The bar was a dimly lit, East Village dive, a sticky-tabled joint that always smelled like dried piss and sour mops. You know this place: The former punk mecca now frequented by fresh 21-year-olds who want nothing more than to chug cheap booze and waste their parents’ money with an always-broke jukebox.
It was Valentine’s Day, also my first time cocktail-waiting there. I expected to get off my shift tip-less, because I couldn’t imagine that anyone would knowingly spend the “most romantic” day of the year in such a shithole, let alone take their significant other there. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Valentine’s, in fact, quickly became my favorite holiday that evening — because I’m not just a cocktail waitress, but a greedy one at that. Anyway, in a matter of hours, it grew clear that picking up a shift on February 14 promised to be a better use of time than anything else that evening, especially a date (which would net no money at all).
Valentine’s patrons, you see, tend to fall into a few different psychological categories — some drink to drown out their lonely thinky thoughts, while others get krunk for courage. But all share a much-appreciated tendency to tip very generously. As Fork in the Road’s resident bar wench, I decided to provide a brief breakdown of these main bar-going types below.
The people who come to mind first (probably because they’re loudest): gaggles of single chicks who troll watering holes in big groups to boast about how great being single is (but are nevertheless on the prowl). I know: It doesn’t make sense to brag about being an independent bachelorette when you won’t even go to the bathroom without the company of your BFF, or when you shriek with delight just because some dude buys you a drink, but whatever. My friend, who has cocktailed for many a year, tells me that these ideological disciples of Sex and the City and Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” will “tip big in the name of female solidarity.”
In terms of noisiness, next come the lovey-dovey couples. Sometimes, they get a bit carried away, drunkenly rounding second base in a candle-less booth and doing nothing to silence all the soggy sounds that go along with that, but they can also be counted on to share their love with you, their faithful drink-bringer. “They are happy to be out together, so they treat you better and tip more generously,” says a bartender friend.
And for every happy couple, there are at least two or three bitter bros, whose tears could salt many a margarita (if they were to ever let themselves cry, of course). In my experience, heartbroken heterosexual boys tip the most. Most likely, their most recent experience with a chick ended badly, so if you act kindly, you easily get the same amount of money as the tab itself. And yeah, a lot of these dudes wind up acting like complete d-bags and assume you want to be their girlfriend (and will get a bit aggro if you make it clear that you do not), but that’s what cocktail napkins are for — peace-keeping by means of a fake phone number. Last but not least are the forbidden lovers: People who hook up with each other but “can’t” because they already have a significant other, work with their love interest, or have yet to publicly come out of the closet. From what I’ve seen, these people treat tipping like hush money.
Last year, for example, a guy and a girl came in, and they looked a little uncomfortable around each other, sitting on opposite sides of the booth, stiffly sipping their mild, mixed drinks in the most polite, proper of ways. Then they started ordering shots (the guy’s idea, of course), and a few rounds in got on the same side of the booth and started making out. The man left the table and went to the restroom, leaving me alone with the young woman. So I asked: “Is he your boyfriend?” “Hell, naw,” she said, pretty tipsy by that point. “He’s my boss, and we work at a shoe store near here, and he can get, like, fired and shit for this. Company policy. But we like, really like each other and stuff.”
Needless to say, when he got back from the bathroom, I told him it was really romantic that he was going against all rules — risking his livelihood to court the girl he loved. I don’t know whether this had anything to do with it, but I do suspect that he left a fat tip to make me “forget” their deep, dark secrets.
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