Friday, July 16, 2010

A job in Vice

… and so it was that I decided to study Agriculture, or Agricultural research, or anything that would get me as far out of town as possible and under the sky.

By that time, my mother could no longer afford to send me to uni, so I decided to work and save up for it. This time, I applied at a hotel in the middle of Pretoria – rather a smart one, and got a job as a bar waitress.

I may have been saving up for an education, but I certainly got one at the bar. Aged eighteen I learned how to get rid of obstreperous clients, avoid getting my backside pinched, and learned how to get revenged discreetly if my backside did get pinched -you kick them hard on the shins, no-one notices and they won’t complain. A slightly less discreet revenge, is to serve their next drink onto their laps. A definite cooling of ardour (among other things) results.

I could write pages about the parade of faces, the good, the bad, the happy, the sad, but on the whole, barmaiding is very humdrum. You spend hours waiting for a customer, and then you’re run off your feet, you hear the same jokes – sometimes several times in one day – and some men will try to ‘buy’ one. I never could ‘get’ that.

Ask for a date, sure. I’ll turn it down, that’s fine – but some thought to clinch the deal by offering me money. If they only thought, they’d realize it: if I was selling sex, I sure as heck wouldn’t be working from ten in the morning till after twelve at night serving booze. I’d be making oodles of cash lying on my back (or in some other position which is, with luck, fairly comfortable). I wouldn’t be mopping up beer slops (or worse) and running about like a maniac for three rand an hour and whatever small change I got in tips.

As at the hairdressers’ I found many of the things that my management considered to be important rather trivial, but I was a good barmaid – I served my clients politely, never got drunk and my stock and till always balanced. Besides, the MD really liked me, so I was able to get away with occasional insubordination with impunity.

In the end, I decided I’d saved enough to begin studying and gave my notice to the MD. While I was working out my final month, one of the more junior managers tried to fire me for telling him to get a move on and help me cash up.

‘You can’t fire me.’ said I, laughing.
‘Oh yes I can!’ he riposted with great wit and a certain amount of asperity.
‘Oh no you can’t!’ said I, matching his repartee with ease. Eventually we got as far as:
‘Why can’t I fire you?’
‘Because I resigned two weeks ago.’
I do hope he’s seen the funny side of it by now.


  1. Another great story! Loved the end part the best. I can just see you telling him that- glad he finally asked "why?".
    I had one job as an orthopedic nurse on a surgery floor in a teaching hospital. 12 hours shifts, ungodly amounts of work with no end in site. After six months of no life, I turned in my resignation hoping for an immediate dismissal- the norm around there. But no such luck- I had to work out the whole damn resignation. It was pure torture. Holy shit! :-)))

  2. They say that working at a choclate shop will, eventually, put you off chocolate for life. (Can't see it myself, but that's what the eternal "they" say). It also doesn't work with beer. When I was a pup, and needed some money to paint the house, or to fulfill some other suburban activity, I spent my Friday nights and Saturday afternoons working at a bar. It was a good, solid, working-class bar,the sort of place that featured a half-decent punch-up once an hour.
    One would think this would put one off beer, cheap wine, and exotic cocktails like the formidable jug of Rum and Coke.
    It didn't. I still enjoy a quiet beer or seven....

  3. Now that you work in agriculture you might have to worry about a Venus fly trap pinching you... some guys can be so gross in bars. They think because you are having a cold one you can be a jerk. At least you got a good story out of it!

  4. I read your last few posts in quick succession and really enjoyed the storytelling, and learning about the adventures you have had on the job. There is something very special about these tales - the spark in scenes from a life, I guess.

  5. Thanks all for sharing. PAMO: I'm so glad you did change jobs for one that allowed for a life - you're an expert in the art of living!

    AW: I was teetotal back then, but I acquired a taste for beer in the course of time. Its a marvelous beverage!

    Karl: Yup, some guys are jerks. They make one so cross one remembers them rather than the nice folks that come for a chat and a chill out. Thank heavens that's the majority!

    Dan: thanks for keeping up with my thrills and spills! I feel like doing something different again though... watch this space.