Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Bar

Sunday is always the slowest day of the week. It used to be that Monday was the quiet night in the bar, but since Pet Sounds, the bar down the road, started putting live bands on, Sunday has become the lazy shift. I like it.

I have a two week schedule at work. Sunday and Monday nights alternate with each other. The only thing that really bothers me about working Sunday is that I miss the football on tv, but otherwise it's ok. It's usually just some of the regulars combined with the odd dinner guest now and then, although some nights there are no dinner guests at all, and when the regulars leave around eleven pm, I'm completely alone in the bar. I quite like that too, even though it can be a strange feeling, sitting there on your own, money in the till, nobody around to help out if some psycho with a baseball bat comes walking through the door. Thankfully, that never happens.

When it's quiet like that, I just make myself a cup of coffee and pull out a magazine to read. We have loads of records and music magazines in the bar, so it can be pretty cosy, sitting there on your own, having a cup of coffee in peace. Most of the records on the shelves in the bar aren't records that I have on my own shelves at home, but again, I don't mind that either. I'd rather not listen to my own records all day at work. It's nice to have a break from them. It's the same when I go on tour, I don't take any records to listen to in the van. I take my Ipod, but I barely listen to it. I like to miss my collection, so by the time I get home, I'm happy to see it again.

Besides, it's fun to listen through other people's record collections. The owners of the bar are huge on new wave punk and latter-day indie. Through working at Snotty I've learned to appreciate some of that music, since I didn't have much of a check on it previously. I've especially gotten into stuff like Television and Gang of Four, and have since bought records by those bands. Don't get me wrong though, sometimes I ache just to put on a Black Flag record, or Jerry's Kids, or Eyehategod, but it isn't that kind of place.

So tonight was a typical Sunday night at work. A couple of the regulars were in, sat at the bar, and there were a few other guests sat over by the tables, the odd familiar face dotted amongst them. Eleven hours can seem like a long time when there isn't much to do. I usually do the week's inventory and ordering on these slow days, as well as a general clean of the bar, but that doesn't exactly keep me busy for the whole eleven hours of the shift. So it helps that there are some regulars in, and some kind of a conversation can be struck up. Even though some people just talk about the same thing, every single day, constantly repeating themselves whilst I reciprocate in kind, acting as if each time is actually the first time, the regulars help nights like tonight pass by that little bit quicker.

The main trouble with not having anything to do at work, is that if out of the blue, a large crowd of people turn up, it can fuck you up completely. You have no tempo at all. Through hours of standing around chatting idly, the body sets in to that mode for the night and it's hard to break out of it if, all of a sudden you're faced with a group of people, all ordering at once. Sometimes there will be a crowd of six or seven people that turn up outside the door and peer through the window, inspecting the bar and apparently debating whether to come inside, and I'll stand there staring at them, willing them to just continue on down the road. Often when a group of that size turn up on a quiet night, they walk in like they own the place, and that really gets on my fucking tits.

Tonight there been no such large groups. Things were rolling along smoothly and I was in a pretty good mood. But then, the other kind of trouble walks in through the door. Not the large group of assholes thinking they own the place, but the lone drunk who is in dire need of contact with somebody. Anybody...

He walks in with a ruck-sack slung across his back. As soon as I see him I know this is going to be a nightmare. He looks haggard, dirty and troubled. He looks about mid sixties, but I wouldn't be surprised if he's actually a lot younger than that. It's obvious that life has certainly had a good pop at this poor bastard.

People like these are the most difficult to deal with. If you don't handle the situation correctly it can get very awkward. If he's drunk already then it's easy, but if not, then it's way harder to deal with. He certainly looks like an alcoholic, and I can smell him well before he gets to the bar. But, I can't not serve him because he's homeless and we don't want their kind in the bar. Of course not. I'd happily give him some food and a cup of coffee on the house, if that is what he's after. But it's not food and coffee he's looking for. It never is. He wants booze. And what makes it a shitty situation, is if you have the luck of being their first port of call... I don't want to be a part of somebody's drinking problem, but how do you tell a sober person you're not serving them because you believe they look like an alcoholic. Maybe they're not, maybe the guy is just a manky looking cunt and I've just insulted him. Although, it's not exactly any easier telling somebody they're not welcome because they stink.

The guy plonks his bag on the floor and his arse on a bar-stool, and then quite steadily, orders a beer. In English. I ask him how he is tonight and he tells me he's fine, thanks. He looks a state but he seems sober enough. I do the cowardly thing and pour him a glass of lesser strength beer, hoping he'll be satisfied with that and leave afterwards. As soon as I put the glass in his hand and take his money though, I regret it.

Almost immediately the fucker starts mumbling to himself and picking his nose. There are a couple of young girls sat adjacent to him, who obviously feel uncomfortable. I go over to him again, giving him a concerned look whilst placing my hand on his forearm, and again ask him if he's ok. He looks confused now, like why am I asking him again? Well, because you're sat at the bar talking to yourself and eating your own bogies, fucko! Shit, I've fucked up here and I need to start working on getting him out.

I engage him in quiet, friendly conversation, in an attempt to keep him calm and keep the other guests from being disturbed. He asks me if it's ok to speak English, to which I reply that it's fine. I tell him I'm an Englishman and that I'd welcome the chance to converse in the Queen's with a fellow speaker. I'm hoping this is going to work in my favour. It does, but only for the briefest of time.

He tells me that he's Finish and has been living in Thailand for thirty years, although recently he's been staying in Copenhagen. I feign interest and ask him about what he did when he lived in Thailand. He tells me he was living there for a while, just bumming around, and then he was in prison. I don't ask him why, I just reply that that must have sucked ass. He says it was ok. He tells me he likes Denmark but he doesn't like Sweden. It is of his opinion that Swedish society is far too busy involving themselves in every individuals lives, that the laws on the serving of alcohol here are nothing but shit. I kind of agree with him as it happens, but I refrain from telling him that.

The conversation is now taking a turn for the worse. He seems to be working himself up, all on his own, angry that the Swedish government tell him he can't drink exactly as he wants to. He sees it that if he wants to drink and get fucked up, then that's nobody business but his own. By this point I have to ask him how much he's had to drink tonight, since it's by now become obvious that he isn't sober. Wrong question... He just gets angrier. What the fuck is happening to my lazy Sunday night?

“What the fuck business is it of yours how much I've had to drink?” he hisses at me. I tell him that it is my business if he's in my bar. I quietly tell him to calm down. He does. I tell him that it's probably not a good idea for him to drink anything else tonight, to which he just waves me off, irritatedly grunting a simple “Yeah, yeah”...

I keep an eye on him as he sits there and grumbles. I'm urging him to empty that fucking glass. The trouble is the cunt seems to be taking his time. Is he fucking with me?

For a minute I turn my attention to some of the other customers in the bar, but he's soon calling me back over. “You're not fucking English! If you were English then you would serve me as much beer as I fucking wanted, as long as I was paying!” I tell him that's bollocks. He's right of course.. In my dad's local pub, The Rock, I've literally seen some of the old boys passed out asleep on the carpeted floor, the landlord not even giving them a second glance. In fact, I've seen on more than one occasion, the landlord, completely off his tits, stood behind the bar serving people. I love that place. But this is Sweden and this isn't my bar. I just manage the place.

Not having time to reminisce about the Rock, my thoughts come back to this idiot in front of me. I tell him that I'm going to take his beer away and give him his money back. I take it, but by this point he doesn't even seem to care about that. “If you're English then tell me what the film I and Withnail is about! If you're English then you would know that.” I almost break into laughter at this point, but the irony is lost on the cunt.

I can't believe it but I fucking bite. “The film, “Withnail and I...”...

What the fuck am I doing? I'm stood in a bar with this radge, alcoholic tramp, who I want the fuck out of the bar, and I'm telling him what the film Withnail and I is about! I hear myself and I feel like a right turd! I cut myself off when I realise what I'm doing and I take his beer away, whilst taking his money out of the till and returning it to him. This doesn't appease him though. Now he wants to make a scene.

He angrily grapples first with his jacket and then with his bag, the whole while informing me that I wouldn't last ten minutes in a Thai jail, that I think I'm the big man stood behind the bar and that I wouldn't dare come out and face him. Now I'm not a fighter but I'm pretty sure I could wipe the floor with this drip of piss, but not being a fighter, I stand there and just offer him hushed, patronising tones. It's taking everything I have not to retaliate. “Ok now, thanks for tonight. Take care of yourself..”

He's now stood there, amongst the tables, miming the act of sucking cock and he's letting me know, just to confirm it, that I'm a cock sucking poofter. I tell him I understand what he's getting at. And then comes the classic...”One phone call and I'll have the Hell's Angels down here, and they'll burn the place down!” I can't help it by now, I shout back at him, “Fuck off, you stupid old cunt!”. Just as I'm opening my mouth the music dies down into some gentle part of whatever song is on and now the whole place is looking at me. Fucking typical! Again I feel like a right turd...

At least now, he's finally leaving. The atmosphere has turned somewhat icy though. I stand there, making sure he leaves, my heart thumping in the cage of my chest. So much for handling the situation correctly... I'm stood there staring at him leave, everyone else in the bar staring at me, staring at him. As he walks out the door he makes a feeble attempt at slamming it behind him, only for his ruck-sack to get caught on the handle. He stands there struggling with his bag and the door for a good ten seconds, threatening the door with his fist like Basil Fawlty in a scene from Fawlty Towers. This lightens the tone somewhat and a few people start to chuckle at his expense. And then I just feel sorry for him. What happened to my lazy Sunday night?

The rest of the night goes by without incident, but I have him in the back of my mind, wondering if he's going to turn up with a knife when I'm on my own, closing at the end of the night, or if indeed the Hell's Angels are going to show up with some Molotov Cocktails and torch the place... Thankfully, they don't.

I get the feeling I'll never see that poor sod ever again...


  1. Ha brilliant Gareth! Funny as hell. Been there too.

  2. Hey Griz! I'm not sure which address you have. We moved apartments maybe 2 years ago. I'll email you the address over to you anyway buddy. Great to hear from you, hope you're good!

    Miss you like a Mofo too!

    Nothing but...