Swagman #6 – Saturday Night’s All Right For Fighting
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
It seems that the dust has finally begun to settle in the apartment, so I guess introductions are in order. Now that Brenton and Aki are both gone there are two Japanese girls – Naroko and Yko. Naroko speaks English very well since her father teaches the language in Japan. Aki has handed Naroko the torch and she is now attempting to teach me and Joe Japanese. Yko is a student and doesn’t speak English very well, but Naroko translates for us. The third bedroom is occupied by Reece and Christine. And in the fourth is the bed that Joe and I are still sharing, which continues to provides everyone with humor. Four rooms, six roommates, and one evil landlord. I smell a sitcom. At least once or twice a week the six of us get together and play card games, the most popular of which is ‘bullshit.’ Lamentably the sandwich maker is still MIA.
My second weekend of work got off to a rocky start. I’ll just say that I assumed I was to start at 8:00 on Friday night, same as the week before. So imagine my surprise when, while watching The Simpsons and shoveling pasta into my mouth, Andrew came out of his office and told me I was supposed to be at work an hour and a half ago then simply walked away. Work had called the cell phone, which Joe had, Joe had called Andrew, and Andrew brutally broke the news to me. Cursing, I got dressed quickly and rushed to the plub. Turns out the times vary and I have to call in on Mondays to get my schedule. Nobody said it was easy.
I have very mixed opinions of the bands that I have seen at the plub so far. I thought the band on Friday was pretty good, despite the fact that the lead singer wore leather pants and their name was The Wildcatz. I mean, come on.
“They’re all rubbish,” Briney told me.
In a surprising turn of events, I was working the back bar with her. Craig had approached me while I was straightening up in the pokie room. I am still not sure what his role is in the bar, but he seems to have a hand in the management. Also he is roughly twice my size so I listen intently when he speaks, which is pretty necessary anyway because he speaks his words quickly and curtly, like machine gun fire.
“Wur won barkee short so yull be ina back bar wit Briney,” he told me. He took me around behind the bar, where Briney was rushing around. There he quickly pointed out where everything was, slapped me on the back hard enough to emit a sound from my mouth, and left. Anyone waiting for a drink eyed me. Chum in the water.
The two most difficult things for me is that I had never heard of any of these beers before I arrived here a few weeks ago, and that I am still trying to get a handle on the accents. It doesn’t help when there’s music thumping, people shouting, and the speaker is slurring.
“Gimme tew knew a veebee n a vodka lemonade.”
The two New and VB were no problem. I couldn’t find the lemonade, so I asked Briney. She pointed to the ‘Sprite’ button on the gun.
“Lemonade,” she said.
“That’s what you call Sprite?”
“So what do you call lemonade?” I had to know. She looked confused.
“Lemonade,” she responded.
I went back and forth between bartending and clean up thoughout the night, which was pretty uneventful. Saturdays are the most fun though.
The band on Saturday definitely had the advantage in the battle of the band names. They go by The Endless Summer Beach Party, which was ironic considering it was freezing outside. They opened up with the Beach Boys’ Surfin’ Safari and a fight immediately broke out. It would have made for a better story if they were playing Good Vibrations, but I guess they didn’t know that one. I was the first on the fight scene and had to round up security.
“You the bouncer, mate?” one of the guys asked me. I found some humor in that.
“No,” I said. “He is.” I jammed a thumb behind me towards Leo, an intimidating Tongan who is roughly 250 pounds and has to duck to walk into doorways. Everyone involved in the fight was cast in his shadow. I found even more humor in that.
By midnight there were two fights, one drunk who was thrown out screaming, and about five broken glasses. Strangely enough I’m getting used to it. I make jokes about it with Johnny, an older man from Tonga who also cleans up with me. Johnny was a boxing champion in Tonga when he was younger, but one of the bartenders confessed to me that he thinks Johnny took one too many shots to the head. It’s tough to guess his age. I would say 40s, but it’s impossible to ask him because it’s completely impossible to decipher what Johnny is saying. I’ve tried very hard but just can’t follow. I ask him to repeat himself, but there’s the unspoken rule that asking someone to repeat himself more than 2 or 3 times is rude so I just pretend like I know what he’s saying. Seems everyone else does the same.
I try to avoid looking at my watch throughout the night because that’s torture. By now I can basically guess the time on Saturdays by what’s going on in the place:
10:00pm – I arrive and clock in. The pub is relatively full, the lights are pretty much all on. Nothing to clean up, a few glasses to collect.
10:30 – Somewhere in the pub someone must be giving something away because roughly 50 people pile in at once. The lights dim. By now the band is playing and a few people are dancing.
11:00 – 12:00am – At some point the crowd multiplied and the place is now packed. Thankfully we switch from glass to plastic.
12:08 – The band, doesn’t matter which one, plays Pearl Jam’s Betterman.
12:30 – The band finishes and the pub turns to club. DJ music starts. Flashing colored lights and smoke machine are in full effect. By now there has usually been at least one fight. I need a strong drink.
1:30 – The mop comes out for the third time. Somewhere in the plub someone falls down and everyone laughs. I move through the dance floor to collect glasses from the far wall, past the girls who grab my tie, past the couple who must be taking swing dance lessons.
2:00am – 3:00 – Hazy, dark, I work on instinct. Confusion sets in on most of the patrons and they lean on walls.
3:00 – 3:30 – Ashtrays are futile. The floor is covered in butts and empty cups, which float in puddles of spilled beer.
4:00 – The back bar and pokie room shut down. I go into the back bar and sit for a second, slap myself once or twice for the second wind and go back out into the crowd. By now about 60% of the place is making out with each other.
4:30 – The DJ plays Eminem and/or House of Pain. Everyone on the dance floor erupts. I sneak off to the pokie room again and clean up, savoring the semi-peace.
4:48 – The DJ plays Kenny Roger’s The Gambler. When I hear this I know I’m home free. The song now holds a special place in my heart. It is followed up by an Irish song, and then the lights come on. People stop making out and get a good look at one another. There is further confusion when the bouncers start yelling. Some people scurry like ants, some can’t seem to move.
5:00 – 6:30 – Clean up, which would be disturbing if it didn’t indicate that the night was over. By the time I get home I am still full of adrenaline and need to shower and read for a bit before I can fall asleep.
“They’re animals,” Briney told me on Friday.
This reminded me of the film Apocalypse Now, which was appropriate because I think the last words I utter before I fall asleep are “The horror. The horror.”