There is a saying that one train can hide another. Meaning that while you are paying attention to one very obvious perceived threat, another more dangerous one can be hidden by it. This particular night I was about to walk right into that second train; I just didn’t know it yet.

“That guy at the end keeps hitting on me,” said my comely dark haired co-worker leaning in close so that only I could hear her. In most bars it is possible, just by proximity, to hear almost everything that the customers at the bar are saying. Savvy bartenders realize that if we can hear them, then they can certainly hear us, and take appropriate precautions.

I took several seconds before responding, so not to look obvious, before I looked down the bar in her unwanted admirer’s direction. The two construction workers dappled by paint that probably matched a wall somewhere had been sitting there for
nearly two hours. They had ignored me anytime that I had come within five feet of them, except once to ask me to get my co-worker because they wanted to ask her a question.

“Have you told them that you have a boyfriend?” I asked.

“Yes I did,” she said. “I even told them I was about to get engaged,” she added with a little sigh.

“You are?” I asked surprise creeping into my voice.

“Of course not,” she said. “But I just want them to leave me alone.”

It is the curse of the female hospitality employee. How to walk the line between their own comfort level and the needs of the clientele in an openly flirtatious environment? A certain level of friendliness is necessary but where do you draw the line.
Unfortunately for her, one of the differences between men and woman is that men just don’t give up. We view it as a war of attrition; eventually we will wear them down. Siege the tower if you will, cut off all areas of escape and eventually they will
capitulate. Flawed thinking perhaps, but we are men after all.

While trying to deal with my co-workers uncomfortable amorous entanglement I had also been simultaneously waiting on two young ladies sitting directly in front of me.

Two appetizers, two cosmos and a split salad later…

“Everybody seems to know your name,” said the shorter haired of the two brunettes.

“It is part of the process of supply and demand,” I said being momentarily distracted by a continuation of the spectacle further down.

“Do you know all their names?” asked the other brunette.

“The important ones,” I said before having to head down to the end to tell the two guys to cool it, once again.

“My name is Kim, said the talkative brunette, and this is Susan.

The situation at the end was really getting out of hand. Some men just don’t get it. She’s not interested, how many different ways can she tell you? One more comment and they were going to be asked to leave. I could see the train coming. Things were just
getting too uncomfortable.

“Do you have a girlfriend?” said Susan.

I laughed distractedly, while watching the drama at the end continue.

“My having a wife precludes that,” I said, not really paying attention.

“Oh, I didn’t know, she said looking immediately at the rash on my ring finger that was preventing me from wearing my wedding band.

Instantly a credit card appeared and within 30 seconds the two women were gone.

No goodbye. No thank you, just gone.

I remember reading a magazine article that suggested that when men hit on women in a bar they evaluate who is the prettiest woman and then start working their way down, expecting rejection along the way and never stopping once to think about
themselves in comparison. In my years in the business I can say that this appears true.

Don’t believe that old adage that the prettiest woman in the room is so intimidating that no man will talk to her. It ain’t true. In fact every man is probably going to try, and then work his way down the list. Women on the other hand, according to the article, will look around the room and decide, based upon their own opinion of themselves, who they can actually attract. Once they decide, they have already settled.

Perhaps that is why the saying, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” appears so true. It is because that woman has already self-settled for less when she has decided on you. How dare you be the one to tell her to set her bar a little lower. Rejection doesn’t embarrass men because they are so used to it. Women on the other hand…

As I cleaned up the half-eaten half salad that was left in haste I realized three things.

1) It was going to be a long time before I saw those two women again, and the next time they would probably be less cordial.

2) I was also probably going to see those two painted knuckleheads at the end of the bar every week until either the manager
asked them to leave or some woman finally settled for less.

3) I sure couldn’t wait for the rash on my ring finger to go away.

Jeff Burkhart is an author, a regular contributor to National Geographic Assignment and an award winning bartender at a local restaurant. Follow him at and contact him at