The offensive lineman. The assistant to the President of the United States of America. The dude who shovels the elephant poo at the circus. These are the unsung heroes that make our everyday lives livable. But there's one more unknown soldier who makes sure your beer is cold, your rocks glass is clean, and each lime wedge fits neatly into your Corona bottle. That's the barback.
A barback is usually a trustworthy bouncer, but not yet experienced enough to be a bartender. Even if nobody cares or notices you, there are some awesome things about being a barback.
1. No Customer Service Necessary
Bartenders, bouncers, waitresses, and managers all envy you. Not because they want your job—barbacking sucks. It's by far the hardest job in the bar. There are so many responsibilities: barbacking is like translating an Italian song for your friend (you only speak Spanish) while you're painting the Mona Lisa and flying a jet plane…all at the same time. While you're drunk. All your fellow employees wish they were you because you get to do something they don't: ignore customers.
2. Getting Drunk
The bartenders all remember how much barbacking sucks, so they try to make it easy on you by offering you shots whenever they have free time. Which is nice, because alcohol makes everything better.
3. Developing Man Hands
A barback handles glass, knives, screwdrivers, garbage, hot stuff, kegs, wrenches, and all types of dangerous tools. The combination of constantly being rushed and drunk means you have your fair share of accidents. After barbacking for a long weekend, it looked like I tried to stop the blades of a blender with my bare hands. Neosporin, Krazy Glue and Band-Aids are your best friends. Or just duct tape your torn digits. Either way, your hands always look totally badass. Like a lumberjack or an underground boxer.
4. Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition
Like I said, most barbacks are ex-bouncers, so sometimes you're the first guy to run into a fight. Or you can be the last—which is usually easier. After earning your stripes, you can learn some cheap moves that end skirmishes with a blink of an eye and a twist of the wrist. And you better be quick, because you've got a lot of work to do.
5. Getting in Shape
You pick up full kegs. You run up stairs with cases of beer in your hands. Your hands squeeze, crush, cut, and pull stuff all day. It's like getting paid to go to the craziest Rocky IV-style gym ever.
6. You're Pretty Much Irreplaceable—Sort Of
In this dogshit economy job security is really nice. Just about any trained monkey can check IDs, kick ass, or pour drinks. But it takes a true mastermind to barback. If you can survive the training, you can generally work as long as you're needed. The managers give you the most sympathy because your job is the hardest. The bartenders appreciate you because they know how much the job sucks.
7. Swiping Free Booze
You know where all the alcohol is and how much there is. You have more access to hooch than everybody else. Nobody questions you when you walk out the door with two bottles of Jager, a Jameson, and a rotgut bottle of tequila. Or maybe they will question you: "Why are you stealing such a shitty bottle of Jose Cuervo when there's Milagro in the back?"
8. You're Responsible for Everything, But Liable for Nothing
So the doorguys sent another senator's son to the hospital? The bartenders served more gradeschoolers dressed as circus midgets? The waitresses need a new Costco-sized box of Plan B? The chef spread swine flu through the tri-state area? None of that shit is your problem. All you do is keep the beer cold and flowing. Enjoy the lawsuits, suckers.
9. You Become Neo
When bartenders tire of yelling at you, they start throwing things in your general direction. If they're mad, you might see a bottle of wine cruise towards your head. If they're really mad that bottle might be full. So you become an expert at sneaking around sensitive spots, detecting landmines, and dodging all types of projectiles. Oh, and customers also throw shit at you to get you to listen to their pleas.
10. The End of Your Shift
At last call bouncers need to kick people out. Waitresses wipe down tables. Bartenders clean and count money. Since you've busted your ass barbacking, you sit back and drink that drink, smoke that cigarette, or spark that bowl. And nobody thinks any less of you. Granted, this break only lasts about five minutes, but it can be the best five minutes of your life.
11. Shut the Fuck Up
Did I mention you don't talk to customers? Ever? Your job is to ignore the people who enter your establishment. You can pretend to be a non-English-speaking immigrant. You can act deaf. Or you can yell in the customer's face, "I don't help people! Fuck off!" And this type of behavior is encouraged!
There you go. Nobody knows who you are, but without you the place would be in ruins. The job pays well and earns multiplying respect. So get ready to barback. All you need is a bar manager's trust, a bottle opener, a strong back, a fruit knife, a flashlight, a slim waistline to slip through fatass bartenders, grip strength, hummingbird-like reflexes….
In keeping with the tradition of my "11 Awesome Things About Being a Bouncer" and "11 Awesome Things About Being a Bartender" columns, here are the shitty points about barbacking:
- Every part of the actual job.