I told you LEO readers last year the story of how my friend Sam and I were honored accomplices at the engagement of our dear friends Erin and Seth. Just after she said, “Yes,” Seth had planned an ornate day of surprises for his now-wife and used his service industry skills to curate the most spectacular of engagements, including a plethora of goodness at the newly opened Omni Hotel and a surprise engagement party for Erin at The Limbo tiki bar. Little did I know I would soon play an even more honorable roll in their nuptials — late last year the couple asked me to officiate their wedding. The most epic wedding of all time took place last weekend at Actor’s Theatre of Louisville, and on the evening prior, I heard during Erin’s dad’s speech that he found out about their “secret” love affair thanks to my column — a recollection of a Halloween party back in 2015 in which I unknowingly outed them to the world.
Sorry about that, y’all.
All these adorable, special moments and my small role in their journey got me thinking about service industry love.
We’re in the trenches of customer service together and, sometimes, that cultivates the most wonderful connections of all and connections of all kinds.
When we opened the bar where Seth, Erin, Sam and I still sling drinks, the part owner and general manager, Beau, sat us all down for training. He spoke words we had no idea would ring deeply true today. “Some of you in this room are going to end up being best friends,” he said. “Some of you are going to date, and some of you may even end up getting married.”
Seth reminded me of this speech at his rehearsal dinner, and we both looked around in awe of how terribly accurate that was. Here I am, a best friend, marrying two of my best friends, and we all met behind the stick.
The industry gods work in mysterious ways.
I met my partner, Jamie, through the bartending world, as well. We like to look back and laugh about the first moment I spoke to him at this establishment, and he tells it like it was yesterday. I was given an opening bartending shift due to a scheduling need and was not a morning person whatsoever at the time — deeply offended to have be up before 11 a.m. I walked upstairs where Jamie was setting up the teas for the day and grabbed an empty coffee pot. “Has no one made any f*cking coffee yet?!” I exclaimed and stormed away. That must’ve been the moment Jamie fell head over heels for me, right?
Luckily, I was able to redeem myself in a Black Swan costume on Halloween a few weeks later. The seeds for service industry love are often planted over side work, I tell you.
The other side of industry love, beyond the fluttering nuptials and lifelong partnerships that form, is about the relationship roller coasters, likely sexual encounters and failed attempts at dating that happen on a staff. Raise your hand if you’ve ever been at a pre-shift where a coworker rolls in screaming at their boyfriend, or there’s awkward glances and whispers of a taboo hookup that occurred between staff mates, or someone slept with someone else, and another someone is going to absolutely lose their shit? You can’t see me, but I’m slowly raising my hand, and I think the entire industry is, as well. Hookups are going to happen among staff. Folks are going to date and break up and make it awkward for both the front and back of the house. At the end of the day, though, the show must go on.
Industry love doesn’t always work out, and I’ve even heard friends that work in other career communities say that they refuse to date a bartender or server. Perhaps it’s because of the long hours, the compromising situations with guests at times or simply the fact that it’s an opposite schedule or lifestyle. Dating an industry worker surely isn’t for the faint of heart, and that’s why we often date each other. It must be why some of us marry one another. We appreciate the hardships and the perks and can endure those together.
So, here’s to us, to love and to making it to that lunch shift on time in the same clothes from the night before. Cheers! •