20 January 2011

the professional

First off, I added pics to my last post, so if you haven't seen those yet, you should probably check them out.

So after rolling into the Loki at five in the morning, I took a brief nap, but awoke with a determination to get things done. After that mammoth blog post, I went to talk with the bar manager about working here. I had a little spiel prepared in my head, about how I thought this would be a great way to get my foot in the door of the hospitality industry, and even though I don't have any actual bar experience, I've worked in similar environments, and blah blah blah. . . but when I went to talk to him, I said, "Hi, I've been told to talk to you about bar work?" and he simply told me to come back at 6:30 so he could put my name on the schedule. That simple.

He put me down for two shifts this week, because they just had a girl leave really suddenly and they needed someone to pick them up. That was it. No training, no interview process, nothing. So I sat around talking and playing 'drinking games' with the group that I met on the bus.

Now, when I say we played drinking games, I mean we sat around a table and talked and played silly memory games with funny rules and nursed beers. We exchanged travel tips, talked about missing people from home and growing through travel, and enjoyed dinner together. There was a Czech girl who had spent an exchange year attending high school in Montana! How cool is that? She and I had a talk about how seriously Americans take high school athletics, and how we have a chance to rediscover ourselves when we travel alone. She actually spent a month camping alone in New Zealand after she left London and broke up with her boyfriend, because she'd been with him for ten years and felt like she'd forgotten who she was. Our whole conversation was really interesting.

When 9:30 rolled around, the hostel bar started up their own games. They also seem to have missed the point, because these games didn't involve raucous consumption of alcohol or chugging contests or anything like that; they were more about friendly competition (or maybe that should actually be the point of drinking games, and American college students are the ones missing the point. . .). The winners of these games were given a shot and sometimes a hostel tee shirt. You'd better believe I was in it for the shirts because I hate shots.

Game one was bingo. I'm not crazy about bingo, because it's all luck. I think my luck is average, and if things go well for me in life, I can usually attribute them to hard work or good karma. You can't control how well you do in bingo, and that annoys me.

However, once we got started, I seemed to be doing pretty well. The rules were as follows: the first person to fill in a line had to run between a couple of tables and hit the bar so the bartenders could check their numbers and then give them a shot. Lines involving the free space in the middle of the card didn't count. After that, the first person to fill in their card would also get a shot and a tee shirt.

Given my stance on bingo and games of chance, you can imagine my surprise when I found myself with only one spot missing along the top row. The others encouraged me to creep closer to the bar so I would have an advantage, since we were seated in the corner. "I'm not much of a sprinter," I kept telling them. "This could be embarrassing."

Fortunately, I didn't trip when that last number was called, but I did look like a fool racing nobody to the bar. I gave my shot to another girl in the group and laughed about my luck, which I was certain had been exhausted in those first few minutes of bingo.

But within about ten minutes, I had filled every spot on my card but two, and one of those was the free space. Again, I edged closer to the bar and prepared for what I was sure would turn out to be nothing.

Guess who's got two thumbs and a free hostel tee shirt? That's right, this girl.

Giddy because of the luck I never knew I had, I settled down for game two: a memory game. We divided up into groups of three and tried to memorize a series of ridiculous images on the television screen. Did I ever tell you that in high school, I used to rock tests because of my semi-photographic memory? Oh yes. Another free shot for Lizzie.

The next game was musical chairs. If you know me, you know I am incredibly clumsy. But I have mad hip-checking skills. I was actually renowned on my hall in college because I could rearrange my friends' dorm furniture by bumping it along with my ample booty, and that ability serves me well in games like musical chairs. Unfortunately, I was undone by a slick spot on the floor, and only came in second place.

The final competition involved an empty cereal box on the floor, and a circle of competitors. One by one we tried to pick up the cereal box using only our mouths, with our hands behind our backs and knees off the floor. After each round, a half-inch of the cereal box would be torn off.

Almost everyone was using some sort of squat or lunge approach, but I've got weak knees and super-flexible joints, so I spread my feet apart, locked my knees, and did the damn thing. Not exactly ladylike, but you know what? After the first round, the emcee was announcing me as "The Professional from Kansas" (which I'm pretty sure is not a good thing), and a few people actually dropped out because they felt there was no way they could compete against me.

My toughest competition was actually a 6'4'' Aussie guy named Kyle, who kept coming over to me and trying to make a deal where we would split the prize tee shirt 50-50 down the middle. As in we would each get half of a tee shirt. I politely declined.

By the final round, there was nothing left of that cereal box but a flat slab of cardboard. I was worried, because my legs were shaking and I thought my knees might go at any second. I ended up falling into the splits, which led a few people to call for my disqualification, but the judges wouldn't hear of it.

Guess who's got two thumbs and two hostel tee shirts? That's right, this girl.

Guess who's got two thumbs and woke up this morning with aching hamstrings and popping hip flexors? I don't think I need to say.

Anyway, it's about an hour before I'm supposed to report for duty, and I have to try and get my stuff moved into the staff dorm. I'm sort of getting thrown into the pit with a night shift, but there will be at least two other people behind the bar and there's supposed to be a band playing, so it should be pretty relaxed. Wish me luck!

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