Monday, 18 July 2016

The Transitory Nature

Maybe some day you'll miss me, and when you really miss me, you'll turn around I won't be there

Recently, one of the barmaids at my local announced she was leaving to go and live in a campsite in the Balkans. "Next Saturday's my last shift, she said.  Of course, everyone made the suitably sad noises. Except, of course, me.  "You, don't look sad, Matt." she reacted.

"I presume there will be someone to serve drinks after you go, right?" I said "Are you sad to be going?". She admitted she wasn't really, as she was excited about the future.  But she still looked at me as though I was some kind of evil bastard.

As many of you know, I've worked in retail for 20 years.  The average service length of anyone in a low-level retail job is around 18 months (which will probably go down even further as the shops seek ever younger staff in ever fewer hours contracts), so in that time I've probably worked with hundreds of people.  When they leave, they always say they'll keep in touch with everyone and pop in now and again.  They almost never do.

In such a transitory line of work, it doesn't pay to be sentimental, though I do appreciate not everybody is able to be as heartless as me.  Recently, a pub manager I know said he was going to concentrate on a new pub he had the lease on 5 miles away (in the end he didn't, but that's a tale for another blog post).  Naturally, the story about this spread through his base of hardcore regulars, culminating in an incident one Sunday evening when one of them, who admittedly had been drinking pretty much all day, started crying at the bar. I did try to console him by saying this happened all the time in the pub trade and that nobody was actually dying or anything. How far I got in convincing him, I'm not sure.

In the end, life is what it is and people will move on.  One way or another you lose contact with everybody eventually, some in ways more final than others.  In the pub I'm presently typing this in, the member of staff presently serving is leaving next week to go and study in America.  I'm sure I'll miss them when they're not here, but there'll be someone behind the bar next Monday to serve me pints of Windermere Pale nonetheless.

Bar work pays poorly, and the hours are inconsistent.  Be nice to the staff, maybe even converse with them, but don't expect them to be there forever.  And, of course, remember to keep your distance.


  1. What this all rests on is the assumption that social interaction is a good thing - an assumption I share, although I confess to sometimes finding it difficult and exhausting. You're losing one of your stock of 'people to interact with', so your life is that much poorer, so you're sad. And it's polite to express or at least feign sadness, because if you're not sad it suggests that you don't value that person very highly - or rather, that you don't value that person *in particular*. Explaining that you don't value anyone in that position and never really have done probably wouldn't help, unfortunately.

  2. Not quite what I said. The way I see it, I go in I order drinks and pay for them. The bar staff are there to facilitate that purpose. If you start "emotionally investing" in people you're unlikely to know for long (I'm not the type of person a 22 year old barmaid would spend time with outside of work), then will spend a lot of your life very sad.

    Or maybe I'm just not like other people.

  3. As George Harrison once quipped - all things must pass. I've recently said goodbye to Heidi and Rosie at The Black Swan. But Amy and Jasmine are more than capable of pouring a great pint, and humour me when I tell them that I can remember when this (*points in a non specific direction*) used to be fields.

    1. Thanks. Good to know someone knows what I'm talking about and knows I'm not JUST a sociopath.

  4. Not sure about sociopath; there's no obligation in a pub to do any more than order and pay for your beer, preferably politely of course. As the crowd chanted in Life of Brian: "We're all individuals."