“Please don’t let this suck. And if it does suck, please let it be over quickly.”
This is the prayer I’ve always whispered to myself en route to a first date. Of course, for me and everyone else, not even the most desperate plea to the universe will save you from every miserable meet-up.
Bartenders know this better than anyone because they’ve seen your terrible dates. They have sympathy for you, but they also have no choice but to bear witness to your most awkward interactions. In other words, they’ll always remember the night that you wish you could forget.
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Here, we tapped their files to get the best of their worst stories. (And if you’ve been on worse dates than these, you definitely need a drink.)
“I had one couple who clearly hadn’t met before (we all speculated on what the scenario was). They had zero to talk about – just waiting on them was uncomfortable. The girl was flirting with my coworker (the other bartender) so obviously; I felt really bad for her date. He went to the bathroom, and she leaned over and made out with my coworker. When her date came back, he bowed out like a gentleman. She stayed until close and went home with my coworker.
“Another time, there was a couple at the bar, and they had a drink and ordered dinner. But before their meal made it out, he got weird and ducked over to the waitress station to ask for his bill immediately. He explained to the manager that his wife and her father were at the hostess desk waiting to be seated and he was inside with his date. My manager snuck him through the kitchen and out the back door.” — Patrice Kelly, Port 305, Boston
“The most entertaining thing I frequently see is when people on first dates fake accents, or make up completely bogus back stories that their date (and everyone else within earshot) knows couldn’t be true. Then, when the date gets up to go to the bathroom, they’ll speak to me as they normally would. Although I don’t understand it, I definitely get a laugh every time.” — Dennis Gobis, The Roosevelt Room, Austin
“When I worked at a hotel bar in Midtown Manhattan, a woman in a fuzzy Juicy Couture tracksuit would often meet her ‘first dates’ from Craigslist at the bar. She ran out of there one day, dragging her Louis Vuitton suitcase across the floor, because she thought the cops were coming. Yeah. She was a prostitute.” — Jason Kanter, (bar name withheld for obvious reasons), New York
“A guy came one night in with a knockout gorgeous girl, and he completely controlled the conversation and only talked about himself. When she went to the bathroom, he took three shots and checked out other girls. The worst part was that she knew he was a jerk, but she was polite and stuck it out anyway.” — Sean Skvarka, Whisler’s, Austin
“There was this one night that was super awkward. Two dudes were having drinks at the bar, each waiting for their date. A guy walks in and realizes he has accidentally double booked himself … and his dates were the ones sitting next to each other at the bar. The dudes waiting figured it out and got super pissed at the guy, who asked if they could all get a drink together. They said, ‘No, but you can pay for these,’ and they got up and left to go to dinner with each other! The guy just sat there after they left, a little stunned.” — Tiffany Kramer, Blackbird, San Francisco
And even if the date itself isn’t so bad, here’s a bit of bartender wisdom: “Watch out for the cheap tippers. What will they give you?” — Sean Skvarka, Whisler’s, Austin