Dor had been working the day shift and greeted me with a hearty hello then a quick good-bye as she walked through the large open windows that opened up the bar.
A dark-haired, hard-looking English woman walked over to me. She introduced herself as Lynn and pointed to Jana, a girl standing in the back of the bar. She was talking to the cook while eating a bowl of soup. Lynn was the front of the house manager, and Jana was going to train me.
Lynn gave me a once over, “Ya, American right?”
“Yes” I said.
“You an expat or you thinkin’ of movin’ on?” She asked me.
“I’m not sure.” I answered a little hesitant, uncertain if being ambiguous was going to cause me to lose my job. “I don’t think I am an expat. I think I may be an immigrant. ” I said.
“Is there a difference?” She asked.
“I don’t know.” I said, “Perhaps I should look it up in the dictionary.”
“Perhaps.” She said.
She gave me a dubious glance, and then handed me a menu to look over. “Czechs never come in here so ya’ll be fine with language.” She walked away. Then turned back, “If you don’t speak Czech that is.”
“Um. No I don’t. Not yet.”
“Not yet.” She snorted.
Then she stepped into the kitchen. I watched the two women have a terse conversation. Jana looked over to me rolled her eyes and looked back to Lynn with a glare. Then headed out toward me.
Ahoj.” She said, “I’m Jana.” She flashed a full seemingly genuine smile. She had this crazy English/Czech/Irish accent that I hadn’t encountered yet. She looked like she was about sixteen years old. She wore her hair in a Bettie Page cut with bangs cut bluntly across her forehead. Even though her accent was a mash-up of several accents, she was born and raised in Prague. She led me over to the bar to show me the table arrangements.
Tips were pulled, and in the evening they were passed out by Johnny, the bartender. I would be paid cash in hand at the end of a workweek. The main rule was to never stand still even if the place were dead. Always act like you are doing something. I was to shadow Jana and Lynn for my first two shifts then on the third shift I would be on my own with Johnny, and they would decide then if I were good enough to stay. I was only to get fifteen percent of the tips until I made it past the third shift. The menu had traditional Irish food, such as blood sausage and Shepard’s pie along with salads and of, course, Irish whiskeys and Guinness, and other cocktails and European beers.
“So why don’t Czech people come in here?” I asked Jana as we went over the menu.
She looked at me and placed a hand on her hip. “What’s yer wages?”
“Umm. 50 krowns an hour plus tips.”
“Did you look at the prices here? You couldn’t even afford to buy a Gunnies with your first hour’s wages.”
“What?” I looked back at the prices.
“It’s too expensive. These are high prices. There’s a bar downstairs that is Czech and you can get a pivo for 17 krowns. Who’s gonna pay 60? But people do and the tips are better here.”
“I don’t make shit.” I said. “I’ll probably have to get a second job.”
“Tips can sometimes be good.” Said Jana with a shrug.
Around eight in the evening, the bar was full to capacity, mostly, with men from England and Ireland. Tourists visited during the lunch hours, but as the evening grew late I noticed that the Joyce seemed to have a strong of ex-pat vibe. The volume in the bar had risen to a roar and people stood in the pathways and erratically danced from space to space. It had been a very long time since I had waited tables, and my first time working in an actual pub. I had several moments of panic while carrying a tray of pints and hot steaming bowls of Irish stew. I was beginning to question whether or not I was going to make it to my third shift.
“Hey. Hey lass!” A table of Irish men called me over. “You’re new.” One of them said to me.
“Yes.” I said. “Can I get you anything?” I pushed a stray hair away from my face and tucked it behind my ear. The heat in the room had risen at least two degrees since I started my shift. I felt flushed and tense.
“Ye hear that?” Another one said, “Can I get yooou anything?” He said exaggerating my accent. “She’s American.” They laughed. Another guy lifted his head from his beer; his eyes were bloodshot with drink. “What the fuck you doin’ in Prague Ami, whyn’t you go home?”
I looked at him for a slow minute kind of frozen in a stasis of awe. Go home? Who the fuck was he to tell me to go home? Did he forget he was also from another country?
“Oh, ho, ho,” Another laughed, “Miss, Miss- I jes have one question, jes one.’
“What is it?” I asked, my annoyance rising. I felt the back of my neck begin to burn.
“Are you a lesssbian?” The table burst into a fit of laughter like someone actually sad something funny.
“Does it matter?” I asked. “Do you want to order anything?”
“Yeah, yeah.” One guy held up his hand for silence from the table. “I’d like to order two lesbos in a porno.”
This set the table off roaring. I thought each man except the angry one was about to fall out of his seat. How was it that these grown men could have the maturity of a twelve year old and the sensitivity of a lizard. They reminded me that there were problems in the evolutionary chain. I stood up straight just as Jana rushed over grabbing their ashtrays.
“Jana! Jana!” They yelled.
“What are you cunt’s goin on about? You have to make an order or what?” She yelled flirting with them.
“Drinks. A round! Anoter round.” They were talking over one another.
“No no-“ said the guy that had told me to go home. He lifted his hand in protest. He already had a full beer and two shots in front of him. He had tears in his eyes.
“Fuck off ye cunt. Give this cunt a whiskey.” A man ordered a round for everyone. He patted me on the thigh,” we’re jes takin’ the piss.”
Takin the piss? I was about to take a piss in the guy’s whiskey. Only I thought it would be pretty difficult to pee in one of the shot glasses, but the intention was there all the same, and that was half the battle.
“Their harmless.” She said, “just flirt with them and you’ll get more tips.”
I had the feeling I wasn’t going to be making a lot of money here.
When the night ended I handed my apron to Jana, and waited as she counted out the tips and gave me my fifteen percent. I watched as Lynn swept the floor with violent heavy swings of the broom. Then I turned and walked out through the glass doors into the early night. I hoped I would be able to keep the job even with the shitty regulars.