Served: Do good employers exist in Texas?

It was a lazy Sunday. I was working at a small dive-bar (Jerry’s Bar and Grill) in Brighton, CO and there were maybe two customers in the entire place. I had been broken into the service industry at a multitude of Mexican restaurants (contrary to any stereotypes, Mexicans work extremely hard) and if it’s slow, it’s time to clean. Not to mention that my brand new boss could easily see me working from his office on a TV monitor. So, needless to say, I was cleaning. It looked like the space under some of the lesser used glasses was a little sticky, so I started moving everything and wiping the surface down. I proceeded to wash all of the glasses and return them to their rightful homes. Because I had nothing better to do and was on the clock, I started on the glasses in the next row. About this time, my boss, Linden Morris, made his way out to the front of the bar. He asked how things were going and apologized that business was so slow. Let me repeat that, HE, the boss, apologized to ME, his employee, that business was slow. Clearly, he understood that when he wasn’t making money, I wasn’t either. He went on to thank me for cleaning underneath the glassware. I found this shocking. I’ve always been a hard worker and I’ve always gotten along OK with my managers and bosses, but never in all my years (at that point in time and to this day) had I been thanked for cleaning. This is inclusive of 17 years of housework, on my mother’s behalf. Somehow, as hard as I found it to believe, my new boss had a bad rap around town. People thought he was mean and mistreated his often beautiful (although somewhat sticky-handed) employees. People thought he was stingy (I guess a 2 for 1 happy hour doesn’t go far around those parts) and a jerk (he made it clear that he would not tolerate bar fights). I completely disagreed. Linden was anal. He was the first to admit it. He wanted things done a certain way. If you could manage to run his business and not steal from him, I found him to be pretty laid back. Over the course of the next few weeks, Linden slowly showed me the ropes. I gained confidence as a bartender and learned to spot problems before they happened. The first time a bar fight happened on my watch, Linden drove down at 1am to help me mop the blood off the walls. In retrospect, had Linden been working, that fight never would have happened under his watchful eye. It seemed that the people in this bunk little town all had moderate to severe drinking problems. They drank all the time, drank too much, and often had an array of personal problems and social conflicts. Linden had been running bars for his entire life and could smell trouble a mile away. It wasn’t long before I was personally thanked for my hard work in the form of a raise. Not to mention getting some better shifts. My bleak Sunday mornings soon turned into late Friday and Saturday nights. I was given the run of the place and I did my best to keep things running the way that Linden wanted them. After about six months, Linden informed me that he was selling Jerry’s. The soon to be owners were a cool, hip couple from New York who were going to “breathe new life into the place.” When I found out, I cried. Linden was by far the best boss I’d ever had. I couldn’t help but worry that the new owners wouldn’t have the experience or the dedication to make my job the same. The transition proved far from smooth, but I tried to make the best of it. My new bosses were rich people. They didn’t know how to make drinks and they had never dealt with the sort of folks that live in Brighton. They had never bartended before and weren’t interested in learning. They were extremely bossy and only wanted to work mornings (come on, you just bought a BAR). They fought with each other constantly and simultaneously told me to do opposite things. They fired my coworker on their first day and asked me to increase my already 50 hour workweek. I never had any help behind the bar anymore and it seemed that asking for a cocktail waitress on a Friday made me somehow inadequate. I took a week-long vacation after two months and they remained closed almost every day of my absence. Needless to say, I was not making very good tips, and was stressed out and unhappy. Eventually, I’m afraid I earned the same bad reputation that Linden had. I stopped putting up with people’s shit. After literally wiping up someone else’s blood for an hour and a half, it seemed worth it to cut people off a little sooner, or kick them out a little earlier to avoid a problem. When I no longer had a boss who wanted any sort of involvement in their business after 10 pm, I had to make decisions on my own. Probably the bitchiest thing I ever did was kick out a couple of guys (and pour out their full drinks) for whistling when I had asked them not to. I walked out one night when I was told that my meth-head coworker had been made my official manager (I had gotten her a job two weeks before the transition and no, I didn’t know she was a meth-head at the time, she told me she was ill with cancer) and been given a substantial raise. Linden heard the news almost instantly and called me early the next morning. He was baffled at the decision they had made and offered to help find me a new job. It was a nice gesture, but at that point I knew that my time in Brighton was finally over. I turned in my keys the next morning and haven’t been back since. A couple of weeks before the transition in ownership, a big group rented out the bar for a birthday party with karaoke. It was packed. Linden and I worked the entire bar by ourselves. He was shoving cash in my tip jar all night and I ended up making a little over $200. I was ecstatic. Linden was happy because we sold a lot of drinks and hadn’t had any problems. On my way out he thanked me for my hard work and handed me a 50 dollar bill. I still can’t get over this. I had a boss who not only started me way over the minimum wage, but also gave me a raise and the occasional bonus. I don’t think this kind of boss exists here in Texas. Maybe Linden is the only one in the world. Maybe I’m spoiled, but I just can’t work my ass off for $2.13.

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