-first served-system tempered by variables such as manners, tipping habits, and familiarity. Some of these are discussed below. And always remember: Nobody jumps up and down at the bank, waving their checkbook and hollering, “Yo, yo, over here, real quick, I just need to make a deposit.” At Burger King, nobody jumps up and down at the back of the line waving money and yelling out their order. You know who else sees you doing that shit? The bouncer. And the redhead you’re going to try pick up in an hour. You’re already blowing it.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Have it. Not only for your server, but for yourself and your fellow customers. Know your order when your turn comes or you end up at the back of the line. You’re not getting the call to kill bin Laden, he’s already dead, so put your phone away or the bartender is permitted to go Seal Team Six on you. And here are three phrases that make magic happen in a busy bar: Please, Thank you, Excuse me. Fellas, I spent a lot of time behind the bar, and the best pick-up line I’ve ever heard, is “Hello, my name is …” Unless you follow it with, “Want a Jaeger Bomb?” Then, you still suck. And don’t ask me to “make it strong” or to “hook you up.” Unless you can name my last three ex-girlfriends, we’re not “boyz.” I don’t go the car dealer and say, “I only have enough for a Kia, but hook me up with that Benz and I’ll take care of you later.” If you pull that game where you wave the hundred dollar bill, order a Bud Light then try to pay with your debit card, you’ll learn a very popular service industry term: Eighty-six.
Yes, we saw COCKTAIL, no, we don’t do that shit with the bottles. This isn’t Vegas and we’d get fired mid-shift for spilling all that liquor. Plus, you really want to hang out in a bar where two bartenders make one drink at a time between them?
Tipping is not only for cows: Bartending is fun, but, except for your drunk uncle at the Memorial Day BBQ, nobody does it for free. We do it for cash money. No tip is too big, but some are too small. Anything smaller than a quarter, keep it. And no tip, no matter how big, buys you permission to be a douchebag. And, chances are, my idea of a big tip is different than yours, Mr. Five-Figure Millionaire. There are some things money can’t buy. The verbal tip (You’re the best bartender ever/We’re so gonna take care of you later, etc.) is death. Dropping it at any time other than after you’ve tipped sufficiently in cash, will kill any chance you had of getting good service. I’ve got my mom to give me compliments. Everybody together now: cash money. On the flip side, tipping well on the first round is a foolproof tactic. Even if you intend to run a tab with a credit card, pay the first round in cash and leave a good tip – we’ll remember.
Closing time: “Closed” in Barland means the same thing it does on Earth. It means we’re not selling any more stuff this evening. If you walk into a bar and the lights are on and the music is not and all the chairs and stools are upside down, the bar is closed. The door is unlocked because the waitress’s boyfriend is picking her up and the bar back is talking out the trash, not because we were waiting for your drunk ass to stumble in for “one more beer.” And when I tell you the registers are closed, please don’t tell me I don’t have to ring it up. I don’t steal for people I know, I’m not doing it for you. If you are begging for a drink and can’t find an open bar to sell you one, that’s the universal sign for “Go the fuck home.”
It’s been a pleasure serving you. Have a nice day.
For more of Bill Loehfelm’s life lessons, head over to his Tumblr.