My idea of a perfect afternoon is one spent at the pub, with a friend or two and a beer or two. I say afternoon, because pubs tend to get noisier come suppertime and later, and since the best part of any pub visit for me is the conversation, I prefer to go at times when my companions and I don’t have to yell to be heard.
When I started to travel, I realized early on that it and pubs go well together. And I do mean early on – like, the first night of the first big trip I ever took, which was a Greek cruise. The ship was called Splendour of the Seas, and perched at the very top was a bar ringed with windows that gave a 365° view, called The Crown Lounge.
Although that night, we were well out to sea, so the view was nothing more than a vast blackness. I’d hesitated when Ron suggested we go to the Crown Lounge, as there was supposed to be some sort of group dance lesson going on – salsa, maybe? – and I figured it would be crowded and loud. But it turned out there was hardly anyone there. The lack of people, along with the darkness outside and our seats in a high-sided, curved booth, gave a sense of both privacy and extravagance to the night. The bar was huge, but it was almost entirely ours, and even when things got a bit noisy, the wings of our booth curving around and over us reinforced our little spot as our own.
The lack of customers also meant that we got a lot of personalized attention from the servers. There were two of them, whose names I forget. (Or, more likely, never knew.) But I do remember the woman was from Hong Kong, and she called us Madam Donna and Sir Ronald all night, thus cementing herself as one of my favourite servers of all time. I don’t know if the bar didn’t follow traditional serving zones, or if it wasn’t busy enough to bother, or if there was some other reason, but the two of them tag-teamed us all night, alternating who stopped by our table to keep us in drinks.
Perhaps it was because we were entertaining. While Ron was sticking with beer and rum and cokes, I was in a bit of an odd mood, and was mixing things up. Beer, wine, white Russians, Long Island iced teas, margaritas. Hell, I even had a martini, despite the fact that I hate martinis. And olives. But sometimes, you’ve just gotta pretend you’re James Bond.
All of this prompted our server to exclaim, “Madam Donna, you drink everything!” Which, considering that I was a teetotaler until I was in my 30s, made me giggle. And, most likely, order another round.
The crown jewel of our evening at the Crown Lounge actually stemmed from my lack of drinking knowledge. Somehow the subject of drop shots came up, specifically Dr. Peppers. I had no idea what a drop shot was, and the only Dr. Pepper I knew was the soda. So Ron explained that you take a glass of beer (preferably Coors Light), with a bit of Coke, drop a shot glass of Amaretto into it, and then chug the whole thing.
I found this, if not exactly appealing, at least intriguing. So we ordered some. At least I wasn’t alone in my ignorance, as our server – the man this time – had never heard of a drop shot, either. Ron explained it, but the server still looked confused by the end, and a minute or so after he’d left, Ron said, “I hope he doesn’t pour the Amaretto into the beer,” leapt to his feet, and took off.
He arrived just in time to stop the server from doing just that. On top of that, the beer glasses are supposed to be quite small, and the ones he’d poured were full size. Ron ended up in the kitchen, helping hunt for glasses that would work, then walking our server through things.
When they came back to the table, I had many questions. “So I drop the Amaretto in? Like, shot glass and all? And then I drink it right away? Do I have to drink it all in one go? Won’t I bounce the shot glass off my face? Do you really expect me to manage to not bounce the shot glass off my face?”
Eventually I was satisfied that this wasn’t some elaborate trick, and we drank, our server watching on with interest. I guess I liked it. I mean, we ordered another, so I must have, right? Either way, the server brought his co-worker along with our second round. Turned out she’d seen him mixing them and was curious, and he’d told her it was something the fun Canadians had shown him. As they approached our table, she exclaimed with a huge smile, “Madam Donna! Sir Ronald! I knew it would be you!”
I suppose there are worse ways to be perceived.