Friday, March 2, 2012

The Bar

It was a crisp, spring afternoon and the sun was shining proudly over a cobalt blue sky. With the last traces of a long, arduous winter now behind us and summer in the post, that magical buzz was back in the city. Tables and chairs were beginning to appear on the pavements outside of cafés and bars, heavy winter coats were now making way for the lighter, spring variety and people were smiling again. In Sweden the winters can be long and gruelling, sometimes greedily hogging up to six of the year's twelve months. Up here in the north we savour spring time...

Considering it was Friday and I was working this evening, I was in a surprisingly up-beat mood. Amazing what a bit of sunshine can do for your spirit. I'd been working all week, eleven hour shifts, but after tonight I was free for the weekend. Jen works “regular” office hours so a lot of the time we're like two ships passing in the night, or in our case, in the morning, with me taking her place in our bed as she gets up for work. This routine is always most taxing come Friday night. Jen comes home to an empty house whilst I'm dealing with drunks at work. Working in the bar on a Friday, serving nothing but merry nine-to-fivers can really fill you with bitter envy, if you let it... But today I'm just concentrating on that sun in the sky and my weekend which will start in roughly eight hours time.

There are positives to working the Friday shift though. The atmosphere in the bar is brimming and with their being lots to do, the hours fly by. And today I was working the “b-shift”, which starts a little later. There is a resounding, psychological difference between working an eight hour shift and an eleven hour shift. After spending the day at home relaxing, hanging out with my dog and listening to records, my buoyant mood was such that I almost bounced down to the train station in Sundbyberg. One short Friday shift and I'm free for the weekend. I rang Sara, who was opening the bar, on the way to the train, just to check how things were. “It's cool”, she says, “No stress in getting here”. Good. I parked my arse on the train and settled into the latest copy of Maximumrocknroll for the fifteen minute ride into Söder.

I must have sat there reading for about five minutes before I realised the train was still sat still at Sundbyberg, such was the enthralling content of my MRR. Hmm.. Five more minutes passed without so much as an explanation from the train driver. Fucking SL, truly cunts of the highest order. Just as I'm thinking about getting up and heading over to the tube station, the train begrudgingly shunts into life. Ok, back to my MRR...

The train advances all of fifty feet before it stops again. For. Fuck. Sakes! How many times do you have to go through this nonsense? It's not like a monthly travel card is cheap either! For eight hundred kronor you're as well taking yourself down to SL's head office, dropping your pants and bending over once a month.

The train stands still for another few minutes. Amazingly, when it does start to move again, it's in reverse. The train backs up a few feet back to the platform and upon arrival the conductor announces the train is fucked. Un-fucking-believable! I make a run for it to the tube station at Sundbyberg, along with about four hundred other people, all of whom squeeze themselves on to the next arriving train in a state of frenzy. Packed in like a fucking sardine in a tin, I'm at last making my way to town. I wonder how Sara is doing...

I hastily make my way from Skanstull station along Skånegatan. The sun is still blazing in the sky, seemingly refusing to call it a day, despite it now being six thirty pm. I arrive at work and it's as I feared, only worse. The place is packed. I squeeze my way through the crowd towards the bar and look to Sara to see how she's doing. She just shakes her head. Balls. By the time I get myself behind the bar I see that chaos has ensued. Sara tells me the cash register has froze. She's doing her best to keep a float. She has a list that she's written by hand with the sales she's made since the till has been out of action. Sat along the bar is the usual gang of regulars and friends, all of whom seem to be in high spirits and completely oblivious to the sea of shite Sara has been wading through for the last twenty minutes. Nice start to the day. I get on the phone to Cashpoint's support service whilst Sara holds the fort, serving people and keeping track of the sales on her list. “Welcome to Cashpoint support service, you are currently in a cue. Your number is...thank you for waiting!”. Brilliant...

It's no secret that drinking alcohol blurs the senses. I know this, everyone knows this. But even with that knowledge firmly in mind, I'm still astounded by the fact that the telephone I currently have glued to my ear appears to be invisible to the line of regulars sat along the bar. I'm stood there, talking to Cashpoint's support service, frantically tapping away at the cash register and yet still, our friends, the regulars, try to engage me in conversation. I shoot them a few half arsed smiles but they don't seem to get the hint. The trouble is, there is always one thing or another going tits up in this bar and this is obviously comical to them. I know they mean no harm though and I reign in my temper...unlike Sara and I, they're just happy it's Friday...

Amidst this chaos, with Cashpoint in one ear, the regulars in another and Sara running around like a blue arsed fly, one guy's voice stands out amongst all others, his annoying little face a clear, sharp picture against what is now the blur of the humdrum around him. It's like everything else suddenly tunes out and fades away to nothingness.

I don't know who he is but something looks familiar about him. He's also sat at the bar, just to the left of the gang of regulars. He looks a bit like the actor Simon Pegg, but with silly aviator sunglasses that are tinted yellow. He's obviously one of those people who takes up a lot of whatever room he enters, his voice fighting to be heard over all others. An annoying cunt basically. From the moment I walked into the bar and got on the phone, he's been trying to catch my ear, now and then reaching his hand out in the hope of shaking mine. I can't tell if he's drunk, high or just a bit slow. My gut feeling tells me it's most likely a mixture of all three...

“How are you doing man?”, Pegg inquires, whilst winking in my direction. I try batting him off with the cursory smile that the regulars received. This isn't enough for Pegg though. For the next fifteen or so minutes he continues to attempt contact with me, everything from “Good to see you again,” to “You're a good guy, thanks for being here.” Utter, random shite, but for a while Pegg almost has me wondering if I know the cunt. With Cashpoint's somewhat inadequate support service finally fixing the problem with our till, I'm left to the mercy of Pegg's babbling. He's talking to me like he knows me and rather stupidly I'm going along with it. When I free myself from his verbal clutch, Sara and I agree that he won't be having any more to drink..

A while later, whilst I'm busy serving someone else, Pegg asks Sara for his bill. It's now that all hell breaks loose...

Pegg is dismayed by the total his bill amounts to. As I'm dealing with someone else, I hear him, as does every other patron of the bar, shouting and cursing at Sara. Apparently he's upset about the price of the beer he's been drinking. His disclaimer is that he's been ordering his beer by the gallopan... Ah, the fucking gallopan!

Technically a gallopan is 12.5 cl of beer, which were it originates, in France, is just shy of a wine glass. The problem is, the whole thing gets lost in translation here in Sweden. When people here order a gallopan, and it's usually pretentious wankers like Pegg, what they want is a beer in a wine glass. And to muddy the waters still, the wine glasses we have at Snotty are of the large kind, larger in fact than our normal beer glasses. Now Pegg sure as fuck didn't want 12.5 cl of beer every time he ordered, he wanted beer in a wine glass. And he was charged by Sara accordingly. But now Pegg is screaming bloody murder, claiming that when he orders a gallopan he means that he wants a beer for the sum of twenty five kronor. I can't help but indulge myself and engage this twat in debate.

“I actually work in this business!”... If there is one thing that brings me close to physically shitting myself with laughter, it is when a customer, who has drank long beyond the limit of alcohol they can handle, hits you with that one! “I actually work in the business...” Pegg, unashamedly repeats himself..

“Everyone knows that a gallopan means twenty five kronor!” Seriously, the absurdity of this argument is astounding. I ask him if when he ordered his beer, did he actually want it in a small glass, to the measure of 12.5 cl. Negative. No, he wanted his beer in a wine glass.. I point out to him that, regardless of what poncey fucking title you give it, we charge beer by the volume, and that is what his bill reflects. Simply having you're beer in a wine glass does not make it cheaper, especially when said wine glass is forty nine fucking centilitres! The argument to's and fro's for a while. Sara tries to talk to him, since it's her that's served him the whole time, but he rudely refuses to talk to her, saying he will only talk to the man in the bar, pointing at me. Sara has to walk out back before she throws something at him.

Whom I assume is Pegg's girlfriend is stood behind him the whole time, gently trying to coax him away from the embarrassing scene he's making, reasoning that she can pay the bill. It seems to be a matter of principle for Pegg though and he's not giving.

He actually starts to get threatening for a second and it seems that only then do the other regulars, our friends, understand what's going on. And then in the blink of an eye, Pegg's expression changes. He now has an expression of complete and utter shame hung over him like a dark cloud. He begins to apologise profusely, saying he doesn’t know what's come over him. This is getting weird now. He starts to fumble around with his wallet and empties it's rather meagre contents. He's only got about one hundred and fifty kronor. Even if we'd gave into the prick and changed the price of each of his beers to twenty five a piece, he wouldn't have been able to cover it...

He's now shaming himself further by sheepishly asking his girlfriend to loan him the money. She happily covers it with her debit card whilst he continues to apologise, repeating that he doesn't know what came over him. He then leaves an eighty kronor tip. And then he fucks off. I want to tell him he can shove his eighty kronor tip up his arse, but I don't, it goes straight in the tip glass. Eighty kronor is eighty kronor at the end of the day and I've got no problem with taking this sap's money...

What a fucking start to the evening! I make myself a stiff, black coffee and with Pegg now gone, and with the till now working, give Sara a hug and we get back on with work.

But it's just one of those nights where everything seems to go wrong. Glasses are smashed on the floor by drunk retards who can't even move out of the way when you're trying to sweep up the broken glass they're standing in, some lady smashes a champagne glass on the bar and wants a new one for free, the card machine runs out of receipt paper and when we attempt to refill it, the new paper rolls the owner has bought are too big and we can't close the fucking machine, the top on the antiseptic spray is loose and when I go to pick it up I'm left with just the top in my hand whilst the bottle drops to the floor and empties it's contents all over the place, all three beer kegs run out simultaneously on one occasion, some fucker blocks the toilet with a gigantic turd that I have to fight away with a plunger whilst oblivious, pissed up punters bang on the door wanting in...it's Friday night and for a while it's mayhem basically. Around midnight, with about a hour to go, Sara and I look at each other and burst out laughing! What else can you do? It is shit, but it could be worse. It's not exactly working in a sweat shop in China...

We close the bar at one am. When we turn on the main lights and usher everyone out, we're left with what looks like a bomb site. After an hour or so's cleaning we sit down and pour ourselves a well earned drink and simply enjoy the silence for a while. It's not so strange that a lot of people I know who work in the bar business entertain healthy drinking habits. After a night like tonight, sitting down to a cold beer tastes indefinably good. Sara and I snack on some food and laugh about the night's events. We sit for almost an hour, just chatting and winding down before heading our separate ways. And then it's time to go home.

Taking the tube home at three am. on a Friday night is an absolute fucking nightmare. If you're sober...as I am.. I walk to Medborgarplatsen tube station hoping to cash in some karma from SL. Not a fucking chance. Next train, eighteen minutes. I must have just missed the last one. I put in my headphones and spectate the carnage that is Pissed Stockholm Three AM, willing away those eighteen minutes.

My attention is caught almost immediately by two young girls about ten feet away, who are absolutely steamboats and literally shovelling McDonald’s into their mouths. One of them, a rather large girl dressed in the miniest of mini-skirts is rocking back and forth dangerously close to the platform's edge, hopelessly trying to kick some garbage onto the tracks below. I stand there watching her for about five minutes, as does her friend. Although determined, she just doesn't seem to have the required eye to foot co-ordination for this particular task in her present state. She finally gives up. As she turns around and walks back to the platform's centre, she drops her box of chicken nuggets, or whatever the fuck they are, at her feet and they spill out onto the minging floor. Before I can even manage a snigger it's stiffled by an expression of shock, as she bends over, baring her arse to all and with what turns out to be an gigantic effort, picks up each one of her nuggets and clumsily stuffs them into her mouth, not even bothering to stand up straight whilst doing so. I can barely believe what I'm seeing...what a weird end to a shitty night.

The train finally arrives and I take it to Central Station, praying to a God I don't believe in that I'll make my connecting train to Sundbyberg and not have to wait another half hour. Thankfully it's only a short wait.

Finally on my way home now. Looking forward to my free weekend. I check the weather forecast for tomorrow on my phone. Apparently it's going to rain. Go figure.

1 comment:

  1. ha! ha! fucking brilliant Gareth. Pissed myself reading this.

    ReplyDelete