Tuesday, 19 August 2008

On rescuing fair maidens from lunatics

It had been a Friday night shift like any other - constantly busy working beneath a film of sweat and alcohol mist. The bar was lined with regulars, tourists, locals and lone drinkers.

One small guy seated at the end on his own had spent his evening drinking white wine spritzers and talking to himself and any poor soul who happened to sit beside him. He was harmless enough, although by the end of the evening his drunken jabbering was beginning to wear my patience. As 3am approached and the time came for me to close the pub and politely yet firmly eject all those who weren't in some way assimilated with the place, I asked him to finish up. He responded as anyone in such a situation would I guess - by firmly clutching his drink and launching into a rendition of the French national anthem. I left him to it. By now there were just myself, three off-duty staff, and a trio of pretty Austrian girls whom I had no beef with - they could finish their drinks at their leisure and leave with the rest of us.

As I completed my cleaning duties and poured myself a hard-earned drink I noticed Frenchie had latched on to the girls, who were politely humouring him. He could barely focus and seemed in danger of tumbling off his stool. Half an hour passed and the girls got up to leave but were followed to the door by their new fiend (that's not a typo - I'm being clever). He was clearly enamoured, yet not welcome, so one of the girls discreetly asked if I could distract him as they left - one of them lived close by and they didn't want him finding out her address. Try as I might, he would not be easily swayed. I figured I'd wait until they all left, then call them back in and lock him out.

As I ushered them back inside he looked me dead in the eye, showing a flash of something more sinister than just a desperate drunk, and announced, "I'll wait." And wait he did, staggering around in the street out front. For another half hour. We contemplated calling the police but he wasn't technically causing any harm and surely the bunch of us could handle one harmless drunk? So we hatched a plan - one of my colleagues would escort them, rapidly, in the opposite direction to their home, hoping he'd be too busy trying to stay standing to notice, and they could then cut back on themselves to safety as he lagged behind and got lost.

But no.

What followed was actually pretty creepy, and I'm not going to do it justice with my words. As he saw them walking off, he turned into something much more calculating than just a drunk. He must have somehow realised what we had planned as in an instant he stopped staggering and singing, sprang bolt upright and sprinted off in the other direction, seemingly hoping to cut them off behind the buildings. He showed no evidence of having ever been drunk at this point. A colleague realised what was going on and sprinted after him, and the colleague's girlfriend asked if I'd go too as she was worried something might happen to her man. To try and give you some idea of how creepy this whole thing felt by now, she's a rational girl, her boyfriend giving chase is 6'9" and broad as hell, the weirdo was about 5'6", and yet she genuinely sounded concerned for her guy's safety.

So I ran off too, feeling a bit ridiculous to be chasing a giant, who was in turn chasing a drunken dwarf, and with no idea what anyone of us would do if and when we met. As we rounded the corner on to a dead straight street that ran on for around 500 metres, the guy was nowhere to be seen. There was no way he could have covered that distance so soon and hidden round a corner, and the two of us split up and walked the length of the street looking for him but to no avail.

Neither he nor the Austrian girls have been back to the pub since, and I'm hoping they got home safely and he got the message that he wasn't welcome, but I'm still intrigued as to what was going through his mind that whole night and where the hell he hid from us in that street.

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