When you’re asked to make a coke-beer and you have no idea what that means and when you have to start mopping around people to make them understand that they have to leave now, it’s pub stories Vol. 2.
February and March are always busy pub months, with the Six Nations tournament bringing hordes of Irish and Welsh rugby fans to Rome and St. Patrick’s Day being able to even get Italians to drink more than half a pint of beer. So my work presence turns into a living-in-the-pub situation where I pop home for a few hours of sleep and start my shift the next day shortly after noon. That means I still have the taste of the morning coffee in my mouth when the first wave of costumers order their beers. Or shots of Sambuca, because that’s what they do. Maybe because they think that’s the Italian way (it’s not). More probably because they just want to get drunk.
So with all of this going on, the regular creep-situations I was writing about in Vol 1. sometimes get a bit harder to handle. For example when the lawyer from somewhere in northern Italy drives you crazy by having a muttered conversation with himself (consciously or not, you will never know) about your every move. But you’re no amateur at this game. You let him know it’s not working, provokingly staring at him while you pour yourself a glass of wine and take a deep, long sip of this praised liquid of life.
The usual group of Italians who will occupy at least two tables comes in and orders two small beers that they will all share between each other (but it’s OK, they really can’t be blamed for living in a city where a pint costs six Euro and the hourly wage sometimes doesn’t even cover that). But then what do they do? They ask for snacks. I point at the crisps, crackers and peanut section, they ask me to give them “un po’ di tutto” and I tell them that this “bit of everything” costs 1.50 Euro. Their eyes fly open in utter bewilderment and I silently ask myself if they have never been to a pub anywhere in the world before. I’m still waiting for the day on which I will get offered some beautiful salt and vinegar crisps for free, but who knows, maybe I’m the crazy one here.
While the Italian aperitivo-culture is beautiful and you really do get all this stuff for free with your drink - but you might pay six or seven Euro - you simply can't sell two beers for 3.50 Euro to a group of ten people and add "a bit of everything" for free because it would probably bankrupt the pub.
As the night goes on and I analyze this stark contrast in drinking quantity between Italians and British people (who come up to you every 20 minutes to order another round), a polite lad from Wales comes in and asks if it’s fine to bring in 22 people, and of course it’s fine because he seems like no trouble, but of course they sent in the "sober one" to ask, and before you know it trouble has arrived. You realise it’s a stag do, it’s 8.30 in the evening, and they are completely badgered. But you pour the 22 pints while the 22 Welshmen are behaving like a band of baboons trying to expose each other’s underwear until one of them falls and hits his chin on the floor and blood spills everywhere but it doesn't seem to matter because they just continue on and wipe off the blood with a map of Rome they found lying on the piano. And while you are throwing away the blood-stained map trying to touch it as little as possible, you suddenly feel very far away from the human race and would rather be, well, a baboon.
As much as cultures vary in their drinking style, none are as adventurous as the South Koreans. They simply ask you for a “drink” and don't seem to have the slightest idea what that entails. It takes a lot of questioning before you find out that they want a beer, but by the time you’ve reached that conclusion you’ve already given them too many options, so they start ordering Long Island Ice Teas, pints of Guinness and glasses of wine in a random order while taking pictures of you preparing their drinks, as if you were performing a circus act.
With all of this going on, my tolerance really does get tested by a German person who asks me for a Coke beer and I haven’t got the slightest idea what that means. But it is as I feared. Guinness topped up with Coca Cola. Before I can produce such an abomination of a drink, that guy who has been visiting Rome three years in a row pipes up from a corner “Oh hello, you are STILL here?” and he is right, I am still pouring beers, but I try to ignore the condescending tone because the fact that living in a country where working in a pub pays better than working in most offices even baffles me most of the time.
Fatigue is upon me when the clock finally strikes two in the morning and there is only one thought on my mind: How the hell do I get this last group to leave? I’ve announced the last call half an hour ago. I exchanged their glasses with plastic cups. I rang the damned bell. I turned down the music and put on the bright lights which would irritate anyone because the brightness makes you feel as if you are on a stage, but still, they are ignoring all of these (to me very) evident hints.
I pull my last card and start fake-mopping the floor around them. Onwards the mop goes, under tables and between people’s feet, circling every free space and some people’s shoes, but the woman just MOVES HER BAG ever so slightly instead of understanding that I really want to close up, and I’ve had it, I've really had it, and into their conversation about which vegetable they would be if they could be a vegetable I rudely say “That’s it, get out!” and puzzled as if this has come out of nowhere, they finally leave me to these sweetest minutes of the night in which I crank up the volume to Iggy Pop’s The Passenger and mop in one hand, wine glass in the other, dance down the counter and clean the floor, properly this time.