I haven’t been to many bars since I’ve been in New York – understandably, a new job, The Special One and the Young Ones have taken up most of my time. Admittedly, I whipped up a minor storm in the run-up to my wedding, but I’m sure that’s excusable after thirty-three years of singledom.
Tonight though, I made a rare excursion through the alcoholic side of New York nightlife, when The Tat Collector turned up for a post-work drink. The two of us managed to put the world to rights as we discussed all manner of American peculiarities over a beer or four.
Nothing unusual about that – after all, I’ve built a career on getting to know people over a few drinks, and it’s far from a hardship. But it’s still difficult getting used to a new environment where you’re constantly worrying about how much to tip or what to order when you haven’t heard of any of the sixty-three different beers available on tap.
What continues to surprise me is the fact that in certain drinking establishments, every few rounds or so the bartender will offer you a drink on the house. Whether I’ve been tipping well or not, I still find it difficult to accept that the house might ever want to buy me a drink. Put it like this, back in London, nobody at the Elephant’s Head or Railway Arms is ever going to get me a gin and tonic, however many drinks I knock back in a four hour period.
As it was, The Tat Collector and I rewarded the bar’s largesse simply by leaving more money as a tip, such was our guilt at her benevolence. Maybe that was her plan all along. After all, neither of us had an American accent, so maybe she just couldn’t trust us to tip her properly and this was the only means she had at her disposal to make sure we did the right thing.
Obviously, free gins and tonic didn’t help me when I got home to The Special One. I’d imagine I’ll be doing the washing-up for some time to come. But at least I didn’t have to pay for the privilege.