After moving to Omaha and teaching for a couple of years across the Missouri River in Council Bluffs, Iowa, I grew tired of driving a car that smelled like a mildewed basement. My poor Chevy Monza had suffered through a Nebraska flood back at the farmhouse, and the car stank. I couldn’t afford a new one on my meager teacher salary, so I drove the Stink Mobile, until one day . . .
. . . my new roomie and fellow Language Arts teacher came home from her job moonlighting as a cocktail waitress. She had a fistful of cash, as in cold and hard, as in this-could-be-the-answer-to-my-new-car fund. I asked Fred if she could get me a job, and after her next shift as waitress, she told me to go down to Brothers’ Lounge on Farnam Street near downtown Omaha, a sister bar of the one where she worked, and to ask for Bob, the owner.
“Wear a dress,” Fred said. “He likes dresses.”
The next day I put on my gray striped rayon number, short enough to show off most of my giraffe legs, and headed on down there. I got the job on the spot, not as a waitress, but as a bartender. That didn’t last long, since the drunks didn’t like a school teacher pouring their drinks.
Bob told me I was fired as a bartender and rehired as a waitress. Once I was demoted to cocktail waitress, my tips improved, and I was on my way to a stink-free vehicle. My uniform was a red blouse and black pants. I only worked weekends, after I overslept one day and got chewed out by my principal.
In those days, most people drank high balls (mixed drinks) or beer. I can still pour a shot with a flourish from a liquor bottle with a bartender’s spout, without spilling a drop (oh, the benefits of a bartender’s education!).
Some highlights of my time at Brothers’ Lounge:
1. The first Halloween, I wore a to-the-knee cowgirl outfit, and the other waitress (Moonbeam or Misty or something) wore a Daisy Duke outfit, with the side seams slit up to her waist, and no panties. Guess who got better tips that night?
2. I caught Moonbeam stealing my tips. That was the end of us working the same nights (Bob, the boss, arranged the schedule).
3. My customers soon learned that they didn’t get to touch the merchandise just because I was serving them a drink.
4. Married Bob asked me into the storeroom one night so we could play tonsil hockey. I scolded him and sent him to detention. He never touched me again.
5. I met my future ex-husband there. He was a Friday night regular, with all the other drunken CPA’s from Arthur Anderson. Did they know their future with the company, and that’s why they drank so much?
6. I breathed a ton of second-hand smoke and smelled like a Two-pack-a-day Patty.
7. After I bought the Chevy Cavalier, I thought, what the heck, I might as well keep moonlighting and buy a house. So that’s what I did (in Omaha in 1984, a house was $29,500).
8. One night a guy gave me $100 as a tip, and I tried to give it back, and he got really mad.
9. Another night, I poured a Bailey’s and coffee on a guy’s crotch at midnight after I tripped over the lumpy rug (no tip from him!).
10. Yet another night, I came out to find my new car with a broken rear passenger window and nothing taken from inside, since I was a poor school teacher.
11. I made more per hour schlepping drinks than I ever did teaching America’s youth, with no need for a college degree, or even undies!
Couldda Wouldda Shouldda
If I wouldn’t have worked at Brothers’ Lounge, I would have never met my future ex, would have never moved to California, and would have married someone else and had different children. So I am not going there with the couldda wouldda shouldda.