I often joke that we female bartenders need to form a guild. In theory this is a fun and funny concept, an idea of a space where we could laugh about stories of idiot customers who want salt on the rim of fruit beers, and we could get matching cloaks. Unfortunately, the reality of this is that it would probably be the world’s saddest Babysitters Club. Being a bartender on Campus Corner, even at a fairly low-key bar/restaurant like the one I work at, means seeing the worst of how people act when they’re drunk. I have seen more people rudely hit on and literally hit than I care to think about. One of my coworkers once helped a girl over the back fence in order to flee an abusive ex. We keep our heads up, check in on tables that seem tense, and try to give the people who don’t want another drink or another conversation partner an out. We try as a group to talk to each other and stay on top of the social as well as practical aspects of our establishments.
On a personal level I try to give out water wherever I can, but barring extenuating circumstances like a girl who needs to climb a fence, unfortunately that’s about all most of us feel like we can do. Every once in a while when someone actually passes out in the restaurant or has been clearly abandoned we can call a cab for them or an ambulance if it gets that far. But more than anything, the life of a campus corner bartender tends to end up involving a lot of watching without being able to do too much of anything before the situation gets to emergency level. And a lot of my straight male coworkers tend not to notice even when it does get to that stage. After working in a bar I am more hyper-aware of rape culture and most people’s lack of awareness of it than I have ever been before.
I deeply wish that there were a portion of bartender training that meant training in bar culture and situation de-escalation. Many bartenders at places that don’t have bouncers or direct contacts in case of emergency face the choice of doing their jobs or helping to control the crowds. While OU as an institution has made efforts in the last few years to promote awareness of sexual assault, many of the incidents of assault involving OU students do not happen on campus. Those of us who work at institutions (such as bars) that traditionally are sites of rape culture need to know what to do when we see a girl pressed against a wall and don’t know who the guy leaning over her is or how to interfere without putting her in more danger. Sexual assault comes in many forms, but those of us who are sober and doing our best to keep everyone safe need more than a club to get us through those nights.