My Night Job Is in a Brothel

5 Jul

After an evening in hell with the Competitive Scrabble Club last week, you’d think it a struggle to find something more exhausting and stressful, but I did:  Barbacking.

Happy Lollipop Tuesday, ya’ll.

I’ve been fortunate enough lately to have readers suggest ideas for my Lollipop Tuesdays not only online (via the comment section on my “What’s Lollipop Tuesday” page), but also those who know me personally via text and in-person.  Some of them have even gone so far as to arrange the events for me so that all I have to do is show up and humiliate myself.

Like this past week, for example.

Thanks to a loyal reader, I was invited to my favorite bar downtown (read: only one I go to) to be subjected to barbacking for an evening.  For those of you who need a clue, barbacking is basically playing slave to the bartender.  You wash dishes, prep food, clean, pour beers, stock the cooler, get ice… you get the idea.  So last Wednesday I worked my regular 8-5, and then headed downtown to be treated like a lowly peasant from 9-3.   And let me assure you: working an 8am-3am is not an experience I treasured.

I think most of my suck factor was wrapped up in the fact that I never drank in college.  I had my first taste of alcohol at 22 years old, so I had little to offer in the way of, well, anything.   I’m a fast learner and I’ve had a lot of jobs for my age, so the evening was like an intense crash course for a job I never intended on returning to.  

It was pure craziness.

Luckily, the same bartender works every Wednesday evening  (open mic night) and luckily, I tip him well.  Because there was nothing but his good graces that could carry me through an evening of stupidity.   And besides almost knocking over an entire rack of crystal, tossing out someone’s unfinished beer at the end of the night when they were still lingering around, and general ignorance about every aspect of bartending in general, I’d say I did pretty well.  A lot of it also had to do with the fact that I’m a regular, so the bar mostly consisted of friends, other  Wednesday regulars, and (believe it or not) blog fans who got the word I’d be there. 

Apparently there’s nothing like seeing someone humiliated to spice up your mid-week nights. 

Photo by "Lauren" - click the image to check out her review of the restaurant, complete with pictures. You can even check out the Madame's headboard that now serves as the back of the bar.

Oh yeah – did I mention the place used to be a brothel?

Part of what makes my favorite hangout so darn cool is that back in the day it was the backdrop for scandals of all shapes and sizes.  It has a section upstairs labeled “The Madame’s Room”.   But the best feature is one I didn’t discover until I played barback.   In one of the dining rooms, there is another bar with a mirrored wall behind it.  And if you push on it just right, the entire wall opens up to reveal another room.  It’s a bona fide secret doorway.   And if I have to work a 14-hour day to get to interact with a genuine hidden doorway, I’m so okay with that.

So all in all, I’d say things went well.  Nothing broke, nothing burned, and nothing got sent back.  And I got to learn a lot of pretty cool new stuff.  Like the fact that most of bartending is cleaning.  And since I’ve always kind of been interested in bartending, I’m thankful that this past week has shown me the error of my ways.  I hate cleaning.  Also, I totally suck at polishing stemware.

But allow me to leave you all with the most important thing I took away from being put through the ringer:

 Tip your bartender well.  You never know when you might end up on their side of the bar. 

*A hearty thanks to Jeff Holt of Papa J’s Centro in downtown Pittsburgh for allowing me to come threaten his crystal, his customers, and his good name.  Authentic Italian food, great service, and a super cool locale.  What could be better than drinking in a refurbished brothel? Nothing, that’s what.  If you’re in Western PA, you should do yourself a favor and pay the place a visit.  All pertinent info can be acquired here.*

Today’s RAK: A front door surprise for a few random fellow apartment dwellers.



14 Responses to “My Night Job Is in a Brothel”

  1. pegoleg July 5, 2011 at 10:20 am #

    Thanks for explaining barbacking. Is this a new fun pastime – helping the bartender out without getting paid? Then you should try insurancebacking – what a kick! I happen to know a place where you can make copies and file to your heart’s content.


    • Jackie July 9, 2011 at 9:50 pm #

      haha well does your company have a ‘take a blogger to work’ day?


  2. Jules July 5, 2011 at 11:13 am #

    I love secret doors/rooms. If I ever have a house built, it’s going to have secret everything!!!!


    • knotrune July 6, 2011 at 5:08 am #

      That would be so cool! Having a secret front door means you’d only have visitors you actually want and had told how to find it 🙂 Then when they came in, they would just stand around bemused in your hallway with no doors or coathooks or anything and then be amazed when you appeared out of nowhere and hung their coats on the invisible hooks! And it goes on 😀 Love your idea!

      Although you might want a non-secret post box…


      • Jackie July 9, 2011 at 9:46 pm #

        Dave maintains that when we get a place of our own we should consider having a say in the building of it so he can have all the chutes, ladders, and secret doors his heart desires. haha


    • Jackie July 9, 2011 at 9:50 pm #

      let’s start our own neighborhood. it will be wild. we can have tourists.


  3. Isabelle July 5, 2011 at 11:34 am #

    Congrats to challenge it ! It must be such a great experience at the end, I’m sure you really liked it (for a night) 😉


    • Jackie July 9, 2011 at 9:50 pm #

      just for a night. It’s cool to say I did it but I’m certainly not itching for a repeat 😉


  4. thesinglecell July 5, 2011 at 5:10 pm #

    Secret rooms are awesome! Bartenders are awesome! 19 hour days are not awesome. I love Lollipop Tuesday!


  5. Kristen Fairgrieve July 5, 2011 at 6:26 pm #

    i bartended in college [one of my 3 jobs then], and i so commend you for taking this on. people think bartending is this fun glamorous job where all you do is pour drinks and interact with the fun drunk customers who of course always leave great tips [think Cocktail the movie with tom cruise]. it so is not. so kudos for taking that on! and a secret room to boot! awesome!!


    • Jackie July 9, 2011 at 9:49 pm #

      3 jobs!? wild. you must have been so. tired.

      I love Cocktail. And the idea of bartending is surely glamorized in movies like that and Coyote Ugly. They need to make one where the cleaning seems sexy too.


  6. Marylou July 11, 2011 at 10:26 pm #

    So I was super excited to be a part of your lollipop tuesday. Also. As soon as I walked in that night, I was told that not only did it used to be a brothel but apparently it’s haunted (JUST LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE IN PITTSBURGH) so I promptly decided I wouldn’t have to pee that night. At all. And I didn’t. Because if there would’ve been a ghostly encounter, I may not have made it to the bathroom anyway…


    • Jackie July 17, 2011 at 3:42 pm #

      lol yes, it’s true. there have been a few questionable accounts from folks regarding ghosts and whatnot. Apparently brothels make for some unfinished business after death.


Say Something

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: