Around this time of year is when I take stock of my financial situation. Every year, its been kinda the same thing where I realize I spend as much as I make. By the time I pay student loans, rent on my pimped-out apartment, fancy dates, top-shelf bar tabs, premium cable channels and Thai massages, there’s not much left. So I pretty much do this lawyer thing to break even. Sadly, I’m faced with the unfortunate fact my salary will be way down from last year (including a $0 bonus), which means I’m kind of in a financial pickle. Maybe the levelheaded, logical attorney prepared for this by cutting some costs this year, but not me. I continued to spend like it was 1999, 2005 and 2006. Combined.
So the other day, I was discussing this with my buddy Marcus, the second-year who also shares my desire to live like a banker. He spends a considerable amount of money on fancy suits and video games, but he isn’t feeling the squeeze like me. When I revealed my bottom line, I expected him to reply with something to the tune of, “Me too.” Instead he laughed in my face. Apparently dating a bleeding-heart schoolteacher with low romance expectations affords Marcus a lot of cheap opportunities. Like upstate apple picking and walks through the park and other shit real men don’t actually do. Knowing that without me his life would be relentlessly boring, he finally decided to be part of the solution—and we started batting around ideas.
Marcus: What about starting a side business? Internet startup.
Me: I have a better idea. How about I invent a time machine taking me back to 1999 and then suggest a search engine called Google?
Marcus: Okay, how about a resume service?
Me: (Throwing a crumpled up napkin at him.)
Marcus: What do you propose? Rob a bank? Drug dealing?
Me: Now you’re talking!
Truth be told, I might actually consider dealing drugs if I wasn’t so afraid of ending up on the wrong end of a cock-meat sandwich in prison. I’m not risking my ass virginity so I can take snotty girls to Morimoto. They’ll have to settle for Benihana this year.
That afternoon I remembered my friend Tim who dropped out of law school as a 2L. He finished his degree through some no-name program and has been a struggling associate at a Queens chop shop ever since. Given he still pays student loans to a top-10 school for a degree he never received, he’s been bartending a few nights a week for extra cash.
I gave him a call and pretended to want to catch up. A few words into his ho-hum life status, I cut him off and said I wanted to join him in his booze-slinging adventures. I’m sure he swelled with joy to hear Big Firm Matt was in liquidity bind, but he said he thought he could swing me a couple shifts—and that I could potentially make about $300—off the books.
“Off the books” reminds me of my days working at Gino’s Pizzeria in 10th grade. How far I’ve fallen.
Tim gave me all the details of my potential moonlighting gig. The bar was a pretty classy downtown spot. So I went to meet the manager, Josh—a tough, blue-collar type who was busy berating a barback for forgetting to cut lemons when I walked in. (I always find it weird when bars act like they are a sophisticated business. But that’s probably the dickhead elitist in me.)
Tim warned me that I would have to exaggerate my bartending experience if I wanted the gig. Apparently Tim didn’t realize I already did when I told him I had ANY.
I gave Josh the standard lying about my experience. I rattled off tales about annoying customers, celebrity sightings and even threw in some bartending lingo I picked up from watching Cocktail. He totally bought it.
My first shift was the following Wednesday night, their slowest night, working alongside their regular Wednesday bartender—Tim. Slam dunk. I couldn’t lose.
That night was pretty uneventful, and I didn’t make much. But I didn’t manage to screw anything up either, so it wasn’t all bad. Restocking after close, I convinced Josh to throw me into the fire by letting me join Tim on Saturday night.
Every hour I billed the rest of the week was spent researching drink recipes online. If the firm was my wife, the bar was my new mistress, and I couldn’t get her off my mind.
By Saturday night around 10:00, everything was going smoothly. People were drunk. Tipping generously. I did the math in my head and realized that if I can do this for the next six months, rub-and-tugs may not be out of the financial model altogether. Adrenaline pumping, I was actually feeling a little like the Bryan Brown character in Cocktail. Oops, maybe throwing that glass in the air was a bad idea. But if I didn’t break it, the busboy would have nothing to do.
About that time, Marcus bellied up to the bar to check out a corporate lawyer in action—the Tom Cruise to my Bryan Brown. I cleared a spot for him next to a pair of mid-twenties PR chicks, and over the course of the next few hours, we’re running a pretty smooth two-on-two game. Or, I should say (for once), the girls are the ones doing the hitting on us; we are just reacting.
PR Gal #1: How do you two know each other?
Marcus: I’m a bartender here also. This is my night off.
PR Gal #1: So you two are like bartenders fulltime?
Me: Well, no. We’re actors too. Marcus was on Days of our Lives.
PR Gal #2: So you guys, like, never went to college? That’s so crazy.
Marcus: Our college is the college of life.
Not bad, Marcus. Not bad at all.
PR Gal #1: You guys are more fun than all the boring bankers and lawyers in here.
PR Gal #2: (Making vomiting motion.)
Me: Ha, chumps. But if you girls are looking for rich guys, we don’t have any money.
PR Gal #1: If we wanted that, we’d be talking to those dorks over there.
We all soak in the sight of a booth full of MBA drones.
Marcus: Well, we’re usually with stupid model types, not sophisticated ladies such as you two.
Wow, Marcus. On a roll!
PR Gal #2: What time do you guys get off? We should hang out tonight.
Right there I knew I hit on something genius. I can play the role of stable lawyer and pick up firm chicks searching for a husband six days a week, and on Saturdays, I will live out every businessman’s fantasy: Swashbuckling barkeep picking up girls living out their bad-boy fantasies. It’s like role-playing. Except the girls aren’t in on it.
Unfortunately, Marcus killed the mojo immediately by copping to having a girlfriend, which pissed me off since I was already on the fence about breaking up with mine. I partly wanted to dump her because I thought it would make my life cheaper. And partly because my mind is still consumed with thoughts of my Brazilian co-worker. But I digress.
Around 1:15, an attorney from our IP group randomly showed up. I knew this would happen eventually, and it’s obviously not as bad as moonlighting as a Starbucks barista, but I wanted to keep the side gig lo-pro. It wouldn’t have been a big deal except this kid, Aaron, is the kind of d-bag that would use this opportunity to embarrass me by sending a firm-wide email. I could see it saying something like, “Matt needs cash,” with a picture from his iPhone of me serving drinks.
I sent Marcus over to survey the situation with a directive that if Aaron said a word, he was to remind him of the time he pissed himself because he was so shit-faced at our one firm dinner for the Summers in July. (It’s good to collect dirt on people sometimes.) Luckily, Marcus reported back that Aaron was even more wasted than usual and didn’t even know his own name. He handed me Aaron’s credit card and said he asked him to fetch a round of shots. After tallying up four Johnny Walker Blue Label shots (plus two for Marcus and I) and adding on a healthy tip, which yours truly adjusted onto the receipt, Aaron ended up turning me into a bartending rainmaker.
That night, I netted almost $250 bucks and got hit on by girls. Practically heaven. When I called Josh on Monday to see if I could do the whole thing again this weekend, he told me to come in that night for a staff meeting. Though I wasn’t really looking to get involved in the bar’s off-hours lowlife culture, I agreed.
Me: Thanks for the opportunity on Saturday. I think Tim and I really nailed it.
Josh: Nailed it? I don’t know what you guys think happened on Saturday, but you broke three glasses behind the bar next to the ice bin. That’s a health code violation—not to mention dangerous.
Hmm, I guess I should have noticed when the busboy started threatening me in Spanish.
Josh: And then I got a call from a customer who was here on Saturday night and said he was charged $265 for a round of shots, which Tim said he definitely didn’t serve. You know anything about that?
I know a lot about that, actually.
Me: I can explain…that was one of my law firm colleagues. He ordered the shots, but was so drunk…
Josh: Why would you pour for someone you knew was over-served?
Me: No one told me that part. Look, I can talk to him about this and get it squared away. I was hoping to not have to embarrass myself by telling anyone at the firm I’m moonlighting as a bartender, but I’ll talk to him, and he’ll be fine with the charges.
Uh oh, did I just say that? Josh’s factory-town chip was bursting through the vein on his forehead.
Josh: You don’t make enough money at your law firm? How much you make?
Me: Umm, I couldn’t give you an exact number.
Josh: And tell me, what’s “embarrassing” about being a bartender?
Me: I meant “embarrassing,” as in like “unprofessional for a lawyer.”
Josh: Tim’s a lawyer. He embarrassing?
Me: That came out all wrong, I really need this job.
Josh: Sure you do. YAW FIIIYED.
What accent was that? Was he trying to give me the Donnie Trump?
I walked out, meekly, hoping there would be a cab waiting for me where I could explain myself on camera.
“I gave it my best, but it turns out I wasn’t cut out to be blue collar.”