Like a cartoon bomb, the lit fuse on our two-week San An 1997 package holiday was getting dangerously close to it's explosive finale, so it was with great relief that Kez and I finally secured the jobs that would diffuse the tense situation, thus allowing us to swerve the depressing deportation back to boring Blighty and instead providing our golden tickets to a great summer of working and partying (but mostly partying) on The White Isle: Ibiza.
With just a small fistful of crumpled mil peseta notes tucked into the back pocket of my favourite faded Diesels, we'd been a-begging for jobs, cap-in-hand, like innocent little Oliver Twists amidst a sea of Artful Dodgers. Finally the grovelling paid off, and we gleefully tore up our return tickets to Gatwick and strutted confidently along the San An shoreline at sunrise, en route to The New Star to start work.
Eager to impress Juan, our Super-Mario moustachioed boss, we arrived early for our six o'clock shift, at around 5.40am. The previous evening we'd physically forced ourselves to stay in for once: barricading the door to our apartment and resisting the pull of the hypnotic house music wafting up to our balcony and beckoning us down.
We focused instead on selecting the most work-appropriate of the various rumpled skimpy outfits dangling from every available surface in the flat, and polishing up our slightly scuffed sandals - much like any other nervous newbie preparing for their first day in a longed-for job. Only this wasn't like any other first day in any other job we'd started. Oh no. This was about to be the most memorable first day ever....
So, it's 5.45am, and all is deserted at the bar, which is what we expected from this benign-looking establishment on the outskirts of town. Leon, Claire, and a few other staff are quietly sipping black coffees, bleary-eyed, as they shuffle about looking subdued, preparing for opening. Kez and I had made a pact on the walk up : to stay together and help each other along, having previously blagged it that we were experienced barmaids, musing
"how hard can it be, eh?"
To our dismay this deal, solemnly sealed with a firm handshake, is instantly broken as Juan stations Kez out at the back terrace bar and me in the main one. There's also a front terrace with yet another bar. Oh right. We hadn't realised there were three bars. We look at each other imploringly as she's led away like a death-row prisoner. Oh well, it'll be quiet so we'll have plenty of time to learn the ropes, I think. How wrong could I be....
The clock strikes 6am, the DJs Jamie and Dave fire up the decks, spin some vinyl and the beat of heavy house music fills the air. Seconds later, the doors of the bar are flung open wide and hordes of Duracell-bunny partygoers come piling through, eager to keep the holiday high-jinks going long into the morning after kicking-out time at the clubs.
Within minutes, the queue at the bar is five deep and a sea of thirsty faces surges forward, tongues lolling, eagerly flapping banknotes at us, vying for attention as they holler their drinks orders over the dance-music din. I'm like a rabbit in the headlights, pink-eyed and petrified. I've never so much as pulled a pint in my life. I'm about to learn, and quick.
The first attempt results in a pint of froth, the second sees me spilling beer all over me. I wipe my hands purposefully on my clean miniskirt and take a deep breath. I need to style this out. Juan is watching his army of trusty bartenders from a rickety wooden stool at the side of the bar, his beady black eyes boring into me, a lit cigarette dangling from his bemused lips. I don't think I'm a contender for Employee of the Month.
I bat my eyelashes, bite my lip and smile through gritted teeth as I try to remember prices, pull pints and locate drinks I'd never even heard of (Hierbas? what?) on sticky shelves, through a thick fug of cigarette smoke. I amuse myself with the mental image of Kez having a similarly stressful situation down at the back bar, but she's got the right idea, availing herself of the limitless supply of alcohol to soothe her nerves. I'm a bit slow on the uptake, but soon have the same brainwave and, following the lead of the other staff, swig a strong vodka limon between serving customers. I start to relax and get into the flow.
Meanwhile, the atmosphere in the bar is getting increasingly raucous. Having mastered the basics, I'm able to a step back and survey the scene : it's 10am on a Monday morning and it's what one might subtly describe as "all going off." There are sweaty bodies gyrating on every available surface, including wobbly wooden chairs and tables, although it's not clear whether it's the furniture or the flailing bodies that are the most wonky. It's a health and safety nightmare.
The sun is streaming through the chinks in the windows and doors to reveal beaming revellers dancing and chatting animatedly, marvelling at their good fortune at passing their Monday mornings partying in the sun rather than back in England (Ming-ger-land?), nose to the grindstone, the post-weekend blues rapidly taking hold. They can't believe their luck, and the energy is contagious. It's wall to wall Cheshire Cats in 'ere.
It's not just the punters throwing shapes, the bar staff and DJs are cutting some serious rug too. With the decks nestled right up alongside the bar, pounding bass and slow build-ups sending shivers up our spines, we have little choice. We are powerless to resist: the music is entrancing and we inevitably submit to multiple eargasms.
By now the bar looks like a bomb has hit it, spilt drinks, half-empty glasses everywhere, overflowing bins and ashtrays....but one look at Juan and I can see he's no longer bothered, as he clumsily pours us all another long line of vodka and lime (wodka lima!) chupitos as he jumps up and down.
The staff yell "salut!" over the music and down them in one, slamming the empty shot glasses back down onto the sticky bar and wincing in unison.
He high-fives me and, catching me off-guard, lifts me high into the air, looking wild-eyed and crazy as he declares that I'm his "favourite girl in the WHOLE of San Antonio!" in his unintelligible Spanish accent, planting a scratchy kiss on my cheek through his thick wiry 'tache. At least I think that's what he's saying. I wipe my cheek with the back of my hand and scrunch up my face.
"I take it I can come back tomorrow then?" I murmur under my breath...
The perspiring throng are, 'ow you say in Eengleesh?..." 'Avinit LARGE mate!"....eyes closed, lost in the music. I even catch sight of Emilio the chef, the palest squid-skinned Spaniard I ever did meet, shuffling to the beat through the kitchen's food hatch. He's having a cheeky dance seeing as there's not much demand for fry-ups this morning; everyone is far too busy dancing to even contemplate the greasy Spanglish menu.
The crowd fist-pump their approval as the DJs drop one tune after another. The unmistakable opening bars of Nalin and Kane's Beachball kick in, my favourite tune of the season, and I punch the air whilst simultaneously pulling yet another dodgy pint...
Then Ultra Nate's "You're freeeee, to do what you want to do...." really gets our juices going. This track will become another of our anthems of the summer, particularly resonating with us as twenty-something's who've escaped the rat-race and feel that right here, right now, the world is our oyster, anything is possible. It's like the song was actually written with us "workers" in mind....
Gradually the bar thins out and the volume of the music decreases, until it's 4pm and only a few straggly hangers-on remain, face down at a table on the terrace, the backs of their necks burnt by the
scorching summer sun, or chatting in tight little groups in the dark recesses and alcoves of the building, cowering from the sunlight, postponing the inevitable painful trek back to their hotel, more battered than last Friday's fish supper.
The following morning dawns and it's time to leave for work once more. I hang on as long as possible at the apartment willing Kez to show up, but these are the days before everyone and their dog owns a mobile and she's nowhere to be seen. Reluctantly, I leave without her, and within minutes of the bar opening, the party is once again in full swing. The place is heaving and we're a (wo)man down. She finally shows up...seven hours late for our 6am shift. Oops. Manuel is less than impressed, and later, Juan sacks her. The Uncovered crew show up to film us, loving the scandal. After a lot of grovelling, she's given another chance, although it's short-lived.
It turns out holding down an eight-hour daily bar shift whilst attending every club night and after-party on the island is no mean feat, even for a couple of professional party-girls such as ourselves. If our work timesheet was as good as our reliable Ammesia or Pacha attendance, we'd be model employees. We clock in and out of Space every Sunday with no problems at all, 100% attendance, impeccable records. No disciplinaries needed for chucking sickies or dragging our heels and showing up late when it comes to clubbing. No Siree!
However, it quickly transpires that we are gonna need A LOT of jobs this summer...
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