My fake name is Cindy. I apologise if that’s actually your name, but I’m not a fan. I didn’t have much choice in the matter. The name of the tackier version of Barbie (which, given that Barbie is entirely plastic and usually covered in pink sparkles, is pretty tacky) was bestowed upon me by the first person to mis-hear my real name. And now it’s stuck.
It works like this: If a creeper (by which I mean a strange, unpleasant, or usually sexually lewd person) comes to the bar, starts chatting to you, and asks you for your name, you give the fake one. It’s not only for self-protection – this little game of pretense also has another, rather sneaky purpose.
Creepers often come on slow nights and try to get to know the bartenders. Then, when it’s busy, they come back, and claim to be a friend of yours at the door, hoping to jump the queue. It’s quite clever really, but we’re cleverer. Because the softly spoken, but very authoritative bouncer who works at the door of my bar knows all about the fake name game. If he hears so much as a whisper of “Cindy” (or Vladimir, or Astrid, or Esteban – obscure names are more plausible apparently) he has a simple response:
“Sorry, mate, we’re full.” And the door is shut.
I nearly got myself in trouble yesterday though, when an American woman to whom I’d given my real name started chatting up a wasted American man, who thought I was Cindy. Fortunately, I’d judged it just about right, and the loutish yank was too trollied to notice. He got kicked out for making a “mess” of the bathrooms later, anyway. What classy people I do serve.
Speaking of which, I invented the classiest of new concepts yesterday. A motley crew of hipstery students drank their way through their fifty-centime pieces, until they had but 16 of them left.
“What can we get to share for 8 euros?” they said (in French. I understood. Get me!)
“8 shots of red wine,” I said, after consultation with the boss.
“We’ll take them!” they said, and I filled up the cash machine with shrapnel, and instigated a new craze. I’m not sure it’s going to catch on…
But really, while it’s fun to be cheeky and sneaky, my favourite part of bartending is the watching. Not just because it’s funny, but because it’s sociologically fascinating. I’ve seen every clichéd phenomenon enacted in just a few nights in the cellar, and I’ve learnt a few things too. I’ve learnt that, almost unanimously, the person on the prowl (who you distinguish from a mile off) will have less fun of a night than their wingman. I’ve learnt that social persistence really does pay off when alcohol’s involved. I’ve watched how territories are divided and breached, how strategies are devised and followed, and how guys really do bitch just as much, if not more than girls.
Last week, I gave up my job in the bookshop. I wasn’t having enough time for the novel and something had to give. You’d think that the whole bookshop assistant/author thing would be the most natural pairing. But working behind a bar is actually do wonders for my writing. Because, how ever long I end up staying, right now I’m collecting enough material for a lifetime of storytelling.