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Olive or Twist?

Do you ever have fantasies about running away? About shelving this whole academic (or corporate, or whatever) life, maybe moving to some other city, and just doing something different?

I do. Not so often that I think they should be taken terribly seriously, and nearly always coinciding with some big pile of grading that needs to be gotten through. But I do fantasize from time to time about chucking this whole grind and going back to bartending.

I tended bar at a restaurant on Bourbon Street for a little less than a year, just after the job in Hollywood that ought to have been great but wasn’t, and just before going back to grad school. Undoubtedly I’m romanticizing this job in undue ways: I’ll stipulate right here that it was without question the dirtiest job I’ve had (yes, if that’s the case I’ve been quite lucky, but I stayed pretty permanently sticky, those months), that it came with tremendous amounts of drudgery (not least among which cutting fruit for garnishes every time I opened and polishing that damned brass bar top every time I closed), that it paid terribly (tips generally suck at bars in restaurants, because everybody wants to transfer their tabs to their tables, so that the waitrons wind up with the real benefits), that it resulted in way more hangovers than one girl should have (NOLA service staffs are notoriously hard-partying), and that it was probably only tolerable because I was fairly certain, as I waited for the results to come back from my grad school apps, that I had an out date, that I would not be spending the rest of my life in the service sector (or that branch of it, at least).

But nonetheless. I think a little more frequently than perhaps I ought to about what it would be like to walk away from the academy and to head back behind the bar. There would be many fewer meetings. Work at the bar would be confined to the bar, without the need to continue working at home. Days off would actually be — and this seems pretty incomprehensible at the moment — days OFF, and would be unaccompanied by guilt about the work I ought to have been doing. I would make the drinks. I would hand out the drinks. I would not need to make the patrons prove that they’d drunk the drinks, or to test them on their own drink-making abilities.

Sure, all those downsides to my previous bartending experience remain, along with the too-frequent need to deal with obnoxious drunks and the other insults and injuries of the service industry. But during periods like the one I’m in right now, with more work to do than can conceivably be done in the hours available, with more pointless meetings taking up more and more of my time, having the fantasy available — knowing that, if I really need to, I could totally blow this joint and do Something Else — helps.

That and knowing that, as of December 17, I’m on sabbatical.

So what are your escape fantasies? What gets you through?


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