I spent a little time in Bangkok a few years back. If my memory serves me, I believe that I initially went with the hopes of meeting a tribe of Bhuddists somewhere out in the jungles of northern Thailand who would adopt me as their American student and teach me about their superior zen lifestyle, much like would happen in one of those awesome Jean Claude Van Dam movies, and after several years of discovering the truth of my existence, I would return to the states and totally impress all the bartenders from my home town, compelling them to give me lots of free drinks. Instead, I completely immersed myself in the drug and alcohol culture of several Thai cities, venturing into the jungles occasionally, armed with psychotropic substances and bottles of whiskey as opposed to robes and scripture. Suffice to say, I certainly exceeded my expectations of a good time while in Southeast Asia.
The bars in Bangkok, for the most part, were all pretty much the same. For some reason ( I never understood this strange phenemenon ) The Dire Straights were almost always playing loudly on the stereo, young girls dressed in skimpy black spandex always harrassed the white guys for free drinks, and above every bar hung a bell that the bartender was required to ring loudly if she was going to give someone a free drink. In all my time in the bars, being a regular and spending extraordinary sums of money, I never recieved a free drink without the obnoxious jingle jangle of piercing sound in my brain first.
As everyone knows who has read this blog before, I am a bartender. With this career one is afforded several ammenities that are worthy of pointing out. 1. I can sleep late and still be able to accomplish things that most of the world would have to take a sick day in order to accomplish, such as making doctors appointments, visiting the verizon store, watching Oprah, etc., and I can do these things before my shift even starts. 2. The ladies dig me. 3. Free shit ( this is the important one ).Every lawyer who frequents my bar would happily give me a free consultation, at the very least, when I get arrested for urinating in public, as the people who work at the theaters give me free tickets, and the liquor reps give me free bottles of booze. Every time I walk into a bar and the bartender knows that I pour drinks for a living as well, I inevitably get free drinks.
The other night I walked into a bar to have a cocktail before dinner. There were two bartenders working, one of whom being a woman that knows me and the freakin chick I was with. She came over to us, asked us what we wanted, "Two malibu bay breezes, please, " and she quickly poured us our refreshing libations. I tried to hand her my plastic paying card, as we only wanted one drink each, but instead of closing us out, the transaction and conversation became weird. She said, "I'll hold onto this, don't worry, I'll just keep it open."
"No, just close it out," I responded, "We're only having one."
"Oh, okay, well take your card back and you can close out when you finish," she said, handing the card back to me and walking away.
My initial reaction to the awkwardness of the dialogue was that she was inconspicuously trying to give us our drinks for free, trying to keep it a secret from either a manager who may have lurking, or perhaps the other bartender. Of course I couldn't rely on that assumption and throw a few dollars in tip down on the bar and leave, and so when we finished our drink, I had to try to avoid the lesser known bartender, so as not to cause trouble, and ask the woman in question to close me out again.
As it turns out, I was charged, as I should have been, and the entire situation turned out to be a total manifestation of my industry psychosis. I was wrong in this instance about the bartender creeping around and making me feel sneaky and uncomfortable when I just wanted to catch a quick and relaxing buzz before dinner, but I think my feelings were justified, as I have been in such a position countless times before. I have had bartenders slide me a shot before, the entire time staring intently at the back of their managers head, hoping he/she wouldn't turn around and see, and I have been handed an overtly anorexic check before and asked by bartenders to make sure that only our eyes saw it. Also, at times in my career, I have done the same kind of thing, not realizing that a sneaky and creepy free drink is only insulting. It means that the recipient doesn't really deserve it, and by no fault of their own, they become an accessory to stealing. That isn't any way to show hospitality, now is it? I guess it's a damn shame all the bars in America don't have a bell hanging over them.
Also, for those of you who think my freakin chick and I drink malibu bay breezes, go fuck yourself.