How many people have you know in your lifetime? Impossible to answer yet I reckon I’ve met more than most.
Yes, there are professions who interact with more people – a supermarket checkout worker will smile and beep at hundreds of people per shift; a passport control officer will scowl at thousand, and a traffic warden may get called a shit by more people than I meet for the first time every day, but they rarely get to know them for longer than it takes to do their job.
The hospitality industry is different. We not only sell to people, we influence how much people enjoy the product. You only have to check out online reviews on pubs, restaurants and hotels to see just how highly good service is valued.
It differs of course. Hotel employees are expected to be formal and efficient; waiting staff polite and friendly, but it’s the bar staff of a local boozer that really get to know their clientele and I’ve made many a friend over the years by chatting over the bar towels.
A regular at a hotel may only visit once or twice a year; at a restaurant maybe once a week, but in a local it can be anything from once a month up to two or three times a day – a quick one on the dog walk; a couple as they nip to the shop.
However frequent the visit, a regular is a regular and deserves the familiarity that is expected.
A hearty ‘hello!’ as they cross your threshold goes a long way, as does remembering their usual drink, but above all we must learn and remember their name.
What’s in a name?
Well, for some parents, not a lot of thought. Not just because of the absurdity of some christening decisions (a teacher friend of mine had a pupil called Dwyane Pipe. Honest), but because we seem to be very unimaginative when it comes to thinking up life handles. However, the abundance of Mikes, Daves, Sharons and Johns among the drinking classes does give lie to one of the more beautiful and, in my opinion, underrated aspects of pub culture.
Originally ‘an eke name’; ‘eke’ meaning additional. The ‘an’ and ‘eke’ got muddled together over time and became ‘a nick name’
Nick names are never deliberately chosen or given, they just sort of happen. Their origins are often untraceable and sometimes completely unfathomable, but I’ve come across some absolute beauts in my time behind the bar.
In order to save embarrassment, avoid beatings and because many people only read my blog to see if they’re in it, I’ve changed most of the actual christian names, but you’ll get the gist:
A person’s job is often the source: Mick the Fish worked on the fish counter at Sainsburys; Rick the knife had rather sinister connotations, but he actually sharpened knives for a living. Later he was known as Rick the bed when he started selling beds; Mick the rob was a known shoplifter (I’ve also met an Irish bloke known as Rob the Mick).
Sometimes things happen and stick. Literally. One guy I knew got a sink plunger stuck on his head and was known as Plunge for years.
Jo the Blow was a woman who frequented a pub I worked in years back. She was very popular with the blokes and also smoked a lot of pot so It’s a bit of a toss up as to how she collected that particular moniker.
But, lastly, the ones that appeal to me the most are those only spoken behind the person’s back because they’re just far too insulting – the bar room can be a cruelly funny theatre.
Rapist Clive (just because he apparently looks and acts like he might be)
Boring Bastard Bernie.
And the very aptly named, in my opinion, Steve the Cunt.