Pub Life: Hit & Run

Stink-eye bar-fly.

A man of indeterminate age, somewhere between 30 and 50, strides up to the bar: ‘Shit, man, have I had a rough day.’

The baby-faced, slightly sleepy barman blinks and smiles.

‘Yeah? Sorry to hear that, man. What can I get you?’

The customer mounts a high stool and starts to unload his tobacco pouch, ancient mobile phone and various other nick-nacks, constructing a nest.

‘Half a San Mig.’

The barman pours the lager and places it on the bar.

‘That’ll be–’

‘Tell you what, I’ve had such a shit day… Sod it — give me a sambuca, too.’

The barman turns to look at the spirits shelf. The customer drinks half of his half of lager. The young man turns back. His eyes dart to the half empty glass.

‘Er… Black or white?’

‘White.’

The barman pours the sambuca into a thimble-like shot glass.

‘That’ll be–’

‘What it is, my wife — are you married yourself? — my wife, she was meant to meet me this morning but her train got delayed…’

He suddenly drinks most of the sambuca, chasing it with another gulp of lager.

‘…so I’ve been hanging around Temple Meads…’

‘Er, sorry, man, but, er, I’m going to need you to pay for those drinks.’

‘Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, of course, man, no problem, yeah, yeah, yeah.’

He finishes the sambuca.

‘My wife will be here in like two minutes and she’s got the cash.’

The barman begins to vibrate anxiously.

‘I really need you to pay for those drinks–’

‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, no worries, man, no worries — I’ll just give her a call.’

The customer very obviously pretends to make a call on what, at second glance, might actually be a toy mobile phone. And are his shoes… Are they held together with Sellotape?

He stands up, pockets his tobacco almost as if by sleight of hand, and retreats to a corner, and then further into the corner, and then clear through the corner, out of a side door that we hadn’t noticed.

The barman deflates as he puts what is left of the glass of lager on the back shelf.

‘I’m so stupid,’ he says partly to himself, partly to us, but mostly to his own sneakers.

He makes sure to take the money before handing over our pints.

9 thoughts on “Pub Life: Hit & Run”

  1. I was recently asked to pay for my pint before pouring in a Wetherspoons in Leominster. Probably nothing personal, just company policy. But it’s another thing putting me off drinking in ‘Spoons…

  2. Love the flow of that. Is it something you witnessed? It’s why I hold publicans in such high regard – some of the s**t they have to deal with on a regular basis.

  3. Seems a lot of trouble to go to for a sambuca, but I guess if you’re good enough to bring it off it wouldn’t be any trouble – more of an interlude in what was presumably a busy day of ducking and diving.

  4. Sorry to be pedantic but in par 20 it should be here not hear.
    But otherwise a great piece of observation.
    You have to admire grifters who are good at their job. Sambuca is the best touch of all.You and I would call for a whisky or a voddie but a Sambuca is pure class.It’s the sign of a man on top of his game.He’s so good he’s taking the piss.It’s actually worth taking the hit to watch him at work.

    1. Huh. That’s a weird mistake for us to have made. A hazard of writing first thing in the morning before breakfast, I guess.

  5. I got done by a bloke once pretending to be a squaddie, waiting for his seargent to turn up and pay. He got a couple of pints out of me before disappearing. Stupid I know but learned a lesson.
    Good thing about those guys is that they’ll never come back in. Almost worth the price of a drink.

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