Posted By Norm van Maastricht on February 17, 2009
Another segment of a project The Rise and Fall of a Saloon In The Latter Part off The Twentieth Century. These excerpts are not chronological. In fact very little logic prevails…
The perfect customer space:
A clean table
A clean Ashtray
One dry napkin
No dead glasses
My Crew Rules were simple:
No drugs or drunkenness on the Job.
Wear What You Want…you know what Looks Good on you…
Gawd HELP you if you show up with chipped nail polish.
“Check your dip.”
Wearing what you want. Most of the women preferred this. They did not care for uniforms because uniforms are not always flattering. They felt this could affect their tips.
The Nail Polish rule Customers see your hands. A bad manicure looked shabby. Most girls, even those with short nails, used polish because wiping out dirty ashtrays made keeping nails clean difficult at times.
(I kept a bottle of polish remover in the office for those who did come in with chipped polish) I also kept a box of sewing thread and safety pins on hand. You learn that safety pins are a needed item sometimes. “Wardrobe malfunctions” are not confined to Super Bowls.
The ‘Check Your Dip’ rule
This was in reference to what a customer should or should not be able to see when a waitress bent to serve drinks.
You can’t fight nature. A woman’s nipples have a mind of their own and will appear boldly for any number of reasons and can do wonders poking through even several layers of cloth but I drew the line at customers getting a Full View as a girl bent over placing drinks on the tables. Their clothing and their cleavage, their “dip” should never allow the customer to know the color of their areoles.
The drugs were always An Issue. This was the period of high cocaine usage among the Young and Invincible in saloons across the country. Saloons, after all, are not churches. Still, T.O. had a sudden death, instant termintation rule about dealing drugs at The Bar. It was not worth risking his license for Stupidity In Action.
Personal usage, of course, happened but was never officially condoned. When it or drinking became too evident or distracting… ‘Off with her head’ so to speak and she’d be gone.
“No Dangling” This was in reference to smoking tobacco.
There are people reading this today who really have no idea what the air in a Saloon was like in those days. People smoked. A lot. I did. Some (but not all) of my crew did. But what I forbade them to do was to ever (and I mean EVER ) be seen with a cigarette dangling from their lips. I would cross the room and yank it out of their mouths To me it made the girls look hard and tough and I Just Would Not Have It. Tell them it made them look tough didn’t seem to faze them. Tell them it made them look old (not ‘older’… just old ) worked better.
I hadn’t been on the new job very long when I found that managing a crew of women had its quirks.
First and foremost was the fact, already stated, that waitressing, at least cocktail waitressing, was a transient occupation.
You may find ‘lifers’ in your diners and restaurant chains but not in a saloon. Sooner or later the girl wants out. To get married. To finish school. To just find a different job in a different bar hoping maybe the next saloon might pay more or give them a shot at bartending. Whatever the reason the problem remained that there was a turnover that had to be reckoned with.
Many times I would find that some of the women were unstable and needed weeding out. Some emotionally so and some due to drug use. Some just never caught on to the trade. Firing someone is never a pleasant task but I kept it private and short.
I initially learned to dread the onset of menses as much as if not more so than any married man could. I finally came up with something of a solution that I probably couldn’t get away with it in today’s politically correct world. During my ‘You’re hired” speech I would tell them to let me know when “the moon was on them” so I would know not to kill them because of the mood change. The honesty of this worked out pretty well, actually.
Another thing I did was to read a good, easy to understand book on ailments common to women and they soon found that I understood these things more than most men did. The women already on crew told the New Hires what to expect from me and I had a generally loyal, happy crew.
Some managers like to manage thru fear and intimidation. I didn’t care for that because waitressing had its own stresses without them needing to be afraid of me. My management “style” such as it was was simple. I was a guy in the unique position of hiring the very women I worked with. My ‘style’ was this:
Love them. Love them all. Pet them when they did well and keep it short and private when they did not do well. What happens is their dignity remains intact. Give your crew some love, respect and praise and they will kill for you.
Still, I found it prudent to have an on-call list of temps… girls who, on short notice, could and would get in there with a tray and cover a shift so I was constantly looking for attractive females to sign on as temps or potential New Hires.
T.O. didn’t have much respect for the trade of waitressing. He often said he would like it if I could replace the entire crew every six weeks or so for varietey’s sake. He was the only one who felt that way. There was no ‘waitress tree’ where all you needed to do was walk over and pick one…
Whether to hire an experienced girl or not was always a changing decision. I liked the ones I called my ‘War Horses”. There are some women who are so good at waitressing that they can cover bigger floor single-handedley than two lesser girls put together could.
I called them ‘Warhorses’ after the special horses favored by the plains Indians, horses that would go into the thick of a fight with heart and not shy or spook. It was one of the highest complements I could bestow. The difficulty was keeping a Warhorse on crew because they anticipated bigger tips and disliked sharing a floor with other women. They would get frustrated thinking there was more money to be made down the road…
On the other hand there is an endearing quality about a fresher girl, one new to the trade. They were usually younger and hadn’t had time to gain the cynicism that many of the more experienced girls had.
The down side of that of course was that it takes a while, at least a month, for the new girl to get the hang of the call order and until a girl learned a proper call order and other skills of the trade some bartenders were almost cruel in their impatience with them. This also meant customer service was slower. We didn’t have a good training regimen for New Hires which was bad but on the good side the survivors were keepers.
Some New Hires couldn’t take it and would quit. Some bucked up and took hold and became keepers.
Some got thrown back.
When I took over the crew T.O. had already cut back on live music from six nights to three. He had jazz on Tuesday nights and rock and roll on Friday and Saturday nights.
One reasonably qualified girl could handle Tuesday’s jazz crowd but weekends needed more crew because those bands tended to draw better.
On weekends I would book three girls. I called the shift turns “Legs”. The “First Leg” would come on at six and work until eight at which time the “Second Leg” would come on duty giving the other a break of maybe a half hour. Sometimes the First Leg wanted to keep working particularly if she had a couple of hot spots of good tippers.
As lead girl, the First Leg, got to make the call which side of the room she was to work for this very reason, to keep her good tippers in her section.
When required, the Third Leg would come on no later than nine and so it would go. If, as it sometimes happened, the night lost part of its crowd I would allow the girls decide to send one of their number home. I did this to avoid claims of bias. It worked pretty well. Most of the time.
Sometimes I would have to pull rank and make the woman on duty let the next girl come on line. The starting girl obviously wanted to make as much money as possible and would be reluctant to allow the next girl up. But there comes a point where customer service suffered and something needed to be done.
I had to be careful to not show too much favoritism although this was not always possible because my crew was seldom equally skilled. Like any other skilled trade some were just better at it than others. I developed personal biases, too, because I was human. I’d be lying if I said otherwise but I tried to keep a balance. If I had a favorite I was careful not to let her act like an Overseer.
In one area I had a brilliant stroke. That was division of the floor in sections. I made copies of a hand drawn layout of the tables in the building and gave two copies to each of the girls currently on crew at the time and asked them to draw what they thought were fair boundary lines for a two girl floor and a three girl floor.
I took these maps and used them as a basis for the “Official” floor diagram which all of them agreed was a fair, acceptable compromise.
This of course made for “turf” and sparked some infighting if a girl happened to do a little pirating in another’s section.
Great fun was had by all…
The Mississippi Two Step
When I saw too much infighting starting to happen I would go to each one of them and say “We got a Mississippi Two step going on here and it Will Stop. If it does not stop I will get a bucket of water and hold your heads under ’till the bubbles stop.”
That usually worked.
No one ever asked me what a Mississippi Two step was. They already knew what The Problem was. When I said a Mississippi Two Step was afoot they knew I was aware of The Problem and, amazingly, it would cease.
Sometimes a firing was needed but in the long run they felt better served working with what they had rather than breaking in a New Hire.
The position of being waitress manager made me look at women customers a little differently particularly if my on call backup name list was getting thin. That pretty customer might be my next New Hire.
When looking for a New Hire I learned how to scan a woman like other women look at them. That One First Look-Over that is a mental flash picture…a rapid scan. A quick glance that takes in her clothes, how they fit, how she moves, what she thinks of her body and herself which is reflected in how they groom themselves. I learned this by listening to the women discuss how they discussed other women among themselves.
Most guys seem to focus just on The Face or The Boobs. It’s a rare man that learns to do this all encompassing quick scan. It’s a skill that cannot be taught.
…a woman doing this very same scan is merely sizing up the competition…
I additionally learned to ‘look at their edges’ and see if they might have a Daemon or have a Dark Cloud over them… “Looking at their edges” was one of the unexplainable feelings I had. I wouldn’t call it psychic because I have a dim view of such terms but at the same time I felt my knack of ‘looking at their edges’ was more accurate than any other method for spotting a woman who had problems lurking beneath the surface and sometimes the feeling was so strong I would not use the girl or if I did, I used her only sparingly. They sometimes came on board with social or chemical problems of the day and this always complicated matters. And if you complicated matters too much you were Gone.
Most “interviews” I conducted were pretty brief. Talk to the girl, check out her grooming. Always had her show me her hands because this spoke volumes sometimes. You could tell a lot about a person by how they react to “let me see your hands”. I liked a well kept hand and I knew customers always saw a girls hands. They didn’t need to have long nails but they did need to look clean.
If I had any doubts about her willingness to work or even show up I would ask if I could think it over and ask her to come back in a day or two (always specifying the day). If they didn’t show for the second interview I saved myself a lot of wasted time.
Some went like this one…
I was standing near the pinball game. A guy and a girl are playing. I look over at her. Blonde. Blue eye shadow. Short, nice figure wearing jeans. Pretty girl.
It’s quiet. It’s a Sunday night. Not many people in attendance. My back is to the pinball machine and I’m looking over the main room.
Suddenly I feel like I’m being watched and look down to see the blonde standing next to me, looking up at me.
“Who does the hiring here?”
“I do most of it.” I said.
She looks out into the main bar. “It doesn’t look like it but could you use another waitress?”
“You any good at it?
“Yeah!” she said with a defiant yet almost bored emphasis. I got the distinct impression it was the same way Bill Hickok would have answered someone if the asked him if he could shoot a pistol well.
‘Warhorse!’ I knew instantly that she was Very Good at what she did. I also knew she might be overqualified. But it so happened that I had the Tuesday jazz night open as was second leg on weekends.
I told her as much. Not a whole lot of money but it would be a start. Pays minimum wage.
“Can I try it?”
I looked at her a little closer. Looked at her ‘edges” and saw a murky soup a-stirring… Looked into her eyes for the first time. Had a blueness to them that was more than just the color. There was sadness but also there was just an edge of defiance…
“Lemme see your hands!” I said.
She held them horizontally and spread her fingers. Beautifully kept, red painted nails, one small ring on her right hand.
I took her hands and turned them over, looked at her palms a little and turned them over again.
I looked at her and said “I gotta be honest with you… I think you’re trouble on the hoof but I need somebody. You want to see how the place feels come in at 8 on Tuesday. Give it a try.” Tuesday night was Jazz Night. If she didn’t show it wouldn’t be a disaster but it would be nice to have someone on the job. I needed women to work the quiet gigs as well as the busy ones…
She asked what she should wear and I said “…anything you wanted to but no jeans. And check your dip before you get here.” She looked at me quizzically. “Bend in front of a mirror before you leave. The customer must never see the color of your nipples.”
Tuesday night came and she arrived in wearing a strapped green dress; one of those ‘bare shoulders’ things that allowed good cleavage and displayed the tops of her breasts nicely. The dress had a cleverly wrought skirt section that opened as she moved and exposed her legs as they were brought forward in her walk. She had beautiful legs.
And she worked the floor like the pro I knew she was.
I thought she would choose not to stay on because she was a class A Warhorse and those seldom stayed long but stay on she did.
…and brought a freight train of baggage and became a Featured Player in many scenes at The Bar ‘disaster movies’ as she lived her somewhat chaotic life.
That’s how it was… I loved then all…
Never a dull moment…