Dating somebody in the service industry is a huge part of the service industry. The access to good food, discounted drinks and spending hours together make work relationships — one night or longer — pretty easy.

I’ve dated more than my share of bartenders and waitresses. I can honestly say that most of these women were saints, even though I wasn’t always.

While I worked as a bouncer, our genteel Boulder residents would sometimes grab my girlfriend’s ass, say something crude or otherwise treat her poorly. Ask any former waitress about male customers, and you’ll start to hate men so much you’ll want to move to the fake island where Wonder Woman lives.

Whenever a guy became too touchy-feely with my girlfriend, I got a little touchy feeling with that guy. Hopefully they learned lessons. Protecting a woman feels good and beating the crap out of an asshole feels great, but going home with a happy girlfriend feels the best.

Being a bouncer isn’t all glory. Usually it’s just boring, but I’ve been beat up and spat upon, spilled garbage on myself, herniated a disc and been fired.

However bad my night was, the ladies usually had it worse. But I remember one in particular who always had it way worse. Let’s call her Rita.

Rita didn’t work in the bars, but she dealt with the worst of the worst. She worked at a 24-hour diner.

The way-too-drunk and obnoxious guys I tossed out of my establishment would waddle to her restaurant to order Denver omelets, coffee and pancakes. Usually, they also asked for beers (moderately funny the first time you hear it), “Where the party’s at?” (lame), phone numbers (creepy) and oral sex (ultra douchey). Worst thing, I wasn’t there to protect her.

Diners generally don’t exclude these people or kick them out. Sometimes a jerk will order a coffee and sit there for hours, effectively taking money out of the waitress’ pocket. Then he’ll slip out on the tab. But oh boy, it gets so much worse.

When I’d get home, I used to complain to Rita about a customer punching me or calling me a mean name. No matter how bad my evening was, her night was worse. Quickly, I learned to shut up and listen.

Have you ever heard of people slamming a plastic salt shaker onto a spinning quarter so that the salt shaker’s bottom will break and all the salt will pour everywhere when somebody picks it up? It may sound confusing, but it’s a huge mess to clean. Or did you know some kids make syrup-and-paper-napkin sculptures while mommy texts the entire time? Have you witnessed handjobs in semi-secluded booths? Found used needles hidden in the bathroom garbage that the staff needs to clean up? Gotten a tip in pennies?

Customers generally don’t do that at nice places, but they will at all-night eateries.

I’ll let Rita tell the most awful: “The worst could be church groups. Once, a group of about 20 tipped me with Bible verses.”

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