Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Over a Barrel




The tale below took place a few years ago when I was working behind a bar. Everything was new to me and even simple tasks in hindsight were mountains back then. So with that in mind, sit back and enjoy my tale of ineptitude and a cartoonist out of water.


Roberto is somewhat of an enigma at the hotel where I work. There is nothing that this diminutive head waiter cannot solve with a tired, almost bored flick of the wrist, a swarthy grunt or a confident air that can only be fully realised by someone who has spent an inordinate amount of their youth, fiddling around olive groves.

A couple of nights back the lager tap ran dry and I had to go down to the cellar and change the barrel for the first time on my own.

It is a relatively simple process, involving you twisting the gas tube off the empty barrel, removing it, bringing the new one in, and attaching the gas line; locking it on, releasing the catch, pumping the liquid into a tube and watching the gravity ball float to the top.

Like I said, a relatively simple process. But like all processes that involve more than one level and me, there’s a disproportionate amount of catastrophes that can be realised; especially if you have a large collection of other barrels, a virtual spaghetti plate of tubes and wires, a low ceiling, high pressure gas lines and cylinders and a stockroom full of as-of-yet unbroken bottled fruit mixers and beers…and ME.

So as I said, I had to go and change the barrel, leaving the customer and Roberto, our diminutive head waiter and smouldering cauldron of Mediterranean hormones, playing candy crush on his cracked mobile.

So off I toddled down to the cellar, located the barrel, twisted and pulled the line off---a little too close to my face, giving my eyebrows a middle parting they hadn’t planned on receiving---and put it to one side. I took the old barrel out of the way and located the new. So far all was going well.

I then flipped the cap off the new cask, slotted the gas line onto it, twisted the nozzle into place, released the catch and stood mesmerized at all hell broke loose around me.

Like I said, where there is an infinite amount of moves that can be mirrored by an equally infinite number of catastrophes---and me---then you have the prefect recipe for disasters.

Put simply, I had placed the nozzle over the cap in the only way I could see how. It had seemed to slot perfectly into place when in actual fact, all it had done was to break the seal. And within a few brief seconds it had built up the pressure to near critical mass and forced the gas line off like a cork from a Champagne bottle and began to liberally spread its liquid presence all over me and the low ceilinged cellar. I slipped on another barrel, which I’d been using as a stepping stone to the one I wanted, and landed unceremoniously onto the cold flag stone floor. The barrel continued to erupt as the gas line was flipping and swirling around the room like a very annoyed Cobra who has just found out he’s been double booked at a snake charmers convention.

I reacted with a mixture of panic and panic by hurling myself at the gas line, missing it, and being thanked for my efforts by getting an eye full of mass produced lager, this made me lash out to regain my balance with the effect of upending the barrel towards the wall. The pressure of the newly upended lager and the newly discovered wall was, well, quite spectacular really.

It launched itself off the wall and into me, sending us both into the bottled fruit mixers and beer stockroom; the still irate gas line followed us in for no other reason that it could sense a bit of fun in the offing. When I landed with a winded oouf! I still had a firm yet desperate hold on the barrel as the gas line snapped back and forth like a spitting cobra.

Now in situations like this, when you are either holding onto a very annoyed Tiger or a beer barrel with too much fizz, it is always a wise move to let go of the object and seek refuge. But when you have a severely parted eyebrow, and eye full of fizzing lager and a beer barrel that has you in a full nelson, you tend not to act with normality.

I have no idea how long me and the barrel were locked in mortal combat, or how drenched I actually got, but at some point between me and the barrel dragging ourselves around the cellar, and closing time, it all came to an abrupt halt. It took me a few moments to catch my breath, but when I did manage to focus briefly on the carnage around me, I saw that Roberto, who had obviously surmised correctly that I had been gone too long and had probably gotten myself into a pickle of epic proportions, had glided downstairs on an air of Mediterranean confidence and cool, grabbed the barrel by the scruff of its collar, calmed the beast of a gas line, slotted it in place, filled the tube, released the ball---all with one hand--- while moving up two levels on his candy crush.

By the time I had got back up stairs and was mopping myself down, Roberto had served the customer and was back on his bar stool muttering something that sounded both derogatory, and probably well deserved, in Italian.


I went back to my position behind the bar and quietly dripped while standing in awe at this pint sized Fonzy.


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On Friday page three of the eight part segment of the new Brabbles & Boggitt story goes live. Try not to miss it, I did, after all, spend a lot of time preparing it

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