The Barstool Hunker
This popular move (though there’s not much actual moving involved) is usually practiced in dives that cater to regulars.
How it’s done: First you’ll need a barstool. Try to arrive before happy hour so you can get a good one. Experienced hunkerers will try to sit at the same barstool every time. Why? It augments their hunker status. Next, mark your territory: drape your jacket over the stool and pile the contents of your pockets on the bar top—bills, change, cigarettes (some purists believe you must smoke to properly hunker), lighter, pen, scribbled napkins, cellphone, whatever you got. Let them know you plan on hanging around for awhile. Now you’re all set to hunker.
Have a seat and lean into the bar top. Hunch your shoulders. Move as little as possible. When making a snide comments about what’s on the TV, use as few syllables as possible and mumble, damn you, mumble until even you don’t know what you’re saying. When you want a drink, just stare at the bartender and nod. Let him take the money from your pile, you’re too busy hunkering to move a muscle.
As the bar gets busier, people will start crowding around your quiet kingdom like desperate landless refugees trampling your unspoken no-trespassing signs. Do not acknowledge them. Refuse to order drinks for them. Tense your body like a coiled snake when they dare brush against you. Wear a long-suffering, terribly-insulted expression. When they apologize for reaching past you, mumble at them, if you chose to mumble anything at all.
The Name Leech
You’re a popular person and meet lots of people. And just how in the hell are you supposed to remember all their names? Of course they remember your name—there’s only one of you and thousands of them!
How it’s done: You stroll in the bar and he walks right up, says your name very confidently and shakes your hand. He looks familiar, that’s for sure, but what the hell is the bastard’s name? You have several options. You could say, “I’m sorry, I’ve forgotten your name,” but then you’d come off as a self-absorbed jerk. It’s much better to substitute his name for a friendly tag, i.e., “Long time no see, buddy!” Pal or the more neutral dude will also suffice. Better yet, use a familiarly with a little color like, “Hey, what’s the haps, streetwise?” If you can remember a single thing about the guy, bring it up immediately to further suppress his suspicions, such as, “Hey, how’s the jaw? That girl really slapped you hard.”
If you are with someone, try to duck the introduction, because that will blow your ruse wide open. If push comes to shove, however, introduce your friend first, then hope the guy will fill in the blank. Say, “Oh, hey, this is my girlfriend, Sally. Sally, this is my old pal . . . ” If your girl is already reaching for his hand he will probably say his name. If he doesn’t, just let it hang. He’s probably fucking with you and now holds the moral high ground. You have no choice but to buy him a drink.
But the war isn’t over. Stay within earshot of the mysterion and try to leech his name and personal information off his conversation with friends. Once you hear it, wait a few moments, then go in for the kill: “So, John, how’s the telemarketing business treating you?” Now you have the upper hand. Stand right there and wait for that buy-back cocktail.
The Joyous Screech of Recognition
You are very excited to be there. You are very excited to see your friends. You are very excited to order a drink. Let it show!
How it’s done: Wait until the bar is packed then storm in like you just bought the place over the phone. Look straight ahead and march directly to the bar. Do not acknowledge any of your friends until they come to you. When they do, feign complete surprise, then act very very excited to see them. Screech their names so loudly the guy vomiting in the restroom flinches. Use the words “darling”, “sweetie”, and “tremendous” very liberally and very loud. I don’t care if you’ve spent the entire day in the same cubicle with the person, behave as if you just strolled down the gangplank of the Queen Victoria after years abroad and the populace of the entire bar has been nervously waiting on the docks for you, the light of their lives and reason for living.
Once you’ve screeched at everyone in the bar you know, and perhaps some you don’t, it’s time to finish that martini, reboard the Queen Victoria and steam off to the next dock.
The Jukebox Lurk
No one has better taste in music than you (perhaps you even work at a record store) and why not share your vastly underappreciated knowledge with your fellow drinkers?
How it’s done: The jukebox is the bullhorn through which you will announce your brilliance. Load that fucker up with money. When you’re not playing songs, you should be leaning against the box. You’re the dj. Make sure you know at least ten songs by their numbers so you can make suggestions to anyone with the audacity to play their own songs. “Try 3212, you’ll really dig it. It’s the best song on Redundant Katweasel’s new album.” Or say, “There’s nothing good on there, this box is totally commercial.”
You are the mood master, you know what’s best for the rest. Set the tone—if the crowd seems a little blue, throw in something kitschy like Abba’s Dancing Queen. Once the party gets rolling, charge it up with some AC/DC (anything off Back In Black will do nicely), and if the crowd seems a little too celebratory, mellow them down with the Pogues Waltzing Matilda or anything by Tracy Chapman. And don’t be afraid to the play the same song more than once. New people are always walking in, they totally missed out on the brilliance of your earlier selections. Encore!
You may feel the need to sing along and dance to your picks, but remember to sit down and sulk when some interloper’s songs come on. You make even want to make faces at him from across the room. You were making the perfect segue-way from an old-school punk set into some obscure funk-hop when some idiot levered in some Willie Nelson, totally crushing your sublimely engineered groove. How’s the mood master supposed to set the mood when random jackasses keep queering his spin?
This spontaneous burst of excitement will identify you as the very beating heart of the party. The opposite sex will think you full of life—and slightly dangerous. One caveat: It’s best to execute this maneuver when there are no sports on the TV, or people will think you’re excited about some sweaty jock doing something with some manner of ball or stick.
How it’s done: It’s easy. You simply jump up from your chair like it suddenly got red hot, throw both arms in the air (make sure there is a drink in at least one of your hands) and yell, “Woo-hoo!” Then follow it with a “Yeah, baby.” Scan the room with your arms still in the air and nod as if to say, man, everything is just awesome with me right at this moment. You may even want to pump one fist a little, just make sure you don’t spill that drink. Then sit down and act like nothing happened. You know what they’re thinking—that is one fun, slightly dangerous motherfucker.
The Tab Challenge
There’s no fucking way you drank that many drinks. Just what are these fuckers trying to pull?
How it’s done: Get good and drunk. Then, after they’ve told you they don’t care if you heard last call or not, ask for your tab. Laugh a little when you get it, act like a good friend of yours is submitting a business plan to you, his good-natured millionaire buddy.
But wait a minute! This isn’t a humble request for a reasonable amount of money at all, it’s a slanderous insult! Narrow your eyes, if you have glasses put them on and look at the tab again. Move the treacherous pack of lies closer then farther from your face, maybe you’re just looking at it from the wrong angle. First you must display complete incredulity—is this a prank? Because if it is, you ain’t laughing. Mumble “impossible” a couple times as you run your barely-focused eyes down the vast list of drinks. Eight Guinnesses? You couldn’t drink eight of those nasty potions if they held a gun to your head. And a Purple Hooter? You wouldn’t be caught dead drinking that yuppie swill! Now it’s time to let them know. In a calm, yet concerned voice say, “There appears to be a mistake here.” Make sure you slur, it won’t be hard.
The staff, with their pious, stony and insultingly sober faces, will assure you there isn’t. You bought the Hooter for the girl in the red dress, they’ll remind you. And you were drinking Guinness like you’d just bought half their stock.
Doubts will creep in then, as you try to peer back through the black fog of the evening. But don’t let those doubts chip at your indignity.
Sign the credit card receipt like Tojo signing the surrender treaty after they dropped the second A-bomb. Beaten but unbowed. Mumble a couple nuggets of defiance, such as, “If I was buying for the whole bar they should have at least thanked me.” Toss their copy on the bar like you could care less—here’s your dirty shekels, my vast fortune shields me from any concerns with petty thievery. When you walk out, still mumbling, make sure your back is very stiff. And make sure you steal the pen.
The Cowardly Surveillance
This move is perfect for those who possess romantic intentions but are utterly devoid of the courage to carry them out.
How it’s done: Often practiced in groups, the first stage of the CS is spotting someone you think is totally hot. Someone you’d give your left arm to hook up with, just so long as there’s no blood, pain or permanent disability involved. After you spot her, tell your friends how hot she is. Perhaps she is sitting with friends who your friends think equally hot and you can act, or rather, not act, as a group.
Now that you’ve identified her, glance her way a lot. But never make eye contact; eye contact would cause instant cardiac arrest. Spin fantasies in your head, she’s probably the most charming and intelligent creature on earth. She probably collects Speed Racer pogs just like you! Imagine introducing her to your stunned parents with a big dumb grin on your face. Imagine yourself walking right up to her and asking her name. Imagine the way her eyes will light up as she tells you her name, it’s probably something cool like Naomi or Britannia.
Do a shot with your friends to bolster your courage and remind them you could really go for her. Laugh like a loon, to show her you know how to have a good time, then stare off into space with a slight melancholy frown to show you are burdened with a deep, deep soul. Just remember—do not go near her. Do not expend a single calorie toward actually meeting her. If you have to walk past her on the way to the restroom, walk fast and look in the other direction.
The Shot Tyrant
Look, someone has to march these goddamn drunks toward something that at least resembles a goal. Even if that goal is oblivion.
How it’s done: You’re the leader of the ragged pack. Hey, you didn’t ask for the job, but no one else was stepping up, so you had to take the reins. You’re calling the shots. At least every half hour announce, “Let’s do a shot!” Then it’s up to you to 1) Decide the shot, 2) Herd the scattered sheep into a shot circle, 3) Come up with a pertinent, yet fun, toast, and most importantly 4) Get someone else to pay for it.
The Round Bluff
Hey, the less rounds you have to buy, the, uh, less money you have to spend. But you still want to get drunk, don’t ya?
How it’s done: First, try to get the other guy to suggest ordering another round. You can prod him into this by looking into your empty glass, shaking the ice, then making a big production of pouring the last few drops of liquor down your throat. If he still won’t open his yap, chew your ice loudly.
Just because he says the magic words doesn’t mean your work is done. He still might expect you to pay for the round, especially if he’s bought the last four. While you’re waiting for the drinks to arrive, soften him up with a melancholy spiel about how it sucks not having a job. How you had to pay your mom’s hospital bill. It’s when the drinks arrive that you really have to go to work. First, try to start up a conversation with a neighbor, such a grand conversation that you don’t even notice the drinks arriving. If he still hasn’t paid when you turn back around, look at him like you’re a retard. You don’t even know what’s going on. If he still doesn’t pay, it’s time bring out the big guns. Reach your hand down quickly for your pocket, hoping he will do the same, then get real slow. There must be glue in your pocket because your hand is positively stuck. If he gets real slow too, drag out wadded-up dollar bills like a beggar counting his panhandling take. Mumble, “Shit, where did that twenty go?” as you sift through your hobo fortune. If this doesn’t embarrass your victim into coughing up, you’ve got one trick left. Open your innocent, well-intentioned eyes wide and say, “I could always start a credit card tab, I don’t think they’re all maxed out.”
If that doesn’t work, you need to find a dumber friend.
The Barroom Blitz
You are the life blood of the party. And what does blood do? It travels, baby, it never stops moving, it brings sustenance and life to all the miserable cells. And so shall you.
How it’s done: First off, the bar has to be packed or you’re going to come off as a coked-up nut. Identify the different groups, you probably have a friend or acquaintance in most of them. You are the pinball, they are the bumpers, the bartenders are the flippers. Now flit, baby, flit! Bounce from one table to the other, gushing joy. Shake hands, compliment clothing, slap backs. Shine a fleeting ray of sunshine into their dark and miserable lives then dance away after saying something like, “Oh, there’s Julie, do I have a secret to tell her!” And off you go. The secret is to never linger at a group long enough for the conversation to drift from you, don’t even give them the chance. Never, ever let yourself be seen standing alone because every mole secretly wishes to claw the soaring eagle from the sky and they will snicker at you. You will appear pathetic and lonely. Invade the lives of strangers if you must. It’s easy, just say something like, “You guys look like you’re having a good time over here,” or, better yet, “You girls seem so quiet, is this your first time here? What a lovely hat!”
The Bartender Soul Suck
You’ve been in bars long enough to know the bartender is a vastly under-appreciated cog in the machine. You love the mug, and it’s your job to keep him entertained. Even if it means sucking dry his very soul.
How it’s done: This is a very long move. Done properly, it will last from the moment the bartender comes on shift to the moment he, in a strangely brusque manner, ejects you at last call. First, you’ll need to sit at the bar. Try to sit near the well so he can’t hide. When it’s early and there’s hardly anyone in the place, strike up a friendly conversation. Get him to like you, let him know how much you appreciate his skills, let him know you don’t take him for granted like the rest. Build an emotional bond that will entitle you to his attention later, when the place starts to hop.
Remember, keep up the patter. Whenever he comes near you, start telling him a story. No matter how busy he is, no matter how many people are yelling orders at him, try to lure him over for a little chat. Talk fast, don’t let him slip in a “I gotta make some drinks.” If he does get away, put on the deeply hurt yet ultimately forgiving face of a long-suffering mistress. If he stops making eye contact and starts avoiding your section of the bar, immediately finish your drink and wave it at him, smiling. You’re a customer, after all, he has to serve you. Then, when he gets close, launch into a long diatribe about how you really really appreciate what he’s doing. Remember, you’re his moral support! Don’t let him down!
The Aggro Transmission
You hope to hell nobody hassles you, because you’re just dying to teach some jackass a lesson.
How it’s done: Glower at all times. When you’re standing still, flex your forearms. Never sit. Sitting makes you look weak. Hold your pool cue like a weapon. Let your glare sweep the room, if anyone makes eye contact, well, that fucker’s trying to start some shit. Do everything angry, drink your beer angry, light your cigarette angry, play pool angry, urinate angry. And why shouldn’t you be angry? Everyone is trying to fuck with you. The way they stand in your way when you want to walk, the way they sink the eight ball when you wanted to sink the eight ball, the way they squawk when you accidentally spill a beer on their heads. Practice these lines: “You got a problem, buddy? Want me to fix it for you? Because I got a tool box right here.” But instead of actually pulling out some kind of tool kit, show him your tightly bunched fist. It’ll totally freak him out.
The Bouncer Buddy-Up
Bars can be dangerous. You gotta have someone watching your back, and what better back-watcher than the huge guy at the door?
How it’s done: Let him know you’re on his side from the very start. When he asks for your ID let him know you are not bothered at all, hell, you get a thrill out of showing your ID to strangers. Tell him, ”Some assholes probably get offended when you ask to see their ID, but not me, you’re just doing your job, for crissakes! Those jerks just don’t get it!”
Thank him for making sure you are of age, go get a beer, wander the room for a minute, then, like a rabbit approaching a bear that doesn’t appear to be hungry, creep back to the door. Ask “Mind if I sit here?” as you pull up a chair beside him. He’ll probably just shrug. The first thing you’ll notice about bouncers is they don’t say much.
Loosen him up with a few inquiries about his job. “Do you get a lot of fights in here?” Shrug. “Have you thrown anybody out yet?” Shrug. “Do you ever get tired of looking at IDs?” Shrug. Let him know you’re more that willing to pitch in: “That guy in the hockey shirt playing pool looks like trouble, I’d keep an eye on him. And don’t worry, if it gets hairy, I got your back. You wanna beer? Can’t drink on the job, huh? That sucks.” If he does actually have to throw someone out, make sure you cover his back from the other side of the room. When he’s done, skulk back and say, “I was gonna jump in but you had it totally covered once you got out of that headlock. That creep definitely had it coming. I would have tossed him out hours ago. He seemed kind of mad, though. Do you think he’ll come back with a gun?”
If a large group comes in, volunteer to help him check IDs. He probably won’t let you, but you can still help out with some good advice: “That girl was totally hot! You sure she was 21? I know that girl over by the juke has got to be underage. Don’t you get in trouble for that?”
Remember, don’t let his silence deter you. He’s just maintaining his professional demeanor. Actually, he really digs you.
The Unsolicited Hug
Why can’t everyone just get along? If only we could get the whole damn world to come together in a big ol’ group hug, we wouldn’t need any United Nations. Come on, gimme a hug, you’ll feel better.
How it’s done: It’s good to be blurry-eyed drunk. If you’re not, you’re going to come off as a creepy hippy. But a blurry-eyed drunk gets some leeway. Always have a dumb grin on your face, the more insipid the better. Hug your friends, hug the guy who made the bank shot, hug the cocktail waitress who was so sweet as to bring you a drink when you ordered one. Make it appear your hug is currency, you are hugging them because they deserve a hug from a great guy. The two most popular variations of the Unsolicited Hug are the Hornbug Hug and the You-Can’t-Hit-Me-If-I’m-Hugging-You Hug. The former is used in place of an opening line with a member of the opposite sex. Who would turn down a hug? Then, once you’ve hugged her, don’t let go so fast, try to look into her eyes and go for the more meaningful, longer, full-body-contact Hornbug Hug. She’s special, she’s earned the extra hug. The You-Can’t-Hit-Me variation is an attempt to defuse violence with some brotherly love. Most people feel uncomfortable punching a guy who just hugged them. Makes them look like the kind of guy who would kick a puppy. However, make sure you do the Heterosexual Hand Shake while you’re delivering the hug. Give him the full chest treatment and it will segue into a Viking Bear Hug and then he’s likely to choke you.
The Table Nap
Everyone needs a break every now and then, especially after that eighth shot. So take a nap!
How it’s done: Make sure you’re extremely loaded. So drunk you’ve disposed of all concern with social convention and the wagging tongues of strangers. Man, you are so tired. And that table top looks so damn comfortable. Put you head down—like a pillow, isn’t it? You’ll just close your eyes for a minute, then you’ll be right back at it. Suddenly the white-noise roar of the bar seems like a pleasant lullaby and go ahead, put on a silly little grin. Good night, sweet prince.
One caveat—try and select a table out of the line of sight of the bouncer and bartender. For some reason they get very excited when a face comes in contact with wood.
—Frank Kelly Rich