Yes, that IS me you can feel in your back!

All right, I’m about to sound like a a bit of a nerd or a proper pub quiz champ with a Spock fetish, so bear with me.

In my entire life, I have never looked at the evening spread out before me, full of infinite possibilities, and decided, “OK, I’m going to go find a complete stranger and talk her into coming home and having sex with me.” I am not attempting to sound like some sort of sensitive panty-man here; I certainly hold no discernible philosophical qualm with the notion of engaging in carnality with a woman with whom I am otherwise not familiar, particularly if she bulges in all the right places and has no specific problem with bringing a friend. And if a few clever words and a bit of banter helps me to achieve that goal… why not?

But I’m talking about something else. There seems to be a whole culture out there — presumably fuelled by alcohol-drenched freshers parties from years past where Smith’s little sister would be willing to go all night if offered the right drink by the right guy — that involves sad little men walking up to random women and asking them, repeatedly, where they’re from, what they’re like, what they do all day, how did they get such beautiful eyes, until they either stop accepting the free drinks, find a tall bouncer to hide behind or, in a one-in-20,000 shot, they actually succumb to the drunken charms and just sleep with them already.

This surely isn’t shocking to you. If you’re not a part of this culture — and even if you are, you’re loathe to admit it — you certainly have seen it, probably anytime you head out for a Friday night. But I could never really get my head around it. Either I’m at the theatre/cinema/band night, chilling with my mates down at the pub or at someone’s house, or I’m sitting at home reading a book while bouncing coins off the carpet trying to discover the Meaning Of Life, watching telly or a movie, or doing other random and occasionally unspeakable things. The thump-thump, hey-I-haven’t-seen-you-here-before club world is not really my regular social scene, to say the least, but it’s everywhere, and when I stumble across it, it’s like joining a conversation midway and realising everyone’s speaking Esperanto.

The other evening, I met up with some friends for drinks after work. We left the work week behind with two-for-one specials and shots with vaguely bigoted names — what, exactly, is a Black Russian? — and the resident deejay playing the hits of the day. The minutes bled into hours, and towards the end of the night, it was just me, Richard and Dave, and Richard’s girlfriend, Sally. The guys were shooting darts — quite well, I feel obliged to point out — and I stepped outside for some fresh air and a phone call. When I returned, a bald guy in an Old Navy button-up long sleeve with a peculiar stain on his trousers was talking to Sal.

Now. People talk to each other all the time at bars. One of the fun aspects of drunken nights in this city of ours is the raw amount of miscreants you meet here, the unwanted, the listless, the lost. They all have stories to tell, some tedious, some implausible, but always new, always unexpected. This seems like a natural process to me. Sally’s talking to a strange guy over there; hey, why not? He might have a funny story we’ll get to hear later. But then it went on, and she started to look uncomfortable, and he started touching her arm, and shit, then I really didn’t know what to do. I mean… is he trying to pull? Doesn’t he see she came in with a strapping stud of a man, albeit one carrying a scorebook and a freshly sharpened set of darts? I looked at Rich — he was squinting at the dartboard and completely oblivious to everything else — and back at Sal. Finally, she sidled over to me, with “him” tugboating along, lapping up the back of her hair, and she shot me a look of distinct disappointment. She hissed in my ear: “Why didn’t you save me from that guy?”

Um… Me?! Glancing again at Richard (her boyfriend, in case you’re not keeping up). He was still oblivious but, from the look Sal gave him, she seemed to expect that. She explained that, well, this happens all the time. “I’m just used to it at this point. It happens every time you go to a bar.” Now, she is quite pretty, but it still hadn’t registered. Did this guy really think he was going to get laid? I found out later that he told her she had the most beautiful eyes in the bar, which would be quite a compliment had I not overheard him saying it to another girl about 15 minutes earlier.

That said… I mean, who says “you have the most beautiful eyes in this bar” with a straight face? Seriously. Come on! Another friend was out recently and the guy behind her dropped this cringe-worthy delivery: “Yes, that is me you can feel in your back!” Are you fucking kidding me?! After millions of years of evolution, when we’ve put a man on the moon, this is the best we’ve come up with?

There’s this guy I know, a pleasant enough bloke with close friends and an apparent plan in life, who, for some reason, turns into a sucking letch when he goes to a bar. It’s fascinating to watch him in action. You’ll be standing there, having a conversation about whatever, and by the time you’ve set your drink down, he’s lurking behind the Allen sisters with the big boobs sipping their vodka cranberries at the end of the bar. He’s not unattractive, necessarily, but he’s no Brad Pitt, I’ll tell you that.

You just look at him, like a kid trying to score goals from the corner flag at the end of practice, thinking that if he actually hits this ridiculously unlikely shot, his life will somehow have meaning. And it’s miss after miss. But he keeps kicking them; someday, it has to go in, right?

And he’ll plug on forever, I bet, until he lucks into that one off the post, which will be all the impetus he needs to keep shooting.

And ladies, ladies, ladies… why must thou encourage them so? No, you’re not exempt from this whole thing. Why a woman who doesn’t want to be picked up — and, honestly, what woman wants to be picked up by a stranger at a bar? I mean, has it ever worked? — would accept an unsolicited drink from one of these guys is beyond my range of comprehension. I mean, I like free drinks too, but is it worth it to be hounded by Vic from Staines all night?

I think there should be some sort of rule. If you accept a free drink from a stranger, you should be required to sit in a room alone with him and a chaperone, and actually listen to him talk for an hour. Many wasted evenings would be nipped in the bud quite quickly, I reckon. “No, no, actually, I don’t live with my parents. But yes, yes, I’m sure the rent is cheap.”

I don’t know. I think I’m just out of my element here and lashing out. In a way, I have to respect a guy with the balls big enough to gleefully dispatch with any fear of rejection and plunge forward, undaunted. But at the end of the night, when it’s dark, and the chat rooms have quieted… is this any way to live your life? Do you need someone that badly? What is it you’re looking for, exactly?

Of course, with guys like Rich standing in the corner squinting at a dartboard while you chat up their girls… I suppose I can’t blame you.