Ordering alcohol is never easy for me when I’m in the southern United States. I’m asked for ID on a regular basis, despite the fact that I turned 21 many moons ago, and showing any barman or waiter my British passport generally produces a look of bafflement and wonder. I guess it might be Tennessee’s way of attempting to stop me from drinking in the first place, given that the state still has a number of dry counties. Or no-go zones, as I prefer to call them.
But sometimes all it takes to get a drink is abject humiliation.
On a flight from Washington DC to Knoxville on Wednesday evening, the flight attendant and her trolley made their way down the aisle of the tiny plane offering free
fizzy popsoda, or alcoholic drinks for $6. No tiny bags of free snacks, sadly – one man who asked for some pretzels received a slightly embarrassed reply of “Sorry, United got rid of them a while ago.”
A couple of people had opted for a late night beer by the time the trolley got to me, and after five hours of hanging around airports, I decided to get the Thanksgiving party started in a similar way (safe in the knowledge that my passport was in my back pocket, in case any age-related concerns were brought up). Putting aside my annoyance at paying six dollars for something available for less than a dollar in a supermarket, I waited for my turn.
Attendant: “Can I get you a drink from the trolley?”
Brit Out Of Water: “That would be great. Can I have a beer, please?”
Brit Out Of Water: “A beer please.”
Brit Out Of Water (face reddening as people start to listen in): “A beer.”
Attendant: “What is it you would like sir?”
Brit Out Of Water (desperation setting in as fellow passengers start to laugh): “A beer. You know, a beer. A beer.”
Attendant: “Erm, I’m sorry sir, I don’t think we have…”
[Brit Out Of Water bends down, opens the bottom drawer of the trolley and gesticulates wildly at the cans within]
Attendant: “Oh, a beer! Why didn’t you say…”
Now, I admit that the British tend to pronounce the word that denotes “an alcoholic drink containing water, grain, hops and yeast” as ‘bee-err’ and Americans pronounce it more like ‘byurrrrgh’. But nonetheless, most flyers know that their drinks options are limited to a very few options, and so it wasn’t as if I was going to be asking for a glass of Château Pétrus (1929 preferably, although I hear that the 1961 is drinking very well at the moment). But that British accent just keeps getting in the way of day-to-day life, it would seem.
On the way back yesterday, a different attendant approached with the trolley on our delayed flight back to New York.
Attendant: “Would you like a drink sir?”
Brit Out Of Water: “I’ll have a Heineken, please.”