I sat for two and a half hours tonight doing research for my regular job before the first customer came in. He was a visiting medical student who proudly told me he's gotten all his paperwork turned in for the all-important match for residencies. This guy wants to be a plastic surgeon and he told me all about how it's not at all about breast augmentation and tummy tucks. He explained how plastic surgery helps people recover from losing limbs and bodies need to sculpted back in place sometimes to make that happen.
Of course, he didn't say that right away. When he came in, I was so focused on my research that when he answered if we had any good food, I told him we had food, but it was up to him if it was any good or not.
Then I quickly apologized, explaining I'm a reporter who is neutral and when I'm thinking that way I can't really be a salesman. Then I told him the bratwurst is very good.
Soon after, a friend of mine who works for one of the local governments came in and we chatted for a bit before another friend of mine came in. Then five more people came in, and then another five. It got busy really quick and I made the shift quickly from writer to tavern-keeper.
It's been 12 years since I began work there and I'm still there. As I've written here on so many occasions, it's the place where I feel most at home in Charlottesville. I prefer to be there just as a customer, but when I am behind the bar and business picks up I am fully engaged and happy to make the people who come in welcome and I want them to leave feeling good that they were at the tavern.
Changes are coming soon. I can't go in to much detail, but changes are coming soon. I'm hoping to be part of them, and I'm hoping they will secure the place well into the future. I need the income I make there but more importantly I need to be able to continue being part of the institution.
My favorite times are when people who used to come in come back and see if for the first time in years. I love hearing stories of the old days, before the fire, and back when CST was one of the only places in town you could find European beer. Now there are corporate chains that offer that service as well, and there are so many more places to go. The tavern hasn't kept up, but it's not been left behind.
There is no other place in downtown Charlottesville where you can go and have a true pub-like experience. To me that means a place where you can go in and suddenly get pulled into a conversation with a stranger. I love getting to have that experience as a bartender. It's such a different experience to working as a catering server, but I love that as well. I love helping to make people happy at weddings in different locations across the community.
But the satisfaction I have working at the tavern on a night when I get to see new experiences unfold. A set of groomsmen and a groom made up one of the groups of five. Sadly I won't also get to work that wedding, but I'd love to. I've been witness to so many now and I'm proud to get to be part of people's lives as a background character.
I do prefer the tavern because I get to be a bit more in the foreground. After all, it's one of my stages and the one where I have fit for so long.
I'll keep working there as long as I can and may be there a bit more in the fall. I want to be part of the changes and try to make it a place that'll continue to be there for a while to come.
As the groomsmen left, several said they hope the place sticks around for a while. I do too.