A Gifted Bartender

The nightclub was still packed with several hundred people at last call. Kenny rang the bell and shouted “That’s it! Drink ’em up!” from behind the bar, thinking he would walk with $400 in tips for the night. A twenty-something businessman named Mark who was gradually becoming a regular staggered up to the bar with a young, smartly dressed woman. They were laughing privately to each other and planning where to go next. Mark wasn’t wearing the wedding ring he had been sporting during his previous visits. He handed Kenny a credit card and slurred, “Kenny, you’re why I come here. You’re a gifted bartender. You’re fast and smart, and you know how to make people laugh. And you make the best drinks in town. I love this place. You’re a great person, Kenny. You know how to take care of people. I love you, man!”

Kenny wondered whether or not he really was such a great person. He knew he had gotten a number of guests in the nightclub drunk that night, and at least a few of them would likely get DUIs within the next hour or two. Since several regulars were problem drinkers or alcoholics, Kenny was also contributing to health problems, emotional breakdowns, depression, work-related struggles, and domestic violence situations that would probably lead to physical harm and expensive and humiliating legal problems. Almost everyone in the club would have been better off spending their money in more useful ways, and some were living such desperate lives that their bar tabs equaled a harrowing form of mounting and inescapable debt.

Kenny ran Mark’s card and handed him his tab. Mark tipped Kenny $20, winked at him, and said, “We’ll see you soon, buddy.” Then he walked out of the club arm in arm with the young woman. Kenny poured himself a double shot of Jack Daniels, slammed it, and stared down the length of the bar. His other self would have to wait, the one who cared about the damage he was doing. “I don’t force the booze down their throats,” Kenny mumbled to no one in particular, and he poured himself another shot.