I was 17 when I started working behind a bar counter. It was probably illegal but it was a football club bar so I knew which drinks to put on at a particular time of the evening, never mind who the customers coming in to drink them were. I loved it from the start though. For a shy young man it was a perfect training ground to improve my confidence. A football changing room and working in a bar will knock the edges off any shy and retiring young man and serve him well in his future.
Just a few weeks ago I had my testimonial which marked the official end of my bar working career. For two years my bosses made sure to let me know there was a job available to me whenever I got on top of things. It was one less thing for me to worry about and I’ll always be grateful to them for that. However I knew earlier this year that I’d never be able to work in a pub again. Twelve years on from pulling my first pint I had to tell my bosses that I wouldn’t be pulling anymore, in an official capacity anyway.
I worked in Harry Byrnes for 6 years. I loved the work, my colleagues and the customers that drank there. I know I pissed off some of my colleagues at times and I know I got into trouble for pissing off customers. But in the grand scheme of things it’s hard to imagine anyone goes through a job unscathed by any difficulties. The highs of working in a cracking pub far outweigh any negatives and my favourite day will always be Ireland v England, Croke Park, February 24th 2007. 12 straight hours of service, not knowing the score only that Ireland won and the satisfaction of being part of a team who pulled off a record-breaking day.
I kept the hope alive that I could return to work but when that became impossible I felt it best to cut the ties and enjoy going into the pub as a customer and chatting to the great group of lads still working there. To my pleasure my boss suggested we have a leaving do so I could say good luck to everyone in one place. As I say it is 2 years since I worked there and it was only going to be an early and short night, for me anyway.
So you can imagine how happy I was to see probably 15 people turn up just after 6pm. This included the young lounge staff, who never normally come out until it’s time to hit a club, which I really appreciated. To have everyone there and be able to say thank you for their understanding and support was brilliant. I left a few hours later with a fill of Guinness, photos on my phone and the satisfaction of having everyone make the effort to be there.
The next day wasn’t so good though.
Yes there was the hangover but this was more than simple dehydration. I was sad, I was upset and I was tired. As great an evening as it had been, it was also a full stop at the end of my barman’s career. Being a barman was something I loved to do and it was now another thing that had to be left behind. The job that had given me self-confidence, self-satisfaction, great friends, money to do things I enjoyed and buy my own place and so many other things was now gone, and with nothing to replace it.
My Facebook page still says I’m a barman in Harry Byrnes. Unfortunately that hasn’t been true for some time but I don’t know what to put in its place. Am I unemployed? Am I on disability? Am I borrowing back from the income tax I paid for years? Am I living a cushy life paid for by the hard-working population?
Apart from the cushy life they’re all true but I think I might change it to something like; Self-employed, volunteer fibromyalgia and arthritis fighter. It sounds like my job application as a 16 year old which said I was a fuel injection engineer and not a petrol pump attendant. It’s time to identify myself as who I am and not what I do to earn a crust.