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How to Catch a Bartender’s Attention When You’re Short

It’s hard enough to get a drink at a crowded bar, but what happens when you can barely see over the counter?

I, like many, have a variety of qualms about my life. These include the length of my nail beds, the broken sofa in my apartment, how slowly I chop essential ingredients like onion and garlic, and, of course, depression and anxiety. But, time and time again, one unalterable trait trumps the rest: my silly little height. I’m 5-foot-2, which is apparently just one and a half inches below average for women in the U.K. It’s hard being short, too — most notably when someone lifts you up without consent nor warning, but also in public, say, at a concert or waiting in line at a bar.

The latter is arguably not a problem exclusive to short people — we all get ignored by the bartender. But what happens if you can literally rest your chin on the bar? Can the bartender even see you? Will you ever get served? In situations like this, I’ve taken to the habit of standing on my tip toes, or, if there’s one of those metal bars on the floor, hoisting myself up onto that. Whether this helps or not, I can’t confirm, but it certainly makes me feel like the bar is more of an even playing field.

Joe, a 28-year-old bartender from Buffalo, admits that he’s probably overlooked a lot of “short or shy people,” which he says “sucks.” “I don’t think any bartender wants to make people wait, or skip someone who’s being patient,” he continues. “There’s [often] a lot of tall and loud men at the front of the bar who demand attention, which can make it harder to notice people beyond the initial patrons directly in front of the bar.”

For those with a group, Joe advises that you nominate one person each round to get the drinks for everyone. “Not only does this make your bartender’s life easier, but it will alleviate pressure at the front of the bar and make it less crowded, thus easier for the short and the meek to get through,” he says.

However, he also suggests that an identifying feature might actually help you get served quicker — e.g., if you’re only a pair of eyes and a forehead. “Trying to get everyone served in the order they arrive at the bar is always the strategy,” he explains. “But [when it’s busy], it’s easy to lose track of that order when you’re trying to remember three different drink orders, make them all and recall which guy in which colored polo shirt [was next in line].”

So, aside from your arrival time and possible identifying feature, what’s the proper etiquette for drawing the bartender to you? “It never helps to yell and wave your hands,” says Joe. “We know you’re there. If someone is really disruptive or demanding before they get served, the bartender is likely not eager to serve them, and they may get intentionally skipped in favor of other, more patient patrons.”

When I ask if looking cool and nonchalant is the answer, he replies in scary capital letters: “Definitely DO NOT look nonchalant.” For clarification, he adds, “Bartenders are less likely to serve you if you don’t seem like you want a drink or aren’t ready to order.”

It seems there’s no specific answer for short people — the trick for everyone is to be patient and not act like a dick. Or, as Joe says, give “a little eye contact and a smile.” 

As for me? From now on, I’ll be going in as three boys in a trench coat.