I am in a cab on my way to a friend’s birthday party, which is taking place at a bar. I give the driver the address and he’s excited.
“I know it, I know it,” he says, nodding.
“Great,” I say, as we roar off.
“What’s the name of the place?” he says, and I tell him.
“What is that? A pub?”
“Sort of,” I say. “It’s a bar.”
“Oh, a bar, but it used to be a pub, did it?”
I didn’t say that.
“I’m not sure,” I say. “I just know it’s 18 Kensal Road.”
“Yeah,” he sighs. “Lot of places turning into bars. What pub was it?”
It’s not a pub.
“The bar?” I say. “I don’t know if it used to be a pub.”
“What?” he says.
“You were saying it used to be a pub.”
“No,” I say. “I’m saying I don’t know if it used to be a pub.”
He scrunches his nose up at me in the mirror, like he’s wondering why I’m telling him that.
“Anyway, I’ve only got the address,” I say. “18 Kensal Road.”
“Right,” he says. “That actually was a pub, if memory serves.”
“OK,” I say.
“Yeah, that’s my old stomping ground, actually!”
Eventually we find ourselves vaguely nearby.
“So it should be juuuust… here,” says the driver, slowing down.
He stops outside a pub. It’s No294. What? This is way too early.
“What’s it called again?” he says.
“This isn’t it, I actually need No18,” – 18! Remember? – “and this is a pub, but I’m looking for a bar called…”
“OK, no worries,” he says, his foot on the pedal again. “There are others just down here.”
“OK, but it’s not a pub,” I say, to deaf ears, “it’s a bar, it might have been a pub once, but it’s at 18…”
There’s no reaction.
“OK,” he says, as we reach No256. “Well, that’s the Oxford…”
“No,” I say. “It’s not a pub. It’s at No18, and…”
The cab lurches forward, as he mutters the name of the bar over and over, and I wonder how many more times I can actually remind him we’re looking for No18 before I seem rude.
I mean, I can’t keep telling him it’s number 18, even though I have to keep telling him it’s number 18.
“Now…” he says, squinting as he passes another pub on the other side of the road and then dismissing it. “Nope, still a pub…”
Go to No18! I want to shout. Why can’t he take the number in?
Surely that’s a key part of his job? Is it professional pride?
This has become a mission for him, in which he must get me to this bar based on personal knowledge alone.
He wants to prove that this was his old stomping ground.
He will not accept that my number-based system beats his random guesswork and distant memories.
And then I think of a new angle. I pretend to check my phone like I’m looking up the address for the very first time.
“Ah, so yes, it’s definitely No18…”
Great tactic. Avoids rudeness or condescension. Somehow places the blame on me.
He slows as we pass another pub.
“One hundred and eighty,” I say, pretending to consider it, then finding a way to drop the number 18 in again, “180 looks a bit like 18…”
“Looks a bit what?” he says.
“It looks a bit like an 18.”
“Yeah,” he says, casting me another glance in the mirror, as if to imply I’m making some very odd and irrelevant statements tonight. “We’ll find it, mate…”
We’ll find it at No18, yes.
“…must be down here…”
YES. IT’S AT NO18.
“We’re getting down towards the bottom now, mate,” he says, with a shrug in his voice that implies failure is close. But I’m easily close enough to walk now.
I have to stop this.
“Maybe I’ll just get out and…“
“NO!” he says. “We’ll find it!”
And then a new idea: “I think this could be it!”
And moments later, he says “We got there in the end, eh?”
I turn and stare at the random pub I’m pretending is my destination.
“So it’s still a pub, eh?” he chuckles, with a wink, like I’m a total nit and he was right all along.
I allow him this moment of false triumph. Then I look at the pub. It’s black with skulls and pentagrams all over it. It says ‘Come to the Sabbath’ above the door.
I’m not going in there. So as he watches me, I turn and walk off, far away, down the road, away from the devil pub.
A minute or so later he rumbles slowly past, staring in confusion as I walk into No18.
“If that’s where he wanted,” he must be thinking, “why didn’t he just bloody say?”
A step into the great unknown
Chris Cain’s computer is incredibly needy and always demanding feedback on how it’s doing. It’s just a shame its standards are so low.
Unknown Error. Was this information helpful?
There should be a button you can press marked ‘Sarcastic Yes’.
Good to see brosnan so busy
“Pierce… it’s your agent. I’ve got you a new advert.”
“High-quality watches for the lucrative Japanese market?”
“Small signs advertising bread pudding in Austrian Spars.”
(Thanks, Nick Coxon!)