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Feature - A Whistler confessional

The bartender’s role in the psychological well-being of a ski town

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A bartender is a lot like a doctor, in the way that people view him. He may know intimate details of your life and yet remain a relative stranger. Or if you are of a more spiritual bent then you might liken him more to a priest. After all there is a certain amount of ritual involved in drinking at a bar, and a bartender oversees these rituals.

The bartender listens to your confessions and in some cases even gives absolution, or maybe that’s just the way it seems under the hazy shade of alcohol.

Of course we may confess our sins to a bartender, but who hasn't committed many more while drinking in the very establishment we confess in? The point is that like a priest or a doctor, we often take the person behind the bar for granted. We assume that he or she is simply doing their duty.

Now in reality bartenders may not be as stoic as all that, but when we drink in a bar it's usually very much about us, not them.

So one fine night I took it upon myself to find out what makes these men and women tick.

In looking for a likely place to begin my quest, I decide on the Amsterdam Café in Village Square. It was still early but the place was packed, being a popular apres-ski hang out. I managed to jostle my way to a stool by the bar and was pleasantly surprised to find that this particular bartender was female, quite an attractive female actually, by the name of Heather.

Heather was born in Pembroke Ontario, but grew up mostly in Germany as an army brat. At 22 she has been living in Whistler for seven years now and has been working at the Amsterdam for the last three, with time off to pursue modelling assignments in Chile. She is also a go-go dancer at Tommy Africa's, but prefers tending bar.

"Bartending is sort of like its own dance routine when it gets busy. I love doing it and I love meeting people," Heather says.

But what about those customers who feel they just need to do their own dance routine for real?

"If someone wants to dance on the bar, you sort of have to just let them go for it."

She seemed to be warming to my questions so I ventured onto more personal ground.

"You're quite an attractive woman so I have to ask…"

"I'm single."

"OK, nice to know. But actually I was curious, what do you do when male customers, or female for that matter, hit on you?"

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