A Field Guide To Talkative Barfliesby Bill Tuomala
"As a fellow abusive drinker you are honor bound by barstool etiquette to sit there and listen to every word I have to say."
- Dr. Cox from Scrubs
Aside from those pesky health hazards your doctor warns you about in his "only two drinks per day" talk (what part of "Finnish writer" doesn't that dude understand?), perhaps the biggest hazard of spending time in bars is being dragged into conversations with barflies. A good meditation, buzz, or hypnotic gaze into a game on TV can be damaged or outright ruined by some sauced-up regular who feels the need to talk. What follows is a brief field guide to some of the individuals that may meet you in a watering hole and talk your ear off soon. When in doubt, smile and suck it up.
Typical attire: In the words of the Stray Cats: "A real square cat he looks 1974."
He will pump dollar after dollar into the jukebox and generally will play songs only by one artist. Usually this will be a seventies AOR band such as Rush or Pink Floyd. The diehard Uriah Heep fans that are left out there show themselves in this situation. Don't be surprised if you hear the Firm for the first time since the Kansas City Royals were still a force. Be careful to not sing or lip-sync along with Humble Pie's "30 Days In The Hole." (I learned this the hard way.) The conversations forced upon you will revolve around the jukebox hog's fave band and how "fuckin' great" they are. Do not dispute this and try to find some middle ground between showing overdone faked interest in the band and showing your obvious apathy for the band. Eventually, someone else will gain control of the jukebox and your new buddy will fade into the night.
Typical attire: Sports team jerseys, hats, teeshirts, etc.
After the Twins were swept by the Oakland A's in the first round of the playoffs last fall, Twins apparel was drastically marked down and I fulfilled a long-time dream of getting a Twins blue "TC" hat and only paid thirteen bucks for it. This proved to be my downfall in the bars as the hat identified me as a sports fan. I had to bluff my way through many a conversation with dedicated sports guys about starting pitching, utility infielders, and players in Triple A.
Sports guy is generally friendly as long as a game or highlight show is on the TV. If you nod along with his opinions and assessments, he'll go on and on and mostly leave you alone. But if you are like me and have a propensity to show off your trivia knowledge by, for instance, trying to name the starting lineup of the 1970 Baltimore Orioles or referring to Oscar Robertson's averaging a triple-double for an entire NBA season ... well you've been warned, it will be a long night that goes deep into the sports world arcane. Then again, when a bartender chips in with a "Paul Blair!" as he pours a draft, it can totally make an evening out.
OVERLY FRIENDLY OLDER GUY
Typical attire: Varies.
This guy will give you unsolicited advice on subjects that you either have mastered or have no concern about. The same advice will be repeated over and over and over. You'll end up promising to never get multiple tattoos or to start a smoking habit. You will have to pledge again and again and again. He will either hit you up for a drink or more likely will buy you a shot. He will feel sheepish when he finds out you're much older then he imagined. Resist the urge to ask him: If you're so full of wisdom, then why are you in the same bar every night cornering people with the same unnecessary advice?
And if he gives you his phone number ... well it's understood that it's not for you to call and ask for help, capiche?
Typical attire: Silly facial hair, goofy hat, dorky glasses, never shows a smile (a smirk is ever-present.)
Like most of indie whitebread rock - which takes decent, swinging rhythm sections and decent, passionate vocalists out of rock 'n' roll - hipsters substitute irony for anything that might make a better ingredient. These jokers have irony confused with wit and aside from choosing irony over wit, they also choose irony over passion and irony over self-righteous indignation. They tend to take the joy out of a nice bender. Raised in a sad subculture that has drained black influence out of its music; the bands these clowns like never grew up having to play with the expectation that people might like to dance, so you get music with crappy rhythms. The crappy vocals come from the genre's hidden motto: indie rock means not having to try hard.
When a hipster does karaoke, invariably he thinks he is funny by singing something like Journey's "Faithfully." Instead, he does us aural harm by reminding us of Steve Perry's whine and the rock-lite that Journey specialized in. If the clown were truly funny, he'd instead do Journey's "Separate Ways" and get his buddies in on it and recreate the song's unintentionally hilarious video, complete with its on-the-waterfront fist-pumping action. Ah hell, they'd blow it anyway - hipsters simply can't be funny.
No worry, the hipster generally is too above it all to want to talk to you, you're just a regular Joe. But there are the rare ones that do feel compelled to corner you into a conversation. And in such a case, there is nothing more fun than serving up solid middle American values to 'em in spades. Hence arguments such as: Waylon Jennings over Elvis Costello; Creedence over the Velvet Underground; AC/DC over the Ramones; Paul Revere and the Raiders over anybody. Also be sure to assert - correctly - that the MC5 and the Stooges were first and foremost metal bands. You get secret bonus points if you call the hipster's preferred brew a "Blue" or indiscriminately yell: "PBR me ASAP!"
Typical attire: Varies.
This guy is the wild card. Be careful - once you make eye contact, you are sunk. He usually speaks in gibberish that is tough to interpret. Many times it helps to smile and give a thumbs-up. He may start to swear at you but is more likely to declare you a "good friend." Don't be surprised if on your second encounter with him, he tells the exact same story he told you the last time you saw him. As incredibly drunk as this person can be, it'll be tough to shake his attention once you are in his (double) sights. If it gets to be too much, you may have to cut your losses and sadly, leave the bar. Don't take it too hard - even Dr. Cox would have left long before you did.