I find the pub a venue not to meet people, but rather listen in on the conversations of others. In fact, within the pub setting are various fragile ecosystems.
The relationship between the number of times you visit a place and where you sit is inverse. It’s across the board: restaurants, movie theatres, even airports but especially the pub. No matter how many times you go, there’s usually only one or, like, maximum two places where you’ll sit, whether alone or with a group. These choices are made on the first and second visit.
I prefer the no man’s land between the two types of clientele who visit the pub; that is, between drink and food service to my left and right. There are obviously two camps here. They are easily identified by posture and attire. Food service humans tend to wear collars, white or blue, it doesn’t matter; while others are characterised by the depressive haunch of excess. Food service is sotto voce. Drink service is baritone. And seldom does Food talk to Drink or vice versa. I sit in the middle with my headphones in without the sound on so I can hear what these people say.
Pub is short for public house, where most are welcome. It’s the perfect place for voyeurs. Every narrative within these walls is personal and unique, and utterly bland until blessed by an observer.
It’s in the PM and I’m hearing these two men talk, they’re sitting in Drink and their chairs protest as they shift and adjust. They’re dressed in cricket whites, presumably teammates. And what I hear next: “You’ve become more confident in yourself, it’s a step forward,” the big one says to his supposedly timorous colleague. This man, the less confident of the two, has just hit his first century I imagine.
On my right in Food, a woman in her early thirties tells a friend about a lunch where she met a man. Her frenzied tone is indicative of recent events as enthusiasm often wanes with the passage of time.
“He’s an account manager. I think I tried to sound a little too smart and it came off as wankish,” the one with shoulder-length, mouse-brown hair says to her heavily pregnant friend.
“Are you going to see each other again?” asks Heavily Pregnant.
What both ladies don’t know is Mr Account Manager fancies blondes, and went home with the sure thing he’d had his eye on that day. Mouse-Brown had mistaken general conversation for specific interest. She is unlucky in love.
“He said he’d call me,” Mouse-Brown says to Heavily Pregnant.
Pub is short for public house, where most are welcome. It’s the perfect place for voyeurs. On any given night one thousand personal narratives are acted out between walls decorated with flat screen televisions, freckled trophies and fading photos of bygone champions. Every narrative within these walls is personal and unique, and utterly bland until it’s blessed by meaning by an observer. And that is the job of the fiction writer. To take the personal narrative and make it relatable, analogous, allegorical — to make others give a shit, about the cricketer’s century, the love life of another, or find out what the fuck this guy’s staring at?
Like the act of writing, or a creative pursuit in general, our personal narratives are meaningless to the world until they are, for lack of a better term, recognised… They drink in public to be observed and in doing so their story is legitimised, for however brief a moment in time.
My favourite time to collect data is in the morning. Although, in the morning people mostly drink alone and rarely talk. At 10am (pubs don’t really open much earlier), patrons mostly discourse with their pale, gold pints and sit in the patches of feeble morning sunlight and smoke.
At times like these, a fiction writer needs to bridge the gap between reality and the fantastic, to create a story. An imagination for the emotional prostration of the public-morning drinker. A time when the bottle shop is also open and it’s far cheaper to drink at home. Is this the highlight of the day for these tired men, drinking ’til they run out of money, or are cut off from service, before placing one foot in front of the other until they arrive at their door? Perhaps it’s analogous to the man (it’s almost always a dude) who sits on his laptop at a cafe making obvious frustrated sounds into his computer screen, holding the people around him hostage with self importance.
The guy (again, mostly men) at the pub at this hour; it’s like he’s drinking in an observed environment to somehow give his addiction resonance. Like the act of writing, or a creative pursuit in general, our personal narratives are meaningless to the world until they are, for lack of a better term, recognised. They drink in public to be observed and in doing so their story is legitimised, for however brief a moment in time.
Or maybe like me they just love the pub.