Bar Wench

That’s right, I am a server at 1516 Brewing Company, an international pub-type place that serves its own beer and surprisingly delicious food. You should check it out if you happen to be in Vienna:

I saw an ad online during my never-ending job search last week, and I sent in a resume and went in to see the manager, Horst. He stared me down and said, “This is a difficult job. It’s fast-paced and stressful. You’re going to annoy the other staff because you’re going to be a pain in the ass with your questions and screwing stuff up. You might come crying to me two days in and say you can’t do it.” I didn’t really know how to respond to that opener, so I just said, “Yeah, I probably will be a pain in the ass for a while. But I’d like to see if I can do it.” He brought up the fact that I’d gone to McGill which, according to Horst, has the reputation of being “better than the Ivy League schools in the U.S.” — I told him that’s what McGill would like to think of itself, but I don’t know how accurate that statement is. But he seemed to think that this meant I was smart enough to think quickly and adapt to new situations. (Thanks, McGill name brand on my CV!)

I straight up told Horst I have a dismal grasp on the German language, which could potentially be a huge problem working in a bar in a German-speaking city. He nonchalantly responded that most people come into the bar knowing that it has an “international atmosphere” and most people in Vienna speak English anyway, or would be willing to point things out on the menu that they wanted to order. I told him that I have absolutely no serving experience. He told me that this could be a good thing, since they’d be teaching me starting from scratch and I could adapt easily to their method of doing things. And finally, I told him that I’m leaving for two weeks over Christmas to travel with my family, and I’d be away until January. He merely said, “We’ll see if you get through these next couple of weeks, and then see if you come back in the new year. So, can you come in tomorrow morning?”

And with that, I was hired.

Here’s a picture of the main floor of 1516:

It is constantly filled with a cigarette-smoke haze that seeps into my clothes and hair throughout the course of my shift and disgusts me — but that’s the case in pretty much any bar. And I was going crazy not doing anything (unemployment = boredom), so I’m just trying to look past that aspect of the job.

I’ve worked 6 shifts so far, and I have one more on Saturday before flying to Frankfurt on Sunday morning to meet up with the fam. So far I have suffered no major humiliations, such as dropping beer on customers or shattering glasses or mixing up food orders and accidentally causing someone to have a life-threatening allergic reaction. I am thinking of Mrs. Doubtfire there, the scene where Robin Williams gets jealous of Pierce Brosnan for dating his ex, Sally Field, so he puts pepper in his meal and Pierce has an allergic reaction and Robin reveals his true self while performing the Heimlich maneuver and his mask slides off. You know, that scene. What a great movie though, amirite?

Anyway. There’s been nothing so serious as all that. I worked my first night shift yesterday, which is a crazy time, even when it’s not the weekend. (I admit, I don’t know if I’ll be able to hack a night shift on a Friday or Saturday — the stress just might kill my weakling fresh-outta-grad-school spirit.) I was upstairs, which serves mainly as a restaurant until midnight. I literally did not stop moving between 6 and midnight, since there was a soccer (or I guess I should call it football) game on and tons of people were there to watch it on the big screen. I’m always amazed at how much beer some people can drink… just pints and pints of the stuff were poured last night, as they are every night.

I met some nice people during the course of the evening, all of whom were impressed and/or surprised that I was Canadian and confused as to why I would choose to live in Vienna. I told one guy that I wanted to learn German while I was living here and he scoffed, “Why? It’s ugly and a hard language… Why German?” in his perfect English. I envy perfectly bi- and trilingual people! I also met two middle-aged guys from Prague who were in the city on business and they told me that they love Vienna, but I should definitely visit Prague while I’m here. Duly noted, mildly-creepy-but-mostly-polite gentlemen!

Things slowed down upstairs around midnight, after the game ended, and we cleaned up while a few last lingering couples finished their beers and paid their bills. Last call is at 2:00 am during the weekdays, but there were people smoking and drinking on the main floor until about 3:00, when we finally kicked them out. I stuck around for a beer with the three Irish dudes that work the night shift, along with an Austrian named Natalie. A 67-year-old Irish guy named Kevin wandered in from Flanagan’s, another Irish pub across the street, around 3:30, and he, in his own words, “was absolutely bollocksed” — drunk as a skunk but still gentlemanly in his introductions. His first question to me was, “How’s your life?” and I had to respond, “Pretty great!” We also discussed Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis, hilarious-and-depressing memoirs by Frank McCourt, since that’s apparently what Kevin’s childhood was like in Ireland. Bummer. By the end of the hour, he was telling me he loved me but the only reason we couldn’t get married was because he was too old. I’m obviously missing out!

Around 4:00 am I peaced out and caught a cab home, absolutely exhausted but pleased about how the night shift went. My Masters degree in English Literature clearly did not prepare me for any real-life situations — though, in its defence, it never promised that writing a thesis whilst cooped up in my apartment and drinking copious amounts of coffee and questioning my life choices would encourage such practical skills. I was a little nervous when I started out last week, since I was working in a place that’s definitely out of my comfort zone and having to embarrass myself multiple times on a daily basis by speaking horrible German to people. But, like many other jobs in the service industry, it’s just a matter of getting the routine down and learning a million tiny tasks in order to perform the job well. That, and learning German, that’ll help.

I still have a few job leads that I can’t follow up on until I get back in January, and maybe none of those will pan out. But there are worse things I could do with my time than work at a fun bar in Europe for a year. In that case, just call me “bar wench.”


2 thoughts on “Bar Wench

  1. Oh McGill, helping English grad students be internationally underemployed.
    Beast v. Beast! East beast v. West beast. Who’s the best beast?
    Beast friends for effort


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