02/28/2012 04:27 pm ET Updated Apr 29, 2012

The Boy with the Rathskeller Tattoo

It's 1:30 in the morning on a weeknight, and Zach Meyers has finally gotten everyone out of the bar. The thumping music has been turned off. Glasses and pitchers are strewn everywhere, the floor is sticky and both of the bathrooms are flooded. It's dirty, but at least it's quiet.
For the past few hours Binghamton University students have danced, yelled and stumbled around The Rathskeller, one of the city's busiest bars. Now they are gone and it is Zach's job to clean up. His shift started at 8 p.m. and he still has an hour or more to go. The first thing he does is to go outside and smoke.
Meyers is a 23-year-old Binghamton native and has been working for The Rathskeller for four years. He is skinny with short black hair and moves around erratically, as if filled with more energy than he knows what to do with. After everyone has had their fun on the dance floor Zach begins to mop, wash dishes and clean the bathrooms.
It is not always pleasant. "I used to think that girls didn't poop, but now I know that they do. A lot," he says. "The girls' bathrooms are usually worse than the guys'."
Zach spends the beginning hours of his shift bar tending, working the door and making wings. Between the music blasting and people shouting it is often impossible to hear or even think straight. The job can get crazy on a normal night. When things go wrong it can be down right chaotic.
Zach was working one Friday night when a fight broke out on the dance floor. The bar tender had fled, so he went in alone to break it up.
"So it's me against like 16 people- two frats fighting. I manage to separate people, I have my arms holding them back and all of a sudden someone sucker punches me in the face." Zach makes a fist and mimics being punched, his face twisting with imaginary pain. "I really wanted to beat the s**t out of him right there, but I was at work. The guy doesn't remember a thing. He apologized to me afterwards and we're sort of friends now."
Then there are the times, and there are plenty of them, when underage students try to get in illegally. Zach has seen dozens of fake I.Ds and has heard even more excuses, but it is his job not to make exceptions. He has seen people argue, cry and push to try to get into The Rathskeller on a Saturday night.
Despite the dangers and annoyances, Zach loves his job at "The Rat." He says everyone is a little bit crazy, and the job lets him indulge in his crazy side.
Proof of both his craziness and his love of the job, Zach has a giant tattoo of the word "Rathskeller" scrawled across his chest in an old English font. He says he got the Rathskeller tattoo over a year ago because of a bet with his boss.
"I was at The Rat on a day off and I was wasted," he says. "I go up to my boss and say 'Hey, if I get this tattooed on my chest, will you pay for it?' and she says, 'Hell yeah I will!' but she doesn't believe I'd do it. First thing I did the next morning was call and make an appointment."
His bosses and friends went with him to the tattoo parlor. But even a free tattoo is painful, Zach admits. He remembers the shooting pains running up his arm as the tattoo needle moved closer to his arm pit. After an hour and 15 minutes it was done.
"It has more meaning to me than just my job," Zach says. "If I didn't get a job at The Rat I never would have gotten into the Pappys. That's part of why the tattoo is meaningful."
In fact, many Binghamton students would recognize Zach from his performances in the comedy group The Pappy Parker Players rather than in a dark, crowded bar. The Pappys have become famous on campus for their improv comedy shows. Zach is known for the his crazy stunts. He flips, trips, jumps, screams and throws himself around the stage, all for a laugh from the audience.
"I have a unique thing where I can turn my brain off for a millisecond," says Zach. "I start the stunt and then I realize it could end badly."
The Pappys have become a big part of Zach's life, and it all started from a shift at The Rathskeller. When Zach works the door he always makes fun of the bouncers and cracks jokes as people walk in. One night someone came up to him and suggested that he join The Pappys.
"I wasn't really into it, but he kept bugging me about it so finally I auditioned. I got in and have been doing it ever since," he says.
Between the Pappy Parker Players, working at The Rathskeller and working a second job at a local movie theater, Zach is always busy, but never too busy to have some fun. You can find Zach at The Rathskeller even on his days off. On these nights he becomes just another 23-year-old dancing, yelling and drinking.
But Meyers is careful not to make too much of a mess. He knows what it's like to be the guy who cleans up after hammered 20-year-olds. And he knows that on the next night that guy will be him.