Pub Stories, Vol. 1

When you are declining drug-offers in front of elderly tourists chatting about their visit to the Vatican Museum and you enter into a wrestling match with a lady who bears a scary resemblance to the girl from the horror movie “The Ring” - all while pouring beer, listening to hours of Irish fiddle tunes and trying to mind your own damn business.

When your look grows distant and in your mind you are escaping into a world without tourists who think they can put on German techno music in your Irish pub.

That pubs all over the world have a higher density of weirdos than any other place in the world is no news, but the one I work at seems to be a downright haven for every type on the creep-spectrum.

I’m working there mainly because Italy is a country where the average wage for a graduate is around 1200 Euro a month, if you are lucky. Or nothing at all if you’re unlucky, because you’re slaving away doing unpaid internships for eternity, but that is a whole other discussion.

Apart from learning how to be polite to tourists whose first act upon arriving in Rome is to get drunk in an Irish pub, it is quite eye-opening to peek into the life of people who are the opposite of who I usually spend time with. Take M. for example, who had always been a model client and then showed up completely drunk one night, placed a bag of weed on the counter in front of me, opened his coat and loudly advertised all the drugs he had in there and was ready to sell to me for a friend price, all while I was in the middle of pouring a Guinness for an elderly tourist from Birmingham. A regular since 20 years, it was almost impossible to send M. away. After hours of maneuvering him away from costumers he was trying to sell drugs to I finally closed up and found him lying on the street in front of the pub door, smiling up at me with glazing eyes and then drifting off to sleep.

This was not the first time that someone who I never expected to have any trouble with acted like a crazy person out of nowhere. But apparently the crazy can come out in everyone, at any time, mostly when you least expect it.

But it’s not just spontaneous craziness that can be alarming. When someone is going through a down-phase at the pub, it’s no simple have-some-chocolate-and-wine-incident. The magnitude of the down blends out everything else and it can happen that people get so high they confuse their phone with the computer mouse. This specific person did not simply unplug the mouse, but ripped off the cable using some otherworldly strength, then walked out of the door with the mouse against his ear. A few months later he showed up again, rejuvenated, and everything was as if nothing had ever happened.

However, the ones that are just naturally weird without the help of mind-altering substances are the most frightening, because apparently you are their drug. They consume you with their eyes. They hear in on everything you have ever said and confront you two weeks after with a random fact about yourself, completely taking you off guard while you are hiding behind the beer taps eating a packet of crisps. When you react taken aback they pretend it was you who had told them in the first place. Mind-games, I tell you. They are the ones that want to give you a ride home, acting as if they were nice people with nothing else to do in the world, every damned evening of the week. They might leave you excessive tips that pay the gas for your motorino, your monthly bills AND your night out eating at the fancy Sushi restaurant. Useful, but creepy. They could easily compete with any personal assistant because they know every detail of your life’s itinerary and you just don’t know how the hell they do it.

And when after a particularly exhaustive day at the office full of life-changing decisions like writing “List” or “List view” on a button, I came to the pub and had to clean up the remains of the fake fingernails a girl had plucked off and neatly left rowed up next to her beer glass, saw Americans waste my 12-year Oban by mixing it with ginger ale (STOP IT Americans) and listened to hour-long fiddling tunes in the background, I was ready to explode and got into my very first and only ever physical bar-fight.

My opponent was a poor but crazy lady who had been coming in the past few days, bared a strong resemblance to the girl in the movie “The Ring”, scared me out of my mind because she would pop out of nowhere and constantly pretend to spit and curse at me, apart from harassing everyone around her to the point that customers were getting up and leaving. I knew it was almost impossible to get her out because she’d make a horrible scene. C. who is a regular and who she seemed to have come to like only managed it once, pretending he had Prince William on the phone who requested a chat with her. She loved it and must have felt very important.

That night, as soon as I saw a chance I steered her towards the exit but obviously she resisted and we ended up having a rather awkward wrestling match by the door. She completely overwhelmed me with some unnatural strength I would never have expected and I had to call the police. Then I hid behind the counter, forced a smile and listened to C. and A. complaining about foreigners while pouring them a beer with my foreign hands.

But of course, not all is doom and gloom. You meet good people. You get offered drinks. You have interesting and weird conversations you would never have elsewhere. You receive spontaneous poems and beautiful photographs. You have access to a perfect pool of participants to include in your survey for your Bachelor’s thesis. Regulars start looking out for you. And in a world where weird sometimes gets confused with nice and kindness can turn into creepiness in the blink of an eye, you start developing a hypersensitive skill for judging characters. My capacity to detect creeps has never been better.

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