The best seat in the Drapers Arms, our temporarily takeaway-only local pub, is at the table tucked away beside the front door.
That sounds as if it might be draughty. It’s not. It’s protected from the door by a short projecting wall, making a corner that keeps out the worst of the breeze.
It’s somehow private, too. Someone might sit to your left, but never to your right, so you can’t get too badly squeezed.
And from this little table you can see every other drinker in the pub. You can see what’s going on, hear the best bits of the conversation and avoid being taken by surprise. (The last thing you want in the pub is to have your fight-or-flight response triggered.)
So that’s why it’s the best seat, as far as we’re concerned, and we had assumed our criteria for judging this would be universal.
That’s why back in those BC days when we texted friends to say ‘We’ve got the best seat in the house and the Gorge Best is good’ we were surprised when they asked us which table we meant.
We’d thought it was obvious.
But then when we think of other regulars at the Drapers, it’s clear they have their favourite tables too, and that they’re different from ours.
Our next door neighbours gravitate to the opposite corner, near the bar. Mr Priddy, who is in his late eighties, seems to prefer a bench midway along the wall. Some people, inexplicably, choose to sit on the pew near the bins, even when they don’t have to. The rack of CAMRA magazines at the other end of the bench from our favourite seat seems to lure lone drinkers. And Big Bantering Lads generally prefer standing along the centre bench.
We wonder what psychological factors impact on where people like to sit. Proximity to the bar? The ease of inviting others to share their table? The appeal of nesting by the warmth of the radiator? Being able to see who’s entering in case you need to escape?
Beyond the psychological, there’s the physical: some people like hard seats, others soft ones, while some daren’t sit down at all for fear of seizing up. If you have to nip out for a cigarette every five minutes, that uncomfortable perch in bin corner might seem more appealing.
In our case, it’s probably that we’re used to going into a range of pubs and have got into the habit of finding the ‘safest’ spot – one where we’re least likely to draw attention to ourselves which gives us some control over interactions with staff and other customers. We’ll end up at a similar seat, at a similar table, almost anywhere.
Which is your favourite spot in your favourite pub, and why? (Any seat in any pub looks pretty good at this point, mind you.)