Death and Taxis

How many funerals does the average person attend in a lifetime do you think? Twenty? Thirty? I have no idea. I do know that for landlords and landladies it’s considerably more.
I write this the day after attending a rather poignant one for me. Don’t get me wrong, all funerals are sad by nature, but some are sadder than others.
Yesterday we said goodbye to Mick; a legend of a bar room comedian and as respected a customer as I have ever had the privilege to serve.
He had been a punter of ours (and our previous incumbents) for more than thirty years. Our boozer was described as his ‘second home’ at the funeral, causing a ripple of nervous laughter from the mourning throng. My wife and I were even thanked by name during the service. This was not the first time this has happened, but it always makes me feel more guilty than exalted because, to be blunt, we have undoubtedly contributed to – and profited from – his premature death.
I’m always uneasy at these occasions; wary of the accusing stares from teetotal relatives. Mindful that pub culture is not everyone’s idea of a good time. Downright scared of being confronted by a grieving sibling accusing me of benefiting from others’ ill health – a charge I cannot easily refute.
There is the argument that if we don’t serve them their grog then somebody else will happily oblige; that we are delivering solace in a sleever; that ultimately it’s their choice to drink more than they should, but it’s still at the front of your mind when Amazing Grace is playing and the doors close on the coffin before it hits the furnace.
Every time.
In moments such as these one must convince oneself that we deal in pleasure and, as with many of lifes pleasures, the payment is not just in pounds and pence.
We tell ourselves that we merely open the doors of a morning and everyone that crosses our threshold does so of their own volition. We try and forget the damage we have inflicted on them as we help them into a taxi after two or three too many.
I doubt managers of fast food restaurants, tobacconists or illegal drug dealers attend the funerals of their ex customers or feel the same pangs of guilt that I feel. I don’t really know if many other pub landlords do either, but the difference is that we see it happening on a daily basis.
The obese corpse has many contributing factors to it’s lifeless state, but when it’s someone who you know for a fact only drank your beer, at your table, in your pub then it’s difficult not to feel a sense of shame and regret at your choice of profession. But, hey, somebody’s got to do it, haven’t they?
So, to Mick and all the others whom I have helped shuffle off their barstool over the years: Rest in peace. I hope you think that the pleasure was worth the years you sacrificed. The fact that most of them would probably agree that it was is my solace.
In loving memory of Mick Collet. Sleep well, fat bloke x

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