Panel of experts:
1. Christina Wamuyu, 25
· Wanted to be a nurse, but lacked the school fees
· About eight years’ experience
2. Grace Ndung’u 23,
· Wanted to be an accountant, but math wasn’t her forte
· Two years’ experience
3. Paul ‘Pablo‘ Mulei, 28
· Has a law degree
· Seven years’ experience
1. Be good looking
“Thing about serving alcohol is that looks matter. You cannot, in the eyes of a majority of beerholders, be ugly then wait tables in a bar.” Christina Wamuyu, 25, says with an amiable smile that lights up her entire face.
That is why they also put them in tiny bits of clothes, necessary only to hide the bare necessities? I prod. She stares at me for a second then nods.
Grace and Christina work at Dante Mixologists Kenya Limited, which is like an outside catering company, but for alcohol. Christina, having worked as a barmaid for eight years, has had experience in nightclubs, where the signature dress is allergic to knees and some people frown upon the decency of keeping their hands to themselves.
These ladies of the bar have unorthodox working hours.
“At times, our day can begin at three p.m. and last all the way to four in the morning when the last customer has left.” No place brings ‘the customer is always right’ mantra to mind like the alcohol business.
2. Expect sexual overtures and handle them with some class
“When some people get drunk,” Christina explains, “They get a little urm, courageous.” She uses the term courageous loosely to mean their tongues get looser and their temperaments take a few steps up the stairs.
“A bar maid needs to have patience and humility are very useful tools for barmaids. “You cannot believe the number of times I have had to deal with old people propositioning me,” the 23-year-old Grace says.
Pablo is a bartender, but he has had to deal with propositioning females. “Yes while I am behind the bar, a woman will show up and want to take me home with her. I have spent a long time learning the art of rejecting them politely; or lying to them. Sure, I might give her my number, but I will never answer the phone when she calls.”
With a cheeky smile, he adds: “Of course there has been one or two whose offers I have considered,” he rubs his beard, chuckles again and says, “These things happen.”
3. Be intuitive; If the patron wants a therapist, be that
Pablo has a degree in law, but that does not stop him from standing behind the bar and serving drinks. “I am that guy at the bar who handles most orders,” he says, his booming voice the perfect beam of pride. “And most people who come to have their drinks at the bar are the most depressed. They just want to drink and talk. Oh, my wife, oh my husband, oh my children, oh my money… when they seem so depressed, I give them a drink on the house. Pewa shot utulie. Tequila yourself out,” says the 28-year-old lawyer/bartender laughing deeply. “I am starting to think there should be psychiatrists in these bars to handle some of these people.”
4. If married, set boundaries with patrons
“It gets a little challenging if you are married and there are people calling you at night. Hubby will be wondering who that is,” says Christina who has been married for five years now. “In such cases, I have to ask the flirts to stop calling because we are not taking each other anywhere.”
Her husband, who works at a casino, met her while she was still a barmaid. “All I have to do now is remember to act responsibly as a wife because I don’t want rocks in my marriage,” the mother of one asserts with a giggle. Her husband knows that she is a responsible woman and trusts her and so he has no qualms with her being a barmaid. In turn, she ensures she conducts herself responsibly at all times.
5. Remember that a drunk man will promise you the world and almost always give you rocks
In the dens of hedonism, a girl like Christina or Grace is bound to come across the kind of guy who will say, “Come with me. Live with me, keep my whistle well blown and you don’t even have to work your crappy bar job any more. I will keep you well financed always.” They both laugh as they explain that these offers are made but one cannot take them seriously because trust is an expensive commodity that isn’t given away at face value.
“Others want you so badly that they will even offer to love you all their lives and marry the panties off your legs, but you cannot take anything at face value,” Christina admits with a laugh.