I am standing at the bar of a packed pub in town, waiting to be served, and I can’t help but notice there is a man next to me using his elbows to jostle his way to bar dominance.
Oh, I know your game, mate, and I also know that you arrived after me, and I also know that two sides of me come out at a moment like this.
But which will dominate?
I should be the good guy, here, I think, and when the barman catches my eye, I nod at the man next to me, and say, “I think this guy was first.”
He wasn’t. He was in no way first.
I am shaming him into telling the barman precisely that, and I’ll get my pint. But: “Cheers mate,” he says, not even looking at me; then: “Five pints of Stella.”
This has backfired. But my, the cheek of it! The treachery! And five pints? Oh, well done, good guy. You walked into his trap. You showed weakness. You placed your trust in a man at a packed bar, the one place you can trust no man, and now you must wait for five slow pints to be pulled. Look at him. Oh, he is too important, his time too precious to obey your rules. This is a war; the cocked 20 in his hand like a primed gun in the battle for service. His was a landgrab, a midnight raid on my good nature. Well, never again, bucko! You see what you’ve done to me? You’ve brought out the bad side. You’ve made me start using the word ‘bucko’.
No, I think, brushing these thoughts aside. You did the right thing.
The barman busies himself and gets two pints pouring straight away. As he leans on the pump, two more glasses in hand, the man pipes up again.
“And a G&T, no ice.”
Oh, don’t you DARE! Don’t you dare stagger your order!
Just order it all at once so we all know what we’re dealing with! I bet he’s not finished either. He’s used the word ‘and’. Normally that would mean he was finishing, but I’ve dealt with these clowns before.
They’re ringers. Sent to the bar, all innocent, then ordering massive rounds for their vast table of slack-jawed henchmen.
And oh, look, sure enough, a woman with a startling inability to apply blusher appears from nowhere and puts both hands on the man’s shoulders and slurs something in his ear.
“And two large house whites and a packet of nuts,” says the man.
Begone, painted harlot!
But I’m being the good guy, I tell myself. I’m being the good guy… and look what happens to me!
Then one of his mates pushes in to grab the waiting drinks and says, “Toby’s here, he wants a pint.”
Oh, does he? Toby wants a pint, does he? Toby wants a punch, is what Toby wants. But oh no, Toby can’t queue for a pint himself, can he? You know why? Because Toby is a parasite; a gnawing, stinking parasite burrowed deep in the once innocent veins of the concept he deceitfully calls friendship. Oh, I have met people called Toby before. They walk among us, bold as brass, these Tobi, and let me tell you, no good can come from knowing one.
“Another pint of Stella…” says the first man, and I exhale, because this whole transaction feels unjust and rude, and right now I feel like saying to him, “Sure, order your massive round in dribs and drabs. Have your lagers. Have your wines. Just don’t ask what I’d do to those nuts of yours right now.”
I just want my pint! The pint that should rightfully be mine by now! There will be no supplementary snacks ordered with this fiver! There will be no surprise red-faced women! No beer-spilling grunts! I’m not going to pull out a Toby at the last second!
“Aaand…” says the man, his finger now pointing at the wine cooler, and
I notice a tenner has now joined the 20 in his hand.I feel for my phone in my pocket. I am going to call the police.
That’s two more ‘ands’. What’s this? His four-and? Oh, what I’d give to show him my backhand.
“A… bottle… of…”
He doesn’t even know what he wants. HE DOESN’T EVEN KNOW WHAT HE WANTS.
“Actually, that’s it.”
He did it! It’s over! And it’d better be, bucko. You pint of pure evil. Why should you respect the unwritten rules crafted for the benefit of all, eh?
“Sorry about that, mate,” he says, quietly, and slightly shamefaced, casting a quick glance at me for the first time, and through this hushed, shy gesture… all is forgiven.
I can relax. The distracting fog of internalised British rage clears immediately.
“Right, who’s next?” says the barman, scanning the pub.
Is he bloody KIDDING?
Our sign of the times
Reader Ben S was on holiday and was grateful that his hotel was so forward-thinking when it came to the rules. You had to be careful on wet floors, sure, and there was no food or drink allowed near the pool, but there was scope for you to personalise your rule-following experience by warning yourself about your own worries.
Feeling flush in turkey
More warnings also come courtesy of Rob Gulliver, who, while in Turkey recently, made the awful mistake of throwing his toilet paper to the klozate instead of using the trush bucket! Oh, Rob. Never throw to the klozate! What do you think the trush bucket is for?