Living in Naples, my professional life has often gravitated north of the city, all the way up to Caserta. It’s a vast area filled with bars and clubs. There are endless contexts in which a bartender could serve hundreds of people in one night: concerts, local festivals, catering events, just to name a few. And these “high volume” events are the ideal entry points for those who want to enter the world of bartending. I’m talking about nights when the number of paying customers hardly falls below 1,500 to 2,000 people; where shifts are longer and crazier than you could’ve ever imagined. A coworker I bartended with often used to joke that if you worked less than 12 hours, you couldn’t really call that day a workday—you’d simply done your boss a favor and there was no way you could even ask to be paid. My personal record is when I worked for 12 hours straight and served just under 900 drinks. As far as customers go, it’s no surprise that I’ve really seen it all, given the numbers in question.
There was one customer who, somehow convinced that I hadn’t been respecting the order of the line, grabbed my attention by pointing a gun at my face and saying, “I think it’s my turn now.”
But members of the Camorra aren’t the only difficult customers I have to deal with. There’s other types that warrant mention, the most complicated of which is the person who exists outside the world of the mob; someone who doesn’t understand the rules of the game. I’m talking about the guy who goes dancing twice a year and who doesn’t understand the unwritten rules of clubbing in Naples, such as the complex relationship between customers and bouncers. Security is critical in such environments. And for every person who’s capable of diffusing potential violence, there’s someone else who’s willing to escalate the situation disproportionately. Competent security guards do exist: they’re organized and trustworthy and good at managing large events. But there’s plenty of seasoned fighters who, once another bouncer has marked a problematic customer with a laser pointer, proceed to pick a fight, and then wonder why the customer is pissed off. I personally hope that this phenomenon loses steam soon, even though I doubt it will.You might be wondering, but what happens if the customer in question is affiliated with the Camorra? And the answer is that security’s approach is extremely different. Bouncers will pass information back and forth over their radios, alerting one another that someone who needs to be handled with kid gloves has entered the venue. Often, the PR people for the event will inform them earlier in the evening that an expected reservation will require special attention. Sometimes that information falls through, though: in my distinguished bartending career, I’ve seen more than one security guard hide in a corner to escape the wrath of an armed customer.
I’d always joke to coworkers whenever a fight started right in front of us, “Oh good! There’s wrestling on TV tonight.”