Having a heart-to-heart with a bartender is a common trope in pop culture. Sometimes the bartender is funny and cracks jokes about his customers while never losing touch with his sensitive side and really listening when needed like in Ted Danson’s character in Cheers (1982). Sometimes the bartender is a silent character that listens attentively to his customers but is also a street fighter vigilante like in Mute (2018). I even had a meaningful conversation with a barman just yesterday! It might be the after-hours, smokey and poorly lit ambience of bars that lends itself for this kind of intimate exchanges between strangers.
I was too, once upon a time, a bartender at a hotel bar having a meaningful conversation with one of my customers. It was 2 pm on a Tuesday afternoon, I had just opened the bar and in comes one of the hotel’s guests. She asked for the menu but ended up ordering a beer. She didn’t speak any Spanish so I saw this as a good opportunity to dust off my english speaking skills which I had not used in quite some time.
She told me her name was Allison and that she was on holiday with her family from California. She told me she was finishing her bachelor in South asian studies but she was having trouble with her thesis. She said it was because of her advisor, a Prof. Wentworth of UC Berkley. She told me about his unwanted sexual advances towards her via email and in real life and how she was taking legal action against him for sexual harrasment. She also told me he was a very powerful figure in the tight knit academic community of asian studies and having him as an enemy had made her advancing in her career close to impossible. At the end of our conversation she told me she was going to change her course of study even though she just needed to to write her bachelor thesis to graduate.
This was a pretty intense conversation to be having before nighttime and I didn’t really know if I should keep pushing the subject because although she was being very open about it and I was really interested in the story I didn’t know how to react to this. After my shift I googled her name and this story by The Guardian came up.
In one of my previous posts I scratched the surface on Sarah Ahmed’s concept of the feminist ear. I posed a few questions about if a man can legitimately use (or be) the feminist ear. This is not yet clear to me but I guess just listening when someone tells you a story like this, will do for now.