Off the plane in San Diego, and it’s warm and sunny. Who knew?
After two and a half years in Boston, I’ve quit my jobs and moved down here. I did this for a lot of reasons, the main one being that there are things I want to do with my life, experiences I want to experience, and now’s the time. I am unbound like I’ll never be again. I’m 26. I have no car, no wife, no kids, mortgage, loans, pets, not even a religion that would preclude me from leaving. If I don’t do crazy and random things while I have the chance, I suspect I’ll always regret it.
So here I am, and it’s time to start looking for bartending jobs. My friend Sam is graciously lending me the use of his couch, so expenses are low. I don’t think it’ll be too hard, but this whole job search is something of a “good news, bad news” situation.
The good news is that I’ve got about $1500 put away, a solid résumé, and unlike the last time I tried to get a bartending job, I can say ”I’m good at this” without it being a lie. The bad news is that I am a fairly plain-looking boy in a city where it is notoriously difficult to get a bar job, and we’re still in the throes of what is referred to on the news as a “catastrophic global recession.”
So we’ll see.
Good Christ. I went to an open interview today for a chain fondue restaurant called the Melting Pot, and I waited for three hours. Apparently, I’m not the only one looking for a job right now. My mind had atrophied by the time my name was called, and when the exhausted, uninterested manager asked me what my five strongest attributes were, I said that I was “serious.”
First, no I’m not, and second, what the fuck does that even mean?
“I’m no fun whatsoever!”
I had forgotten about stock questions. “Since you asked, my biggest weakness seems to be answering dumb questions.”
I need to build some canned answers. It’s funny — you know immediately when you butcher a question. It’s like a test, and it’s occurring to me that I need to study.
I am all things to all people. Fun? Why, that’s me! Professional? Of course! Charming, enthusiastic, gay-friendly, whatever. All of it. I swear to God, I’d try to convince someone I was black if that’s what they were after.
I had a great interview today for a tequila bar downtown called El Vitral. I spoke with the bar manager, and I found that for the first time in nine days, I didn’t have to lie. As it happens, he has been to my old bar in Cambridge, so he knows what kind of work I’ve done, and I am all enthusiasm. He’s in his mid-30s and seems very pleasant, despite the fact that he’s a sommelier. Sommeliers, on the whole, are professional tools. They’re like investment bankers, except that they have talent.
That being said, I can learn a lot from this man, and I really want the job. As they share a wall with Petco Park, their business is tied to baseball season, which starts pretty soon. Fingers crossed.
I’m starting to suspect that employers take their job postings from an all-purpose mold. Every single one of the 50 or so listings I’ve read in the last week uses at least four, and often all five, of these words: professional, flexible, team-player, fun, fast-paced. These are written in sentences laced with gravity, as if to insist that the Linda Vista Applebee’s doesn’t want just anyone; no, the Linda Vista Applebee’s is looking for that one special someone who’s driven to excel. And every single job posting, from beginning to end, without exception, emphasizes that they want experience.
They often call for this more than once and in all-capital letters. “We’re looking for a fun, hard-working, professional, and EXPERIENCED bartender to work in a dusty shack under the 163 Freeway. Talented, flexible applicants only. EXPERIENCE A MUST!!!!!”
Intelligence, drive, and passion take a back seat to the requirement that you’ve done this before somewhere else. This yields some interesting conclusions. For one, every single person who’s ever waited on you must’ve, at some point, lied to get in the door, and then lied again to get to the next level, fine-dining or high-volume or whatever it is.
I know I lied when I started, and so did everyone I know. Which isn’t that terrible, I guess, because not one of these job postings asks for integrity.
My sister advised me to go to the nice places first, and she’s absolutely right. I might as well try for what I actually want before I go slumming though the dark alleys of craigslist. My searches for mixology or craft-cocktails in this town have had disappointingly limited results — there are about seven places — but at least I was able to knock them all off in two days.
No one is hiring, of course, but they’ll keep my application “on file.” This is an undisguised euphemism for “no.”
While I believe I’m good at tending bar, I have shown an incredible proficiency for making hostesses laugh. Sadly, I fear they lack hiring and firing power.
I’ve been cruising around my new neighborhood, Ocean Beach, for the last few days, filling out applications at every bar I can find. This, I am beginning to realize, is a waste of time. There are a couple of dozen bars in O.B., but a man looking for bar work here is like a man looking for a date at a lesbian nightclub. You feel surrounded by possibilities until the realization slowly sinks in that actually no, no you’re not.
This neighborhood is the most insular in San Diego, and I’m told that aside from random flashes of luck, getting a job here works by (1) lust, (2) nepotism, or (3) both. It’s like Hollywood without the money. The ones who aren’t gorgeous young women are soggy, middle-aged townies who’ve held the same jobs since the Reagan era. Where’s liver disease when you need it?