Wanaka, New Zealand: Does It Pay? Then Yes, I Can Do It

I’m going to backtrack for just a moment to tell you about our dinner at Gayle and Robert’s house the Sunday after Stu’s friend’s dress-up party.

Katie, Justin, Dan and Phil and I headed over to Gayle’s house with some beer and wine in tow. We sat around the fire in the main room with some soccer on the TV, talking about travels, family and friends back home, and plans for the future.

We watched Justin’s skydive video, which had become a bit of must-see TV back at the Lodge. It was his first time doing a skydive, and he was visibly nervous. The climax was his fall out of the plane. His tandem jumper did a bit of a forward flip when jumping out of the plane, and when he looked forward again into the camera, there was a priceless, unrehearsed look of complete and utter terror on his face. The video was so hilarious we watched it about 5 times after they got back from the skydive. Robert said he wanted a copy.

Robert was busy getting us all beers, and I felt the need to help him out. As he came from his beer fridge with 4 beers in his hand, I offered to help and took them. Unfortunately, before I got a grip on the fourth, Robert let go and I watched it fall and crash into the ground in slow motion. I quickly helped them clean it up and apologized profusely.

Dinner was roast lamb with roasted potatoes and pumpkin, and steamed veggies. Desert was something called a Pavlova, which is a meringue-type cake/pie thing. Whatever it was, we ate it with ice cream, and I loved it. The dinner was delicious, and was arguably the best meal I had had on the road.

During dinner we somehow started on the topic of cats. Dan launched into a story about how he ran over someone’s poor cat, then I followed with my story of running over a cat back in high school. Then Gayle told us about how recently one of her cats had gone missing, and when she saw a dead one on the road, refused to believe it was hers until Stu confirmed it. Phil was dying with laughter in the car on the way home.

Now, back to my work week. I had gone to every cafe and bar on the waterfront looking for work, but was told by everyone that they weren’t hiring yet. The witner season was still far off and most places didn’t need any more staff for such a quiet time of the year. There were only a couple places I hadn’t gone to yet, and one of them was Shooters, a dive pub on the main street right near the lake. The manager said they weren’t looking for any bartenders yet, but as I was walking out of the bar, back on to the lake-front street, the manager ran after me and said, “Oh, I should’ve asked you … can you work the door?” “You mean security?” “Yeah, I think we need someone for that.” “Yeah, I can do that.”

She grabbed the head doorman, who was in the middle of a meeting, and I talked to him briefly about my previous experience doing security work. That experience included making sure people who came into our random college parties actually went to the school. That demanding, highly-professional, job came with 1-2 hour breaks for beer pong and keg stands, and my primary responsibilities included identifying and letting in good-looking women. I think I did it about 3 times in 4 years of college.

Brent told me that they would need someone part-time now, mostly for the weekends. Security is staffed at Shooters from Wednesday through Saturday, and I would get at least 2 days out of that. He said he would get back to me that weekend about whether or not he would need me.

Christ, what the hell have you gotten yourself into.

I told the guys back at the Lodge about it and they all bowled over with laughter. Everyone was impressed with the lengths I would go to for work, but they also agreed that I was gonna get my ass kicked. Brent called me a couple days later and asked if I would work that Saturday night.

In the mean time, I visited the last two bars in town where I thought I could get a job. There was a guy with hair like Sideshow Bob behind the bar at Barluga and although they weren’t looking for anyone immediately, they would be hiring in couple weeks and he’d pass my resume along. Mike at the bar next door, Woody’s, said they weren’t hiring anytime soon and that I should ask at Barluga.

Because bars aren’t allowed to sell alcohol on Good Friday, many businesses work around the law by having a “ticketed event”, such as live music, and somehow that allows them to continue trading for a limited amount of time. Most of the bars in town were closing, however we found out that Barluga was having live music at the bar on Friday night. That afternoon we stopped by and bought a couple wristbands. Dan, Phil and I headed to the bar that night and found a great atmosphere. The bar was a little hidden, but had a huge fireplace both outside and inside, and a well decorated interior. It was my turn to buy a round and I went up to the bar to order a few Monteith’s, a South Island beer. A guy behind the bar gave me the beers then asked me if I was the person who handed in my resume. I said yes and he introduced himself as the manager, Garth. He said that he’d take a look at the CV and get in touch with me. I wrote down my number again and asked him what I owed him for the beers. “Oh, don’t worry about it,” he said, “I got ’em.” Bonus!

When I told the boys about the exchange they laughed, shook there heads and asked how I do it.

The next day I got a call that would throw me into a nervous frenzy for the next 36 hours. Garth rang me in the early afternoon and asked if I could do a trial on Sunday night. Basically, I would work behind bar the entire night and he would evaluate my performance. “Usually I’ll have someone come in for a couple hours on a regular night so I can also watch them work, but I’d also like to see what you got, so I was thinking you could work during our entire Easter Sunday party.”

Of course I agreed, and with nervous excitement I notified the others that my week of insanity would culminate in a trial for a position of barman. This announcement was greeted with questions like, “Do you know anything about bartending?”, “Can you even make a drink?”, and “What the @#$& are you gonna do?!” All of which was answered with “I. Don’t. Know.”

I immediately headed to the internet cafe and started reading up on bartending: the tools, the methods, the drinks. I wrote down as many drink recipes as I could and committed them to memory. Although my nervousness and anxiety made me forget them about 20 minutes later. I couldn’t spend as much time as I wanted on it since I had to work that night. In fact, the excitement of that afternoon had made me forget briefly that I had told people I would be a bouncer that night.

I reported to Shooters at 9, and after taking me around the place, Brent gave me a shirt and coat. He explained that one of us would stand outside and watch the front, making sure we ID and watch for overly intoxicated people, and the other person would walk around inside doing the same. Big Mike was the manager on duty and if he wanted someone gone, we remove them. Sounded simple enough, and by the time we were outside, it was still a pretty quiet night. Brent and I chatted and waited for the crowds to come. A short while later we were joined by two other bouncers, James and Keon (I’m guessing on the spelling, say “Ky-ooh-n” … but say it under your breath because he may tell you it’s wrong). The Shooters crowd seemed to be young 18 – 22 year olds and the rugby types, and soon they had filled up the place quite well.

Finally, it happened. There was a loud, brash guy who had come in with two of his friends that was acting like an asshole to the bartenders and the other customers. Mike told me that he wanted to guy out of there, so I buzzed Brent on the radio and told him to join me inside (we always chuck people out in pairs, in case there is some … unpleasantness). I asked the guy if he would speak to me in the lobby where it’s quite, but clearly that wasn’t going to happen, so I explained to him that the bar staff wanted him out of there. He argued with me and Brent for a bit, then said that he would leave after he got some cigarettes and finished his beer. Of course, we weren’t gonna let that happen. So as we shuffled him to the door, he started getting louder and angrier. His friends were quite under control and were at times trying to help us throw their friend out. Finally we got him to leave without an incident. Brent told me how close he was to getting physical with the guy, and told me I handled myself well.

Later, Brent and I were outside when we suddenly got buzzed by Keon. Brent ran inside while I watched the door. A little while later, he came out escorting a young lady with blood on her face. It seems that this girl and another bumped into each other on the dance floor, and the other girl popped this one in the face. The fight continued and finally Keon and James pulled them apart. We kept the other girl inside while Brent talked to the one who got hit outside. The cops eventually came and took statements. The girl outside kept complaining that we let her assailant stay in the bar while we kicked her out. I joked to Brent that he should let the one inside leave so we could watch them go at it again.

At the end of the night, Mike gave us a couple beers and we sat around chatting about the night. We helped the bar guys clean up and then I headed home. Brent would later tell me that Big Mike was very pleased with the work I did.

I was pleased with my performance that night. I had never been a doorman before, but I stayed on my feet, learned quickly, and got to see blood that wasn’t mine. All-in-all a job well done. I stopped applauding myself when I realized that I still had an enormous amount of cramming to do the next day.

After all, someone was expecting me to be a bartender the next night.


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