Monday, July 19, 2010

Custer's Last Stand

One convention I dreaded every year at the hotel where I was a cocktail waiter was hosted by the Native American Housing Authority. This is a lobbyist organization that would meet in Denver to discuss their grievances with the United States, which usually boiled down to grievances against white people. There's some history behind all of that. Oddly, the event coincided with the Annual Stock Show and Trade Fair. The same dates.

In spite of the fact that our particular hotel was filled almost entirely with Native Americans, in one of the grandest gestures of insensitivity, the hotel management insisted that we all dress like cowboys ... "for Stock Show." My favorite bartender used to describe this week as "Custer's Last Stand."

The last year I worked at that hotel, I cocktailed $1300 worth of drinks (at about $1.50 to $4.00 each) on the first night of the convention and made a total of five dollars in tips. That's about 450 drinks. I ran my butt off and I was yelled at, catcalled, pinched, grabbed and insulted all night, but I didn't have any support from the hotel because the room revenue was where they were making their money. Also, in spite of the alcohol classes the hotel had started requiring the f&b staff to take to lower their insurance premiums, they insisted that we continue to serve people who were clearly drunk "because they were staying in the hotel and weren't driving." (Never mind that bartenders and waiters are still responsible for the patron's safety if they fall down and hit their head or OD on booze.)

On the last night, after most of the conventioneers had gone home and only a dozen or so remained in the hotel, I was tending bar when a woman from their group walked in just before last call. The woman seemed relatively sober, and she sat at the bar in front of the taps and ordered a draft. These taps had the kegs sitting right underneath them, so at that area of the bar there was an extra 18 inches or so between me and the customer. I set the beer in front of her, she took one sip, put it down and started to go over backwards dead drunk.

Now, this woman was NOT small. I reached out quickly and grabbed ahold of her arms, but she must have outweighed me by 100 pounds (at that time .... only by about 40 pounds today). I held on as best as I could and started screaming for Chuck, the security guard, but she was pulling me over to her side a little bit more every second. By the time Chuck arrived, I had the toes of my boots hooked against the drain board of the beer taps and I was hanging by my waist off the edge of the bar. I was about to let her fall 'cos her head was only a couple of feet from the carpet by then and I didn't wanna go sailing over head first myself. Chuck got a good grip on her and let her down easy and she never did come to until we splashed her face with some water.

I learned later that there is a genetic mutation that aids in the metabolizing of alcohol that Native Americans do not have, so they are much more prone to its effects. I don't know if that would have made a huge difference in my feelings about waiting on that group, 'cos it's awfully frustrating to do that much work for so little money and to be abused that way. Mostly, it makes me angry that the hotel fueled that situation by threatening me with my job if I didn't keep serving them booze. (I'm pretty sure the cowboy getup didn't help matters either.) Thank God I'm not working there any more.


  1. Wow, I'm laughing my ass off over here about the "cowboys and Indians" scenario! I started retelling the story to my hubby and he was already laughing as I set it up. :)

  2. Thanks. It is funny in one of those, "You had to not be there" kind of ways.