It’s safe to say that I’ve worked in my fair share of pubs, bars and nightclubs over the years. I’ve seen a grown man pass out in his own takeaway kebab. I’ve been around enough spandex fuelled, penis-themed hen parties for it to be legally considered a form of torture. I’ve also had so much alcohol soaked into my hands that my fingers can probably be used to strip paint off a wall. I’ve met so many different kinds of oddballs and characters that I’m starting to feel like my life is an extremely extended episode of the Twilight Zone, where the writers have just decided to get blind drunk instead of thinking up actually plot lines. Yet, despite this, I’ve started to notice a pattern of customers that appear to be on rotation. If you’ve ever worked in a bar you know em’, you love em’, and you see em’ all the time. Only you don’t love em’, they infuriate you, and they’re the absolute, absolute worst.
1. THE KNOW-IT-ALL – Generally in their fifties, balding, possibly wearing a polo shirt that’s just a little too tight, they’re convinced that they know the exact amount of head that’s supposed to be on every lager conceivable to the human imagination and you’re most definitely always pulling their pint wrong. They’re quick to helpfully point out which glass you’re supposed to be using, are generally heard boisterously shouting “Come on love, that’s not how it’s done”, and laugh deliriously if you pour them the wrong kind of bitter. Forget everything you thought you knew about working in a bar, cus this guy’s got it covered and is now here to teach his artful ways. Even though he’s still somehow not managed to master how to pronounce San Miguel properly.
2. THE RETURNEE – This customer is a total stranger. You’re more likely to have seen a dolphin with 6 limbs in a bow tie in the bar than this newcomer, and yet they’re adamant that this is their local. Typically, they approach the bar asking for their usual, and are met with a blank stare as you try and turn on any sort of Terminator vision you may unknowingly have to decipher who this alien is. Once the tumbleweeds clear, you’re hit with bemusement as they exclaim, “I drink here all the time, don’t you know me?”. Or more likely, “I know all the staff here, but I’ve not seen you before. Are you new?”. At this point you realise this person has severe amnesia, or has gotten confused with what the word “new” means, as you’ve been working in the bar for so long that breathing in anything outside but potent alcoholic fumes would make you combust instantly.
3. THE SCROUNGER – They’ve walked up to the bar, glanced at the bottled liquid gold, glanced at the menu, ordered a few hefty drinks, waited until the beverages were handed over, and oh… look, there they go forgetting how a pub works. You call out to them as they try to shuffle off into the crowd, and when they turn back they’re offended that they’re expected to pay for something they bought. Or they thought their mate (who is nowhere to be found) was paying for them. Or, even better, they forgot their wallet in a corresponding distant dimension where currency is a myth, called their “House”. When they’re eventually kind enough to pay for their liquid rewards, it’ll most likely be in incredibly small denominations of change, because breaking into a £20 note is a nightmare. Now you get to enjoy £10 worth of drinks paid for in a fiver and numerous 10p coins. Lucky you.
4. THE TALKER – Close your eyes. Imagine all the bars and pubs down every dark alleyway, on every trendy corner, and every average highstreet all over the world. I can guarantee you with near perfect certainty that on planet earth, and all alternate universes, there is at least one of these baffling characters in all of those bars at this precise moment, making a bartender respond through gritted teeth. They can see you’re busy, they can see the place is packed, they can see you’re trying your best. But in their mind you’re an old-timey bartender with a swirly moustache, paid to polish as many tankards as possible and give them profound, cosmic advance about their snooker technique. Or question where to take Maureen for a celebratory meal now that she’s completed her 3 week aqua aerobics course. Or listen to them chuckle about the absurdities of parallel parking on their holiday in Tenerife. And the entire time that you stand there in the midst of this ongoing conversation, trying to serve other customers, all you can think is “Who the hell is Maureen?”.
5. THE CLICKER – Without even having to read the rest of this, ALL bartenders automatically know who I’m talking about. Everyone has an understanding of bar etiquette to some degree, or at least understands the fundamentals of how a bar works. Then there’s a select few who believe a pub is a place where all dreams can come true if you just lean fully across the bar and snap your fingers in the face of the first bartender you see. While occasionally shouting fun-sounding buzzwords like “I’m next”, or “Oi!” or “Helloooooo”. If you do this and you were in fact next, I can guarantee you that you’re not anymore.
6. THE FREELOADER – They’re everywhere. They think they’re hilarious. They think they’re dead cheeky. They think they can get a crafty pint out of you by using banter. They’re wrong. You’ll generally have to hear them ask about free shots, or if you can do them any special deals, or if they can just have a drink on the house because it’s a Tuesday and they’re thirsty. They’re also the kind of people who, with a cheeky wink, ask you to top up their drink with a little extra free alcohol. So you smile, wink back and MAKE THE EXACT DRINK THEY PAID FOR. Most of the time they just wait patiently until the till makes an error so that their drink doesn’t add up correctly, or doesn’t show up at all. Just so that they’re right on cue to use the line they’ve been holding back and dying to use all day: “Oh, if it’s not on the till does that mean I get it for free”. Cut to them in hysterical fits of uncontrollable laughter, as they wait for their awesome joke to really set in as they drink their free beverage. Hahaha. Yes Janine, that’s how trading in a business works.
7. ANY OTHER BARTENDERS – Wow, some customers are bad, but other bartenders are the annoying customers to end all other annoying customers. If customer bartenders were a drink in human form they would be a 15oz glass of hypocritical tequila-flavoured acid that constantly points it out when you get things wrong, sighs loudly, can’t make up it’s mind, spills itself across the bar and then doesn’t tip. Bartenders are awful.
8. THE PROLONGER – With these people you often find yourself staring into the bleak distance, where the hands on the clock begin to spin rapidly, and the sands of time dissolve, and you lose all concept of physics and space, and the clock melts off the wall, and they’re STILL DECIDING. They’ll spend ages staring you down impatiently, but when you do approach they haven’t got a clue how a menu works, or what kind of a drink they actually want, or any idea of what liquid is. When they do eventually speak it’s generally just muffled syllables, a long list of questions, or vague suggestions. A lot of the time the conversation goes something along the lines of “Ummm, well I can’t see anything I like, so… What about, um… Do you have anything that tastes nice? Not too nice, I want to be able to tell there’s alcohol in it but I don’t want it to be too obvious. Um… Actually, once I had this really fancy drink that was kind of pink, and it came in a curvy glass. Wait, no, it was a straight glass. Or a round one, I can’t remember. But it tasted sweet and also salty, and I’ve only ever had it in Magaluf. Do you know that one?”. Slow and steady wins the race, as they say. But when you’re in a pub the race is a reckless, violent fight to the finish line where everyone’s drunkenly crying and if you don’t get there hastily you run the risk of the bartender dropping dead of exasperation.