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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bouncer: Why Psychopaths Make Good Bartenders

Posted By on Wed, Aug 17, 2011 at 3:34 PM


From this week's Bouncer column:

When you start to spend a lot of time with people who are on the autism spectrum, it becomes quite clear that we all have quirks, foibles, aspects, facets, and traits that could also be called "autistic" -- like the crushing need to make a lengthy list of synonyms when trying to drive home a point. But recently I have been reading about psychopathy, principally, psychologist Robert Hare's checklist of the traits most psychopaths share. Just having one of them does not make you a maniac, but in conjunction with some of the other traits, they can all coalesce to make one great big baby-strangler. Actually, the current discussion around psychopathology is that not all people who have it become Norman Bates. Some become Norman Mailer. Many others become high-powered CEOs or politicians.

But on to the points: The big psychopathic traits are grandiosity; a seemingly magnetic, charming personality; an inability to feel empathy or remorse; and what can be described as "play-acting" when it comes to emotions. Psychopaths will practice certain reactions in front of the mirror to get them down pat: sorrow, joy, modest pride, concern, or anything else that may come in handy when trying to manipulate others. I offer that people who are successful in their field have to adopt some of these traits to get ahead, especially the trait of always needing to win. If you are naturally programmed without empathy, you have a leg up on the competition. The rest of us have to take the time to justify our behavior to ourselves.

I was trying to figure out whether the bartender at the Glen Park Station bar was a psychopath. He was friendly enough, but he was doing a bad job of pretending that he wanted to be there. To truly be a successful bartender, you really have to share some traits with the criminally insane. If Ted Bundy were a bartender, he would've acted like the place was God's little acre, that parcel of land that he had saved up for his entire life in order to live out his dream of goat husbandry through cheesemaking. Bundy would happily make you a mojito, pausing to wistfully breathe in a waft of fresh mint, then tenderly yet forcefully muddle the mass in the bottom of your glass before topping it off with ice and soda. "For you," he would say, placing it in front of you like an engagement ring. Ted Bundy would gain your trust and make you come back again and again to buy more drinks.

The ruddy-faced bartender here might turn to you and lean in a bit when you order, and he will call out the price with a friendly-enough cadence, making change in a timely manner and duly placing it into your outstretched hand. But, alas, he is not friendly enough to be a serial killer. He will not bind, torture, or kill anyone anytime soon, and this may be his undoing in the tips department...

... continue reading this week's Bouncer column.

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Katy St. Clair


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