It was a dodgy kinda pub, you know the sort, dark and seedy, old men nursing their half pints so as to make them last the whole evening, or topping up their glasses from cans in a bag under the table, but I was meeting the man there, so there wasn’t much I could do except grin and bear it.
When I got up to visit the bathroom, several heads spun silently in my direction, beady eyes weighing up my pint greedily. I sat back down and flipped over a beer mat. On the back I wrote, in simple block letters “I HAVE SPAT IN THIS BEER”, propped it up against the glass and went and took a leak.
When I got back, my drink remained untouched. I grinned, I was way to smart for these lowlifes, I thought. I took the card and laid it back on the grubby Formica. I took three long gulps of the cool, golden liquid and then noticed that underneath my words on the beer mat, someone had written the words “SO HAVE WE”.
Customer service is not really something we do well in Britain, its not something we do at all, if I’m honest. Often you can purchase items from a store without a single word being shared with the cashier. The girl in my local store is permanently on her phone and the only contact we share is the angry glare she will shoot at me for having attempted to interrupt her.
I imagine that this is something that would infuriate a lot of Americans, it infuriates a lot of Brits too but not me. I think its funny and very British. I hear that outside of London things are different (I try to avoid leaving London, if I can at all help it), but here, that’s how we do things: I buy my shit, you sell me it, there’s no need to suck each other’s dicks on the way.
Sometimes, on the rare occasions that some chirpy little dicksplash behind a till, grins at me and says “Good morning Sir! How are you today?” I like to fuck with his, or her, head and respond with something like,
“Well, my dog died and my wife left me and I’ve been diagnosed with bollock cancer, and I lost my job and am on my way to my best friend’s funeral. How are you?”
The other day I was smoking a joint with a friend on the canal tow path when a tourist laden barge chugged past us. Two beaming children were waving at everybody from their window seats. My friend and I didn’t even have to look at each other to know what to do, and with what must have looked like choreographed synchronisity, we flipped them off.
Sometimes though, we do have our moments, times when customer and cashier connect and share a little something. I experienced two such moments today. The air vent in my living room window was broken. I had no idea what I should ask for or what size I needed, so I unscrewed it and took it to the hardware store with me. “Do you sell these?” I asked the old guy behind the counter, plonking it down.
“Dirty, broken ones?” he replied, “I’m afraid not Sir.”
After purchasing my shiny new window vent, I popped into the pub on the way home and ordered a Virgin Mary. The barmaid wanted to know if I wanted Worcester sauce with it. I did, and as she held this gigantic bottle of sauce over my glass and shook it, to tease a drop or two into my drink, the top popped off and Worcester sauce flooded my glass and gushed all over the bar, pouring over the edge and onto the sawdust coated floor. She looked at me, smiled and asked “That enough?”
The pub was a shit-hole, the carpet was sticky with years of spilled beer and guts, the dark brown walls had not seen a lick of paint since the war, and the windows were thick with the residue of a million roll-ups. Most of the time time there would be just these three or four old men in there, trying to pour their own cheap lager from cans in bags under the table into their glasses without being spotted by the bar staff. Sometimes people would go there to buy cheap frozen meat from the local junkies, who would steal it from the Iceland store on the corner. It was a real shit-hole
The only time it was any different was on match days. Then, for two or three hours before and after a game, the place was heaving with raucous singing, jumping red shirts and flying beer. We would meet there early and make up chants to piss the away fans off. Deano was unofficially in charge. He was a top London chef and had a scar on his cheek the exact same shape and size as the lip of a broken pint glass.
The barmaid, Caz, had the most fantastic tits you ever saw, they were like two giant blimps bouncing against each other in the skies above the stadium. Her top was always covered in stains, she never seemed to brush her teeth, and she had a laugh that sounded like a dog being strangled. She lived halfway between the pub and the stadium; we were together for about a year. Her apartment was even more of a dump than the pub, and her six kids were a nightmare, in and out of juvie like a Spurs fan in his boyfriends ass. She used to make this thing she called ‘breakfast’, which involved sticking eggs, bacon, beans and a slice of bread on a plate and bunging it in the microwave for ten minutes. I never once saw her brush her teeth, but she had fantastic tits and lived halfway between the pub and the stadium.
When she caught me shagging her sister by the dumpster behind the pub, she burnt all the pictures of my little boy, who had died five years previously, smashed my guitar and had her brother put a price on my head. Two years later, the team moved to a new stadium, and the pub lost all its business and had to close down. Its an apartment building now. It was a good thing really, that pub was a shit-hole.