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Pub Stories 3: Smile The F* Off

The travesty of having a serious facial expression and the luggage invasion of a French teenager gang.


The nirvana my mind escapes to when I'm being asked to smile a little.

When I arrived at the pub that night, I had just locked myself out of my house, tried to break in for an hour before calling a guy who broke in for me in half a minute and whom I had to pay 180 euro. I wasn't in the best of moods when I got behind the bar, but I've never been a smiley person. My face since the day I crawled out of my mother's uterus always had a natural expression best described as relaxed pessimism.


That night I got a pub full of people who had either grown up in a world where expressing oneself in complete sentences is only for the rich and famous, or maybe they had some crazy speech anxiety, because all they did was plant themselves before the bar like a pack of gorillas and groan "beeeeer" at me. But before this could trouble me, French people with luggage entered the premisses.


Here’s what’s my issue with luggage. One day, I was supposed to open the pub when I saw a homeless person camped on the floor right in front of the entrance door. There was no stepping over, I had to wake the guy up. As I got closer, I saw that it wasn’t a stranger but P., a regular who instead of buying himself a drink asks for an empty glass to go around collecting a share of other people's drinks, the sneaky genius.


He said that oh dear me, he must have accidentally fallen asleep, straightening his stained shirt and untangling a cigarette butt from out of the greasy bird’s nest that was his hair. And then he asked if he could leave some of his stuff at the pub, you know, just for a few hours.


He came back a bit later pushing seven suitcases at once over the crooked cobblestones like he owned the street. I found that rather impressive in his state of suppressed homelessness and decided to help him move the bags into the room where all the kegs are and felt a bit like a bell boy in a hotel just without the fancy little hat, and with beer smell all around me. And then the suitcases stayed there for days, blocking and annoying and falling on me every time I had to change a keg.


So when this group of french people arrived that night to “drink a beer” but instead dumped their truckload of artistic equipment all over the pub, I had a quick inner battle with myself whether I should allow this, but decided to cut what must be the entourage of an awesome circus some slack.


Only I shouldn’t have, because instead of artists they were weird teenagers who came and went as if they’d just squatted into their new home, going off weed scouting while abusing my space with their clutter.


I was drowning my disapproval in a glass of white wine when I heard the most disturbing voice nagging right beside my ear: “Smile a little. Why don’t you smile a little,” and turned to stare into the drunk face of an Australian guy who’s own smile looked as if the corners of his mouth had been stapled right up beneath his eyes. I wondered what was so jolly bloody funny and decided to ignore him but it made everything worse.


I poured a beer - “smile a little” - I gave change to a customer - “smile now, won’t ya” - I turned away and hid behind my book - “smiiiileeeee”.


The group of Germans asking if they could put on some music to, you know, party and dance and have fun at a time when normal people haven't even finished their pre-dinner drinks was almost a welcome distraction. I pointed over to the table with the Irish and Ecuadorian priests enjoying their beer and a giggle and explained that this just wasn't the place to party, when I heard another “why don't ya smileeeee” from the other side of the bar.


I’ve had it, shot him a fuck-off-look of the deadliest kind and used my frustration to pile the French people’s luggage up in a corner.


When it was time to close, I was debating whether to throw everything out into the gutter or agree to be the luggage deposit these guys deemed me worthy of. But the kids came back, packed up and in an acrobatic master-performance removed themselves and their equipment out onto the street.


For lack of luggage and because I can, I threw Australian creepy smiles out after them.

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