It wasn’t that I hated my job. Quite the contrary; bartended kept me on my toes and allowed me an outlet for meeting people without any strings attached. Making drinks is like an instant liaison, almost as imtimate but just as fleeting. Hell, in both cases one person winds up on the floor half the time.

But as time went on, even as the money I was making was going up alongside the tips, I found myself less satisifed, less fulfilled. It’s hard to quantify. People would say to me, “Hey, Chris, you look like something’s eating you.” Or some variation thereof, in whatever lingo they thought would make them look hip.

I suppose the biggest indicator of what was going on was how well I was doing my job. Not that I was doing it badly; you can’t mix bad drinks and be employed at a place like O’Toole’s for very long. No, I just noticed that I seemed to be spending less time on each mix, not taking as much care with the ingredients. Slipping away while technically still on the clock when we were overstaffed or dead behind the counter, too. Who does that if they are truly, madly, deeply satisfied with their job?

It was sort of like a toxic codependency, I suppose. My job was my identity, and they were hard enough to come by in that economy. I hated it but I needed it. It hated me but it needed me.

Some days I wanted to quit, but then I thought about all the people flipping burgers for a living and thought better of it. So the closes I got was putting my tips into new tattoos, gradually filling out a sleeve on each arm a few hundred bucks at a time.

The dress code forbids sleeve tattoos, but not tattoos in general. So I guess getting ink meant, to me, edging toward a point where I could technically be fired. Even though I’d be more likely to get asked to wear long sleeves, it was something. My only futile act of rebellion against my life and the rut it was in, I suppose.

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