Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Bar

Pay-day Friday. In the normal scheme of things, this night is the busiest night of the month. It's also the biggest pain in the ass.

The Swedish system dictates that the entire population, except those freelance workers out there, gets paid on the same day of every month. The 25th. Typically Swedish, it is for the most part, a sensible and efficient system. Everyone gets paid at the same time, everyone's bills get paid at the same time. Simple. There's only one downside to this. And that's for me, the humble bartender... When that first weekend comes a-knocking, everyone goes fucking insane!

Normal, respectable members of society become slobbering, infantile fuck-wits. And then the Crazies, who seemingly spend the rest of the month hidden under some rock, come out into the night to wreak havoc. The tube ride home after a long day at work, is like taking a ride through the set of Shawn of the Dead. This month was no exception...

I counted no less than fourteen piles of puke on the way home! Fourteen! I saw some guy staggering around the platform at Central Station, out of his mind, wearing just a thin shirt. The fucker could hardly stand and I honestly wondered if he was going to tumble off in front of the train when it pulled into the station. He didn't. But it's easy to see how these things happen. Funnily enough, the guy looked like a Brit. When I got to Sundbyberg, my final destination, whilst walking past the cue at the burger joint in the square, some hard-rock chick walks past, completely naked from the waist up. Tits out. It must have been minus eight degrees out. She looked chuffed with herself as she strutted past me towards the tube station entrance, as if she didn't have a care in the world.

I just shook my head and walked on, blocking the ravings of idiocy and chaos from my ears with the sounds of the new Victims album, which I listen to for the first time in it's entirety on this journey home. It sounds great and I'm buzzing listening to it, whilst it provides a soundtrack to these nonsensical scenes.

I'm fully aware of the fact that I've been a part of these scenes myself, on more than occasion...

The night in the bar hadn't been as bad as could be expected though. The place was packed from around five pm, but the usual crowd that comes in on Friday's kept away. Friday is the one night of the week that even the owners, my employers, don't like hanging out in their own bar. The other nights of the week we have what you could call a hip crowd of musicians, artists and other bourgeois that are just about on the right side of my line. But Friday's we get invaded by stuck up, rich, poseur brats who somehow find their way to our little corner of Södermalm. They get on my tits.

Tonight, for the most part though, was ok. I actually met Kay from Dead Inside, who is one of my favourite punk bass players. She was out having a drink with a one of a few common friends we have. Although I've got a close connection with Dead Inside, through Bloody Kev and Nigel, I'd never met Kay until now. It was pretty packed in the bar when she came in, but it was cool to meet her and chat for a short while nonetheless. She told me that she only plays in Comet Gain these days, and not in any punk bands, although she misses it. Too bad, since she's an awesome bassist.

With that unexpected surprise early on in the evening, I was in a good mood, and for once enjoying a Friday night behind the bar. My problem is though, I allow myself, far too easily, to let one person spoil that.

There is this arrogant prick who comes into the bar now and again, only ever on Friday's of course. He's usually a little bit drunk, although not too drunk to knock back, but on his way to that point. He normally only has one drink though, so I never get the pleasure of cutting him off. He was in tonight, with a friend who looks equally as annoying as he does. Some people just have the kind of face you want to stomp on I guess. I notice them for the first time, stood in the middle of the packed out bar, around ten pm. I sigh quietly to myself before heading over to them and taking their order. The ordering part goes smoothly enough. Two Brooklyn Lagers, tack. No problem. Fridge open. Two bottles out. Opener out of back pocket. Tops off bottles. Bottles on the bar in front of them. One hundred and twelve kronors, tack.

(I know... That's about eleven quid, if you're talking pounds, which seems like a ludicrous amount of money, but it's all to do with the fact the pound is worth dog-shit right now, but that's another matter, and yes, one hundred and twelve kronors is still on the expensive side for two bottles of Brooklyn, but thinking of it in terms of pounds makes it seems way worse than it actually is...)

The problems begin when the guy pulls his bank card out of his wallet and I place the card-reader machine on the bar.

(Since the turn of the year, EU law has dictated that restaurants and bars must have these readers installed, failure to do so being punished by hefty fines and even temporary closure. Their thinking is that customers are more secure in their plastic transactions if they type in their pin codes and everything is done digitally, as opposed to them signing a receipt. It's also their thinking the customer then takes greater control of how much they want to pay, i.e., in point most interesting to myself, how much tip they want to leave. Before this law, it was the staff at the bar who manually transferred the tips from the written receipts to the computerised cashier. Nowadays the tip is put into the system directly by the customer. Amazingly, most customers seem to have a problem with this, which just goes to prove that the people in power are talking absolute shite when they say that there were hordes of people complaining that they were being robbed when the old system was in place. Of the hundreds of people I've had through the bar since this new system came through, I haven't met one who didn't prefer the old system. The government always finds convenient excuses for implementing regulations that they want in place, regulations and laws that often involve taking money from the working citizen, the environment being the usual example today. This is just more bullshit. It's not about people's security, it's about keeping track of what people spend, and it's about taxing my fucking tips! It's so fucking easy in Sweden because everyone here is obsessed with paying by card.)

Anyway...I digress.

I'm not exactly happy with the new system, and I'm hoping that the owners are going to follow the trend that some bars in Stockholm are taking, and just simply refuse to accept payment by card. Though even if we do that, I'm sure it's only a matter of time before the government outlaws that too. I digress again..

The card reader is in front of the guy and I tell him to type in the total amount and then his pin code. I can tell by previous encounters with this guy that he thinks of himself as a bit of an intellect, and I'm not in the least surprised when he starts going off on one about how bullshit this new system is. Even though I agree with what he's saying, he still manages to annoy me. I assure him I agree with him, and yet he continues to into a monologue highlighting his disdain, as if I'm putting up some sort of argument. I tell him again that I agree with him and reassure him that this bollocks is a way bigger pain in my ass than it is in his. It's like my mouth is moving and forming words, yet he's hearing something else. It's not any sort of language barrier, since my Swedish is fluent after nine years of living here. He's just a dick.

After wasting my time with this idiot for far longer than I feel happy about, I tell him that if he doesn't like this new card system then he's free to take advantage of another concept, which has been practised since civilisation began, called paying in cash. At this, he tilts his head ever so condescendingly to one side, and slowly says in English, “Would you prefer it if we spoke in English?”

This really fries my fucking piss! I snap-retort, myself now converting to English, “I couldn't give a fuck either way mate!” And then I stand there and stare at him. He just kind of sniggers and turns his attention back to his friend. I don't know why, but this really gets my goat up. I can't stand being spoken down to by anybody, and especially not some cunt like this who obviously thinks he's better than me.

I guess, somewhere in there, my accent gave me away as being an Englishman. When I first learnt the language I really tried to speak Swedish with a Swedish accent, because I wanted to fit in. And of course, you can't actually speak Swedish with a Corby accent, it would sound ridiculous. Now, after seven years of speaking Swedish, I would imagine most people I meet for the first time, wouldn't know either way. As it happens, now that I'm fluent in the language I'm not as bothered any more about hiding my nationality. For example, I've gone back to introducing myself to strangers with my name pronounced the way my mother says it, and not the Swedish version that is Garett. I think it's to do with the fact that now I speak the language well enough, that even if I give my nationality away by pronouncing my name as it should be, whoever I'm talking to realises I speak the language and they don't have to go over to English. Which most Swedes love to do, given the chance.

But this cunt in front of me obviously thinks that now he's found me out, he's got something of a position of power over me. I was trying to agree with the wanker and yet he's managed to successfully cause an argument. When I see that he's done, I walk away, only mild amusement at my own typical English attitude brimming to the boil as soon as the Queen's leaves my cake-hole, consoling my annoyance.

I spend the next twenty minutes or so, serving other customers, with a face like a slapped arse, whilst Cunt Balls is still hanging out at the bar with his friend. And then he calls me over to him again. And now I'm really ready to give this guy some shit.

“Is that a Black Flag tattoo on your arm?” he gleefully asks me. Er..., a bit off balance, I answer that it is. He then excitedly starts tugging at his coat sleeve, telling me to “check this out”. “This” being a Black Flag tattoo of his own. The Bars. Exactly like mine and in exactly the same place. Well so fucking what? Are we bros' now? Are we part of some fucking club together? No we're not. I tell him that that's just fucking great, to which he replies “Six Pack man!”. Who is this guy? There are probably thousands of people across the globe with the bars tattooed on them, I mean, that band mean a lot, to a lot of people, especially nowadays it seems. It doesn’t mean that this guy isn't a prick, just because he likes Black Flag. I'm pretty sure Rollins himself would agree with me on that one. “Six Pack man!”...I've got nothing else to say to that. I go back to the other customers, but now the slapped arse has been replaced by a smirk of my own.

The rest of the night rolls on without incident. I close the bar down and have a quick beer, before heading home, through the puddles of puke and the hordes of roaming zombies, listening to the new Victims album and thinking about how nice it's going to be to go back on tour.


  1. Fantastisk läsning, som vanligt.

  2. I love reading these. I work at a bar also, and can relate to the living dead on the first of the month( Payday and Welfare checks in the U.S.)

  3. Happy days Gareth! You're the latest in a long line of family bar-stewards. We've all had our share of turds in a bar. One cocky twat said to me one night, making a point of looking up and down the bar at the selection of ale on offer, which was not to his obvious taste, he was a Shire Horse man, it was a darts night in the Open Hearth. Finally he says in front of all his mates, 'give us a pint of shite'. I immediately bent down to the waste bucket and filled a glass up. 'There you go mate, 30p (or whatever it was those days)' The glass looked disgusting. Horrible looking colour, a mixture of beer, lager, guiness, crisps. Fair do's, everybody cracked up laughing and this dick said 'er, guess I asked for that' Prick. Shut the twat up big style!

  4. Hahaha! Brilliant dad! We should open up our own bar!