So You’re Going To The Pub. After months away from your spiritual home (or what you performatively say is your spiritual home on Twitter), you’re finally back in action and permitted to return to your local, albeit a shadow of that local’s former self.
What should you expect on 4th July, the day that has somehow become known as "Super Saturday"? A rollercoaster of emotions, to be sure, from the bleary eyed elation of stepping over that glorious threshold, to the sinking realisation that with the enforcement of social distancing, mandated table service and time limits on your visit, the pub of the past has become a distant memory, replaced by this weird new thing that is basically just a bit like the work canteen but with glasses of house red.
As experienced social anthropologists and Big Pub Legends (BPLs), we have put together this list – nay, this veritable bingo sheet – of all the stuff you can expect from your first big pub visit. Mentally cross them off as you sip your way through as many pints as you can get through before you’re moved along, but please be warned that there is no prize other than personal satisfaction and being allowed to leave.
THE OFFICIAL GREETING
Person 1: Omg hiiiiiiiii. [reaches arms out, beaming smile]
Person 2: Babe! [remembers the concept of "social distancing" only to wince and do a comically sad face as arms slap back down to sides] Wehhh, I wish I could hug you.
Person 1: Virtual hugs! Missed you so much.
Person 2: Ugh!
Both Person 1 and Person 2: [stick arms out like tiny dinosaurs, both with comically sad faces] Ugh! Hugs.
A RETURN TO SHIT PUB CHAT
How all work is bad, the inept and cruel government, socialism, the tedium of renting, how hot certain acquaintances are: these were the pub topics of 2019 BC (Before COVID). Now you’ll ease into an evening of pub by having the same conversation you’ve had with everyone else virtually and on the phone about how boring and/or difficult lockdown was and is, and how if we have to go into a second lockdown you’ll quite possibly die.
RELATEDLY: PREDICTABLE LOCKDOWN BANTER
Everyone who wheels out craic like “Isn’t it mad how… we all did pub quizzes on Zoom? But we actually hate real pub quizzes??” is banned from the pub forever.
BITCHING ABOUT EVERYONE ELSE
"Have you seen Instagram stories recently? The weekend the 4th of July changes were announced – mid-late June by the way – your ex was at a houseparty that was so obviously crowded with about 15 people. So inappropriate and so blatant. Then there was Alison from work with all her cronies in the park, having a huge piss up, all of them, and you could see they were one meter away from each other – max. She’s been awful since the beginning, just literally could not give a fuck about anyone else. And then I’ve seen about three couples having seaside anniversary weekends away. Having the CHEEK to post!" — You, in a crowded public house, July 4th 2020
FORGETTING SOCIAL DISTANCING
Three over-priced pints into a deep gossip session about someone you all vaguely know and you realise all of you are hunched over, wheezing with the pure glee of being a cunt and cackling all over each other. Oh, fuck it – you’re probably all fine. You take a selfie and upload it with the caption: “social distancing pub hang x”.
BOOKING IN ADVANCE
Otherwise known as: not going to the pub this weekend but really looking forward to the pub trip you have booked for four weeks’ time!! It feels like an actual crime against the fundamentals of the pub to force people to book it in advance like it’s an AirBnB or an escape room experience, but some pubs are having to do this in order to manage capacity, which makes sense, but just feels mournful, like the pub is an animal and the light in its eyes has gone out somehow.
Obviously distancing is necessary and I completely endorse it, but at the same time I cannot help but think that to remove the possibility of the opportunistic cheeky pint feels like containing a beautiful butterfly in a glass jar. One day you will fly again. One day.
NOT ACTUALLY GETTING INTO THE PUB
Obviously the flip-side of not booking in advance is the very real scenario whereby too many people will try to go to the same pub and carnage, or at least a very long queue, will ensue. While this Chaos Mode is more fundamentally in the spirit of the pub, it’s also probable that while waiting for your go on the pub, one of your group will need a piss and you’ll all just have to leave, or you’ll get moved along for drinking cans from the shop in the line.
CRYING WHEN YOU HAVE A PINT OUT OF AN ACTUAL GLASS
It’s quite hard for me to write this one. When I try to imagine how I’m going to feel once I put an extra smooth Guinness to my lips I get what I can only describe as goosebumps. I think that it will be similar to the feeling of looking my firstborn child in the eye for the first time. That’s all I can compare it to, really.
SEEING LOCKDOWN COUPLES IN THE WILD
You’ve known they’ve existed this whole time: meeting in the park to see if they’re hot in real life, meeting in the park to drink tinnies, meeting in the park to give each other a handjob. And yet here they are, having a more formalised date, drinking from a proper pint glass and flirting outrageously, if a little awkwardly, but crucially not that awkwardly because they have the newfound virility that comes from finding someone to shag during a global pandemic. Neither of these very normal people could’ve guessed it before COVID, but they’re possibly the most dominant shaggers active today.
FEELING WEIRD ABOUT DOING A WEE
It’s highly probable that you have only pissed in one toilet for over three months. Maybe you have pissed in a few bushes, maybe you visited a friend’s garden and had to apologetically hover over their bowl after one too many frosty Rekorderligs, maybe you’ve gradually re-familiarised yourself with the work bogs over the past few weeks. Realistically, however, your loo count is probably under five, which is extremely low. Basically, what I’m saying is that when you inevitably go for a piss in the pub it will probably be both profoundly strange and comfortingly normal. Sort of like the piss version of your bedroom in a house your mum moved into after you went to uni.
SPOT THE BOOMER
We’ve all done our best for the country, us students and young working adults. We stayed in our dogshite shared flats, and lost our jobs, and had to break up with our other half because we were so far away, and we experienced another bout of clinical depression – but hey, every miserable day was worth it to know that our beloved 65 and overs were tucked up in the homes they own, far from any guff of viral wind. All we needed to get through every panic attack and lonely night and tedious hour online were the memories of our elders... Then you see the jubilant boomers in big packs, drunk and slurring, and slapping each other’s backs and you wish them a peaceful death, and carry on with your evening.
ULTIMATELY ACCEPTING THE CURRENT REALITY OF THE PUB AND CONTINUING TO DREAM OF A BETTER PUB FUTURE
The pub, both literally and at its heart, is an entire building purpose-made for the sale and consumption of lagers, which is a beautiful thing. All of the beauty encompassed by this is communicated by the above TikTok, which, back in May, made a number of VICE staffers actually cry because they missed the pub so much. It is important that in these trying times of time limits and distanced tables, we keep this vision of the pub alive in our hearts, so that it may one day burn bright again. We have to believe that there will come a day when we will enter the doors of saloons in massive groups – unfettered and without leaving our contact details – order a round of pink G&Ts, and put our hands all over each others’ faces. We simply have to.