Mary Ann’s niece Caitlyn has been working behind the bar at Stenny’s for about a month now, but the evening regulars haven’t seen too much of her, as she’s been working the early shift as a way of breaking in gradually.
Caitlyn has learned some things in the last few weeks. She now knows that Grey Goose is a brand of vodka and not a type of tonic, she’s grasped the concept of “straight up” vs. “on the rocks,” and can pour a beer with an acceptable head.
The lunchtime regulars, who for the most part are separate and distinct from the evening regulars, have not cozied up to her nor she to them. She makes no effort to remember their names or what they like to drink, doesn’t inquire about how they’re feeling or how their day is going, and—perhaps worst of all—wraps herself in the cloak of Mary Ann, reminding the patrons on a regular basis that the owner’s wife is her aunt.
Long Haul is one regular whose attendance spans daytime and evening, as her house-cleaning business allows her some flexibility. This was their very first exchange, on a quiet Monday early afternoon a week or so after Caitlyn started:
“Hey, you’re new,” Long Haul said. “My name is Tina, I come here a lot.”
A normal response would be something like “Hi Tina, I’m Caitlyn, pleased to meet you. Yes, I just started. What are you drinking?” Instead, Caitlyn said, “Not really new, I’ve been here a week. I’m Mary Ann’s niece.”
Long Haul is well aware of who Mary Ann is, but instantly decided she disliked Caitlyn and said, “Who?” to bring her down a peg or two.
“Mary Ann, Steve’s wife,” Caitlyn said.
Long Haul of course knows who Steve is, but again said “Who?”
“Steve, the owner.”
“I thought the owner’s name was Lenny,” Long Haul said.
Caitlyn sighed, clearly frustrated. “They’re co-owners. Mary Ann is married to Steve. She’s the manager. I thought you said you come here a lot.”
You little bitch, Long Haul thought. “I come here to drink, not to keep track of the management team. Could you get me a Miller Light?”
“Bottle or draft?”
Long Haul knows that Stenny’s does not have Miller Light on tap, but said “Draft.”
Caitlyn left and was back in 30 seconds. “We only have Miller Light in bottles.”
“I know,” Long Haul said.
“So why did you order it?” Caitlyn asked.
“Why did you offer it?” Long Haul answered.
“I’m new, I’m still learning.”
“You said you weren’t new, that you had been here a week. What beer you have on tap is pretty basic knowledge,” Long Haul said.
A staring contest ensued for a full ten seconds. Long Haul knows that in these situations whoever talks first loses, but she was thirsty. “Just give me a bottle, no glass,” she said, and Caitlyn complied.
You may think after that protracted and utterly ridiculous exchange Caitlyn would remember that Long Haul drinks Miller Light, but she did not; on Long Haul’s subsequent daytime visits, Caitlyn didn’t give any indication that she even recognized her.
Tonight Caitlyn is working her first evening shift, and on a busy burger night to boot. Tara is the other bartender; she occasionally works lunch so she is aware of where Caitlyn is in her learning curve. More gently than Melissa would, she tries to assess Caitlyn’s readiness.
“Burger night. We’re usually busy. How are you feeling?”
“I’m fine,” Caitlyn answers.
Oh crud, she thinks I’m asking about her health, Tara thinks. “No, I mean how do feel about handling a busy bar?”
“I know what you mean. I’m fine.”
“Oh,” Tara says, a bit taken aback. “Well, I’m here to help.”
“I would hope so. Aunt Mary Ann made that clear.”
Just as Long Haul did a few weeks ago, Tara thinks You little bitch, but says “Tina just came in. She’s down at the other end. See if she wants her usual.”
Caitlyn says, “Which is?”
“Miller Light,” Tara says.
“Bottle or draft?”
“Bottle. We don’t have Miller Light on tap.” Tara was not present when Long Haul and Caitlyn had their similar discussion a few weeks ago, so she doesn’t know how absurd this snatch of conversation is, although she does think it’s high time that Caitlyn knew what beers they have on tap.
“I think it’s important that you know what beers we have on tap,” she says. “Would you like me to review them with you? After you get Tina her bottle?”
“You can if you want, but I’ve been relying on the customers to know what we have and don’t have. Aunt Mary Ann said that was a good approach.”
“Oh she did, did she?” Tara says, not hiding her testiness. “I must say I disagree with that.”
“Last time I checked, Tara, Mary Ann was the manager, not you.”
Tara is a kind soul but she’s no pushover, and she’s not at all threatened by Caitlyn invoking Mary Ann’s name. “She may be the manager, Caitlyn, but she’s never tended bar. But it’s up to you to choose who to learn from.”
Caitlyn must like staring contests, because she now gets into one with Tara. It lasts only a few seconds, and ends when Caitlyn says, “I’ll get Tina her beer.”
Tara feels like she’s won a small victory, but knows it’s not the end of it.