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Monday, September 3, 2012

Tattoo Fail, or Bitchy Bartender

As servers, we are required on a daily basis to make conversation with complete strangers. Do we like doing that? Of course not. We would be more than happy to simply ask the important questions like "do you want fries with that?" and "do you need change?" but sometimes we feel obligated to say something like "how are you today?" or "wow, look at the mess your baby made. That's cute." Small talk is part of the job and making banal conversation is a way to increase tips because it shows the customer that we are making a meaningful connection with them. Yeah, uh huh. I suspect that bartenders have to try even harder to act like they want to talk to customers since they are trapped back there giving the impression that they want to continue talking. We may not give a shit about the personal lives of our customers but we do our best to make it seem like we give a fuck. Personally, my basket has been pretty much out of fucks since 1998, and so was the bartender's basket who served me last week.

By the time I poured myself onto her bar stool, I was well on my way to a very decent hangover. I had started drinking mojitos a couple of hours before at a different bar but then decided it was a good idea for a frozen drink that's the color of the Caribbean ocean on acid and has about three different kinds of rum in it.

The bartender is a cool looking chick covered with tattoos. Her smile is way too bright for my pre-hungover eyes and she makes my drink efficiently and sets it down before me. I notice that she has an abstract tattoo on her left wrist that is very similar in position to the one on my right forearm.

"Nice tattoo," I say indicating the one on my arm. "What does it mean?"

She immediately places her right hand over it obscuring it from my view. "It's a private symbol." She gives a smug little smile, bats her eyelashes, flips her hair and walks away from me, effectively shutting down that conversation.

I am left sitting at the bar feeling like an asshole for trying to get all up in her private world. I take a sip of my frozen blue cocktail and scrape off some of the frost from the outside of the glass. And then I think:

Bitch, if you want to have a private fucking symbol tattooed on your body that you don't want to share with anyone else, then maybe you shouldn't have it on your left wrist where everyone in the world can see it. What don't you tattoo that bullshit right next to your labia so you can select who will get to look at it. You can tell your gynecologist it's none of her fucking business, but if you're a bartender and you are constantly handing people drinks, then maybe your wrist isn't the best place to put a private symbol. News flash: people can see your wrist, lady.

My tattoo is pretty personal too, but I don't feel the need to shut down when people ask me what it means. Mine is an arrow on my right forearm pointing to my hand.

I got it one year after one of my closest friends died of cancer. I knew him for over twenty years and I could always depend on him for anything, whether it be to make me laugh or if I needed him to listen to me whine about my lack of career. His answer was always the same: you just gotta keep on going, keep moving forward and don't look back. So, yeah, I got an arrow to remind me of him and his advice. When people ask me what's the arrow for, I either give them the whole story or a short version. Sometimes I tell people it's where the tip goes. What I never do is cover it up and claim it's private. If I didn't want people to see it, it would not be where it is.

So, to the bartender who has the private symbol tattoo for all the world to see but for none of the world to understand, I have this advice for you: lighten up or wear a long sleeve shirt, because as long as you have a cool looking tattoo living on your arm, people are naturally going to ask you what it means. I can understand that maybe you don't want to talk to people about it but then just say something like, "Oh it doesn't mean anything, it's just abstract. You want another drink on the house?" You don't need to make people feel stupid and embarrassed for wanting to know about it.

And speaking of embarrassed, I would like to apologize to that bartender for my slurred speech. Clearly, I had been drinking before I showed up to your bar and you probably shouldn't have even served my drunk ass. It is your responsibility to make sure your customers are not drinking too much so that we don't leave your bar too inebriated to make good decisions. And speaking of being too inebriated to make good decisions, I also have a tattoo on my leg of Jimminey Cricket. If you see it and ask me what it means, I will not cover it for privacy. I will proudly tell you, "Oh I got that when I was 21 and in San Diego and had too much to drink. It means I make bad decisions when I'm drunk."

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Joanne said...

It must be her fancy way of expressing that she's a stupid asshole. That's what her tattoo means.

Mary A. said...

That reminds me of how my college roommate would get all pissed off when people stared at her. She was bald except for a patch of bright fuscia bangs. It was 1988. People are gonna stare dude. If you don;t like it, grow your hair out and wear a cardigan.

Morgan Cockrell said...

I was thinking the same thing. I have quite a bit of tattoos and have no problem sharing the reason. Word of advice "private bartender" your an idiot. I have a sparrow on my right wrist which I swore I would never have. But I did it to honor my friend who committed suicide. She wanted to be a bird to fly away from her troubles. People ask I tell. Why do I have 57-10 judy on my arm? My mother was born in 57 died in 2010. So get over yourself and have it covered up if your to embarrassed to talk about it.

Anonymous said...

Your tattoo is awesome & has a beautiful story behind it. It is also grounds for termination at my job.

TheMeanager said...

You would think that if people go thru all the pain of scaring there body permanently that they wouldnt get all butt hurt when someone is curious about someone else's tattoo, worked with a guy who had a mighty mouse tattoo on his arm and the only time I ever asked him about it, his answer was "'s private ",I did feel like a jerk for a split second then I realized what you realized just slightly different " eat shit,get over yourself,it's fucken mighty mouse jerk, how private can the story be if you are willing to put a tattoo on your body"

Kayla said...

I usually don't mind being asked that myself - being that I'm pretty heavily tattooed and work in a bar - but one guy got all in my face one night about how they don't mean anything (which they pretty much don't - my half sleeve is birds and stuff, and was my 21st birthday present to myself). He told me THEY HAD to mean something, and I should SEARCH DEEP IN MYSELF for what that was.
I searched deep in myself for the willpower to not punch him in the face.

espinaca. said...

It could be she's just sick of answering the "cool tattoo, what does it mean?" question 36 times a day and was shrugging you off politely. I'm in the same boat. I'm a professional, and have unfortunate (for my serving position) wrist tattoos. They *are* personal to me, but at my place of employment, I want to keep things impersonal. My left wrist is an infinity symbol and my right, the symbol for the birthsign cancer. Just the latter alone is enough for inappropriate quips (look it up).. But every now and then, someone will connect the two.. Ridiculously inappropriate. Trust me, I've heard it all.. not any sort of conversation I want to continue at my workplace. Hers might not be so.. maybe taken another way, but it is out of line. It's like asking your server why they chose to have a nose job or how the hell they got so damn fat.

Jill said...

I agree with the above post. She "might" be sick of the question. But, that's her fault and she'll have to live with it.

I used to wear a pair of vintage 1950's cateye glasses that stole my heart. After getting the question, "Cool glasses! Where did you get them?" about 99 times a day, I retired them. Then sold them on Ebay to be someone else's headache.

Laura said...

Wow, that was pretty rude of her! I have two visible tattoos on my arm and I'm a waitress, and people ask me all the time about them because one is pretty weird.

I have an alien space frog (from Daniel Johnston's 'Hi, How Are You' album cover) on the inside of the arm I hand over plates and drinks with. Everyone stares at it, and everyone asks about it because,'s pretty weird looking if you don't know what it is.

I put on my biggest smile and say, "No, that is not a chicken/vagina/or the guy from Ah!Real's a frog drawn by one of my favorite artists/musicians who I love dearly. Every time I look at it, it makes me smile!"

Needless to say, people have actually asked to take a picture of it. Which is weird, but I oblige.

I also have an anchor tattoo on my arm and people LOVE asking me if I'm a sailor. It's annoying but I smile and say "No, it's kind of a long story but it was always a childhood dream to have one."

Bottom line is, if you're going to put something on your body, people are generally going to ask you about it. You can't get upset about it. Just be polite.

Anonymous said...

I have tattoos on my wrists and worked as a cashier. I got really tired of being asked every 5 minutes what they meant. At first I tried to answer, but eventually got sick of giving a lengthy personal explanation for my own life choices. People were offended that I didn`t want to tell them. I understand it makes people curious, but they need to respect the tattooed person`s right not to explain to total strangers if they don`t want to. They don`t owe everyone an explanation just because they have a job working with the public.

Swissy said...

when I see someone with a cool tattoo I'll say "cool tattoo" but really not inquire what's behind it. if it's a tattoo with hanzi or kanji/katakana then I will examine the hell out of it and explain to them that the character doesn't mean what they claim it means.

Anonymous said...

I have my son's name tattooed on my wrist to remind me he is with me, always. Along with two wings on both sides, because when he was a baby I always called him my "angel boy". I usually wear a watch to work that covers it mostly, but every once in awhile I forget to put my watch on.

I don't mind my customers asking. I usually say, "oh, it's my sons name" (its upside-down to them and in cursive and he has an unusual name). That mostly satisfies people.

But one time I had this A Hole get real personal."Oh. What is his name? What kind of wings? Oh. How do you know what angel wings look like? Isn't that more of a girl/daughter thing?"

How very dare you! Did I get all up in your business, dude? "Is that a tupee, sir? Does that itch? Are you sure I can't bring you the low-fat ranch for your salad and a DIET cola? Are you a total douche because your wife is not giving it up, or were you just born that way?"

I'm all for small talk, but let's keep it little.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like she was trying to tantalize you, maybe for a bigger tip after more talk. Are you sure she was not flirting for a tip? That covering up with her hand was so childish.

Anonymous said...

Ehh, I understand the feeling that she was being a bitch, but I can commiserate with this girl to some degree. I have a (really sweet) tattoo of a semi-famous dead author on my bicep, and I've taken to wearing three-quarter length shirts at work to avoid the question, "who's that on your arm?"
It isn't that I hate answering that specific question, it's that I'm generally too busy to answer the follow-ups: "who's he?" and, "what made you get it?"
Having a conversation about the merits of Jack Kerouac while a six-top of blue hairs mean-mug you for attention from across the dining room is exhausting and annoying. That said, bitch should cover her ink if she doesn't feel like going there.

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