The Occasionals

“Evening, Mike. Pint of Smooth?”

We like Smooth Mike.

We also like Fosters Steve, Pinot Annie, Cider Bob and Whisky Bern.

They’re dependable, gloriously predictable and invaluable to your average boozer. You can serve them with a nod and a raise of a branded glass and, for the most part, you can set your watch by them.

They generally just want routine and an easy life. They know who’ll be in at the times that they drink and strong bonds are formed by the most unlikely of pairings merely by regularly being in the same place, at the same time for the same reason. These are the people that get the best value for money out of pubs by garnering comfort, belonging and friendships.

Calling them regulars doesn’t do them justice and yet calling them mates misjudges the relationship. It’s all too easy to take them for granted and, as with many facets of life, it takes a common foe to make us appreciate what we have – The Amateur Drinker.

The Amateur Drinker is a creature who never operates alone. They hide themselves within crowds or large groups and go largely unnoticed by the majority of revellers. Christmas and New Years Eve are the obvious call to arms for these annoying occasionals, but there are plenty of other scenarios that deem it necessary for them to tear themselves away from whatever Netflix series they’re currently urging all their twitter followers to watch: stag/hen nights are often unavoidable, as are birthdays and other family gatherings. On top of this there’s the events that people think that they can’t possibly miss like World Cup matches and that live band that everyone’s been talking about.

Unfortunately for these dullards, these are all situations where the booze runs more freely than usual and the part time drinker is soon flushed out.

At first, within their comfort zone of near sobriety, they can be tricky to spot. You may get an inkling when you see a thirty year old bloke nursing a Baileys or see a girl with her nails painted in The George Cross ask a stressed barmaid if she does cocktails five minutes into England’s opening match in The European Championships, but it’s when the alcohol takes hold that they really catch your eye. That’s when the X-Box Doom merchant suddenly turns into John Travolta and the stay-at-home mum decides she’d make an excellent lap dancer. They shed the shackles of suburban boredom and act as they think that everybody does when they’re smashed, just like they saw on that Channel 5 documentary. In short they become a pain in the fucking arse and we just know that this high maintenance punter is going to wake up in the morning groaning “never again” and we won’t see them until next Christmas when they’ll do exactly the fucking same.

It’s not entirely their fault. They don’t use pubs regularly and so are hard pushed to understand the etiquette and social nuances that shape pub culture. To them it’s just a room, a bar and a vehicle for selfies. It’s not a pub; at least not the pub that we know and it’s not the pub that Smooth Mike knows.

Smooth Mike knows when amateur hour cometh. He’s seen the posters for the band. He knows what time the cup final kicks off and he hates New Year’s Eve.

Smooth Mike will be nowhere near the place when The Occasionals march. And therein lies the quandary: these packed nights fill the pub and the till, but at what cost? Smooth Mike will understand the occasional upheaval of his routine, but if it happens too often then he will find another bar to lean on. So ask yourself this: would you rather be serving Mike or that bloke stood on the table with a straw up each nostril pretending he’s a walrus?

I know which I prefer.

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