Sonia Hadj Said
I got this job because I was two weeks late on rent and desperate. I had never worked in a bar before, but I liked the idea of a more relaxed atmosphere. The trial day was one of the worst experiences in my life. I didn’t know how to pour a pint. One customer asked for a beer with the top. Didn’t know what that meant. Another one wanted a spritzer. Again, I had to ask him what it was. They hired me anyway, they were short on staff and just as desperate as I was.
The customers were varied, but I could bunch them up in categories:
Older men: They could seem creepy at first, but in fact they were really cool. They were always up for a chat, always bought you a drink after your shift, and had your back. ‘If anything is wrong, let me know immediately’, they would say.
Young locals: The pub is based in Haringey which is slowly evolving into a cool kids’ place. Still, there were some students and people living around there. Nothing interesting, to be honest. We had quiz nights with customers in exchange for £50 worth in drinks. They usually got pissed halfway through and I had to kick them out.
Alcoholics: They would come after work, drink plenty of pints and get noisy. I didn’t even try to be nice to them. We had a fight on one Christmas Eve. One guy got wasted and attacked the manager. Then a few Polish girls jumped onto the guys who tried to kick him down. Most depressing Christmas ever.
Families: I hated them. The kids crawling under your feet on a Saturday morning isn’t something you want, especially when you don’t even have kids of your own. It was like a nursery with alcohol as a bonus. Get a nanny.
Guys with girlfriends: I learned that guys are pigs. They would come with their girlfriends but quietly compliment me at the bar or just outright ask me for my phone number. I never told any of the girls because I know girls are not that blind.
The first month was fun because it was something different. I liked the idea of wearing my own clothes, and the fact that I could ban someone from the pub was cool.
I learned that guys are pigs
After some time, I started seeing the small details. The management didn’t care about us, even saying that we could all be replaced within a day. They fired a kitchen guy because they didn’t feel like training him. Then it was another girl’s turn because they didn’t want part-timers. I was working more and more hours with no recognition.
The thing that kept us going was that one drink after each shift. ‘I need a proper job,’ we would say, sitting in the dark after closing the pub. ‘There you go,’ someone laughed, pouring an ale called Proper Job. After that we would drink more, even before work. No one had a single weekend off, ever. We couldn’t go on a holiday because people kept leaving. We earned the minimum wage and felt like zombies. I remember one day I knew: that was it. A Sunday morning, understaffed as usual. Kids were running around, the pub was full. It was really hot. I went outside to give someone a Sunday roast and shielded my face from the sun. I hated the sun. I hated people laughing. I hated my unstable life and working like a dog while being treated like one at the same time.
I quit with a text at 2AM. I was with my friends at a different pub and all I could do was watch the people who were working. ‘I could never work here,’ I thought to myself. My friends said they were worried because I was acting different. I had mood swings and they never knew when it was safe to talk to me. They thought I drank too much and I couldn’t go on like that. They were genuinely scared for me. I missed myself. I don’t think it was the fact that it was a bar job. I think it was the Westbury that made me feel this way. Any other pub could be fine. So I quit with no notice, as I didn’t think they deserved one.
Then I got banned from the pub.
Banner image: Gregory Crewdson