It’s the last day of March and it feels chilly and blustery in this corner of East Anglia. The Min Pins and I have lit the stove in the kitchen.
I would like to share a story with you. So pull up a chair, pour yourself a cup of tea (if you’d like something a bit stronger be my guest) and I will begin.
When I worked in London’s Wardour Street in the Soho area, pubs (bars) were an important part of daily working life. That’s not to say that we were in pubs for eight hours a day – although a few desperados took advantage of the Wi-Fi and worked out of a corner of a pub, beer glass on hand.
Pubs were used for celebrating a new contract win, commiserating over a disaster, lifting a glass to the end of the week and they were fresh fields where you might hook a new client or boyfriend. Pubs were an integral part of the ‘90s culture.
It was in a pub that I heard this story.
John was a successful advertising executive. A useful man to know if you were looking for freelance work. He liked a drink and was often seen propping up the bar. The problem was that he didn’t buy a drink. Ever. Whenever it was his round he’d vanished.
Of course everyone knows the ground rules about drinking in pubs. Light years ago when I was a teenager my mum gave me the best advice ever.
“If you can’t afford to buy your round of drinks don’t go out to a pub. If you find yourself in a pub with friends and have to leave, buy a round of drinks before you leave even if you have only had one drink. Never buy just one drink for yourself, if you have to leave/don’t want to stay – it’s a cheap and tight way of operating.”
As you can imagine John’s aversion to buying drinks did not go down well at all and his reputation quickly spread as “The Man Who Never Buys Drinks”. Back then clients were treated to drinks, meals and even holidays by grateful freelancers. But to be seen cashing in on this massive stream of goodwill was considered dastardly.
So one day a group of friends got together and hatched a plan. Hints had failed. Pack action was called for.
I just need to explain one small detail here. Most people that worked around Soho had a handful of pubs that they visited. We all used each venue for different reasons, the ones on the outer edge of the map were ones that were free from the likelihood of bumping into clients. These places were reserved for meeting friends and just having fun.
After a couple of drinks with the group in a Wardour Street pub, John had been softened up sufficiently.
“Let’s go to the Toe and Crampit (made up name).”
“I’ve never been there.” John was intrigued “What’s it like?”
After a long pause and a few glances someone generously extended the invitation to John to join the party.
The pub was heaving with people who’d bought John drinks in the past. In the crush at the bar one of our group managed to stick a sign on John’s back without him noticing. The message was simple.
“My name is John and I don’t buy drinks!”
Of course, John was on the outside of the group. In no way would he pressing forward to fight for front position at the bar. Within seconds people were offering to buy him a drink.
John was ecstatic.
“This is a marvellous place! People even know my name! They want to buy me drinks!”
So many people were offering him drinks that he was overwhelmed. He already had four beers on the table and actually had to refuse offers.
Eventually someone brushed past his back and he sensed the paper note. He reached behind and found it. And read it. His ‘pals’ watched him in fascinated silence.
John stood up, ripped the offending paper into shreds and jumped up and down on the pieces in a red faced rage.
And I’m pleased to report that ever since then he has bought drinks.
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