Rick Altergott

Your bartender can read you the way a dog reads a urine-soaked telephone pole--at a glance determining where you've been, how drunk you are already, how much money you have, if you're out to hook up, drown your sorrows, or just in from Gresham for the evening. Since they already know you so well, here're some tidbits to help you get to know them better.

Three things your bartender wants you to know:

1) The relationship between bartenders and their patrons is an artificial one. Even if your bartender likes you, it's still about work and money. "You're my customer, and I'll always smile at you and ask how your day was, but I don't necessarily want to talk to you when I see you at the neighborhood café," says Gene, who works at a dive bar in SE. "Just because I'm nice doesn't mean I want you, so don't ask me out," says Georgia, who worked at a bar/restaurant/off-track betting establishment for far too long. "And I'm definitely not having as much fun as you are, but it's my job to facilitate your little drinking party."

2) Being a regular does not mean you deserve free drinks or are exempt from tipping. If you're taking up bar space on a regular basis, you need to express your thanks monetarily. That warm feeling of ownership you cherish doesn't come without a price.

3) Drinking yourself silly is pathetic. "It's not funny when you lose control and shit or piss yourself at the bar and then sit in it, stinking everything up," Georgia says. "I was sober for a long time when I bartended. It was really disturbing to see people ass out on a couple drinks, and it motivated me to live a little better life."

Three things your bartender wants you to have:

1) A modicum of patience. When your bartender, sans tray, carries four drinks to your party of seven, don't freak out and shriek, "But I ordered a Sierra Nevada, too!" Your bartender, like you (most likely), has only two hands. Take a deep breath.

2) Some common sense. Be aware that you are in public, and that people can both see and hear you. "I hear a ton of gossip-bits of hundreds of conversations every night," says Oleg, who owns a dark, cool bar up north. When the music is loud, people talk louder, and bartenders can pick up conversations over the music. It's not that Oleg isn't fascinated by these juicy tidbits, but remember Portland is a tiny town--so for your own dumb sake, think before you speak.

3) Some common sense, part 2. "People do disgusting things in bars they'd never do at home," Gene says. Bars seem to provide the same sort of public/private disconnect that leads people to pick their noses while driving. "I watch people spit on the floor, put out their cigarettes in candles, and piss everywhere but in the toilet bowl." Remember how hard your parents worked to toilet train you? Don't disappoint them any more than you already have.

Three things your bartender wants you to do:

1) Tip. "This job is as blue collar as it gets. I'm working seven or more hours without a break, and moving the whole time," Gene says. "I get minimum wage and no benefits. Tips are only thing that make this job viable."

2) Take responsibility for yourself. "I once got fired because I over-served this woman," says Georgia. "She only had three drinks, but suddenly passed out on the bar. My manager, freaked out by potential OLCC spies, had her carried outside, where she puked in the street in front of the dining room windows. Yes, I should have intuited that she might have ingested some sort of illicit substance before going out, but why should I have to baby-sit a fucking idiot? I mean, besides Oregon law saying so?"

3) Be courteous to your bartender and your fellow customers. If you tell your bartender to fuck off, you're going to get 86'd--simple. Same goes for starting drunken fights and harassing other customers. Does this really need explanation? If you answered yes, immediately find your bartender and beg for forgiveness. The damage has already been done, but sorry is a good place to start.

So there you have it. With a shred of intelligence and an ounce of common sense, you already know these things. But know this as well: Bartenders have very long memories. And like somebody else's mother repeatedly said, you don't get a second chance to make a first impression.