I guess it is part of my job? I’m like a buffer between him and the girls. The crumple zone. I take one for the team or whatever.
It isn’t actually part of my job. Just whenever I work, I stand on that side of the bar and fend off anything that gets a little too extreme. I think he is on the sick for his back. Or maybe he had an accident at work a long time ago and got compensation. Something like that.
He does that thing that all the regulars do where they refuse to sit down on the bar stools, which really confuses the students – and makes them look a bit aggressive actually, the regulars. Though they aren’t really, apart from this guy, but it is more a psychological aggressiveness. As in the act of showing the barmaids the porn on his iPhone is aggressive. It’s an issue of appropriate behaviour, rather than physical imposition.
The videos don’t necessarily get more explicit as he gets more drunk. But if I’m not there, then he will start making more comments about it, which makes some of the girls feel uncomfortable. Some of them are only 18 or 19.
I don’t enjoy it, I find it uncomfortable. Possibly more than some of them. But I suppose he isn’t interested in me in the way he is interested in them.
Because the students are constantly deferring to them, as though standing in the same pub for 20 years, drinking the same drink, and making pathetic conversation with the landlord is some sort of acheivment. So the students never take the bar stools that the regulars never use, because they don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to sit down, so they don’t take them, and then there is this line of bar stools that no one ever uses – not the regulars, because they stand at the bar with two hands on the bar and their feet level with their shoulders, like they are weightlifters; and not the students, because they are too scared of the regulars to ask if they can take away the stools.
The regulars laugh at the students, but really they in awe of their youth and sad that they never got to go to university.
It isn’t even really porn, some of it is more like extreme performance art – really shocking stuff, lots of big objects being shoved in people, basically. And then shit and blood etc. So you can see why we try and stop him showing the girls.
He stands near the crisps, a little apart from the other regulars, unless he wants to show them something on the phone, which they laugh at even if they find him a little awkward, and also he always has the newest phone so they are impressed by that. But again, the idea that you would want to impress the regulars is something everyone takes for granted except for me and maybe the landlord, who is teetotal and hates everyone who boozes in equal measure and really shouldn’t be running a pub at all.
They all think I’m Australian because my Essex accent is slightly different from their London accent. Local means local for a reason.
When the landlord is working, he doesn’t show the worst videos he has, which makes the landlord think he is harmless. And coupled with the fact that he hasn’t ever been violent, and he drinks premium lager (which in a pub where you can get a pint of Fosters for £1.95 is both rare and economically meaningful) means that we can’t bar him.
Basically, it goes like this, he says something like oi Sarah come and have a look at this one and Sarah will be like no Terry I’d rather not, you always show me the really nasty ones and he says no no Sarah, this one is just a funny cat one and then I have to look enthusiastic and say, oi Tel let’s have a look then and then he sort of reluctantly shows me, and then I laugh and say oi Tel you sick bastard and then he goes back to his pint for a bit.
It doesn’t happen all the time, maybe four nights of the week. He is in every day, obviously. And he’ll have about three new videos, and then show a few old “classics”. As long as I absorb about 70% of them, then he keeps himself to himself, otherwise he might start telling the girls he wants to show them something else and then laughing into his pint, and then he goes downstairs to the toilets for 20 minutes before closing and when he comes back up no one can look him in the eye.
Containment is how I see it. I’m providing a valuable service to the community. Like the people who work for the Samaritans who won’t put the phone down on anyone who calls them, whatever they hear down the phone. Imagine that. Going in wanting to help, wanting to talk people through the toughest bits of their life, and then some perv takes a liking to your voice and keeps calling and calling until he gets you, and then takes up 10 minutes of your valuable, charitable time, heavy breathing and talking about your lovely tits and wanking off. Well, whatever. I wouldn’t work for the Samaritans anyway.
But then this one day he comes in, I assume my position nearest the crisps – he doesn’t even realise we have this action plan by the way, he isn’t even aware that we switch places, just so that the girls don’t have to be near him. He starts up with oi Becky, Becky, have a look at this one and she’s like Terry, honestly, I’ve seen enough to last me a life time off of you, and I pretend to look interested and I’m like, go on then Terry let’s have a go then you freak.
And then instead of a woman with a rugby ball, or some animal porn or whatever, he shows me these photos. And he flicks through a whole selection of them. These beautiful pinks and blues, snatches of land peeking up through the clouds. Curved earth visible beneath. Watercolours almost, but obviously taken on the phone. What is funny is that he has the same face that he has when he shows me the porn, looking back and forth between me and the screen for approval.
I tell the girls to come over and have a look, and then the regulars come over from their bit of the bar too, and I swear the music in the pub pauses, or least goes a bit quiet and you can hear us all breathing a bit slower and occasionally someone will point at the screen as if to say ‘that’s the one, that’s mine’. Really, the feeling is that we all wish we could have seen this from the plane. Somehow looked through the phone, through the window of the plane, and seen all this. Or that maybe we had seen this, on some flight or another, or in a dream. Maybe not the same clouds, but the same feeling. Of being above time, or maybe just out of reach of it. Chasing light that somehow miraculously bounces between the clouds and the plane.
Each of the pictures melts into the next one, and I find myself telling Terry that they are really, honestly, beautiful and he responds to this with an embarassed, pleased nod of the head, and it’s only later that I marvel at my use of the word, because normally I keep that sort of thing to myself because, well, it’s a pub, and beauty doesn’t come here very often unless you count Laura who works at the weekend, but she’ll leave soon. All the really nice ones leave and then they never even really say goodbye.