I fought it for as long as I could. Ever since the bar reopened last summer, it hasn’t felt right. Now I’m leaving and I’m really fucking sad about it.

When I started at the Skylark in 2015, I was starting over. A long-term relationship had ended and I was trying a new neighborhood. I’d sworn I wouldn’t work in a restaurant or bar ever again, but there I was, checking IDs at the door in between chapters of whatever book I was reading. Soon after that, I was behind the bar for the first time in fifteen years. It went on every week for several years until the plague put a stop to it in March, 2020.

My relationship to dayjobs has always been one of weary tolerance. Sooner or later something goes sideways. More often than not, it’s a conflict with a manager/boss type. I don’t do well with authority figures. It’s the reason I drove a cab for twelve years. For 90% of that job, there’s no one to blame or credit but yourself. The Skylark was a good fit because the owners were so hands off. We were expected to be adults and just do our fucking jobs. Historically, the less interference I have, the better job I do. It worked really well until lockdown came.

Like so many others, that solitary year caused me to reflect upon what was and wasn’t necessary in my day-to-day. I became more disciplined, more productive and creative. I discovered——or, more accurately, had reconfirmed——that I needed very little daily interaction to keep above water emotionally. So long as the work was going, I was fine.

Then, last summer, the bar reopened. I told myself I’d see how I felt going back, then decide whether I wanted to keep working there. I’d rearranged my life to the point that this place, which was such a constant, was no longer in the equation. Now I had to pivot backwards.

It felt off from the start. Everyone was trying so hard to pretend it was 2019. Coworkers kept going down. Seizures, accidents, psych ward stays. It just kept piling up. Felt like we were marked. We’d talk about it sometimes. Who would be next to fall?

My regular shift at the bar has been Sunday all these years. It’s an industry night, meaning that workers from other bars and restaurants come in. It’s mostly regulars on my shifts. They’re super generous and have rescued many a slow night. But what they do most of their time with me is bitch about their jobs. They go on and on about their idiot bosses and coworkers, how the places would fall apart if they left, etc.

I don’t want that to be me. I started to dislike coming in so I’m nipping it in the bud. I know the bar will be fine without me and that the only factor I have any control over is myself. So I’m leaving before I start hating it. I don’t want yet another place in the city I don’t feel welcome.

I’ll miss making playlists and changing things up according to the temperature in the room. I’ll miss most of my coworkers. I’ll miss the priceless eavesdropping opportunities from bad dates and ridiculous circular inebriated arguments.

I’ve never missed a job in my life, but I’ll miss this one.

[I reviewed Sam Pink’s Ketchup.]