So I go down the pub. I choose one near my apartment, a quiet one. I sit at the bar. My legs dangle from the stool and I look silly, but stay where I am because I feel too conspicuous sitting at a table on my own. The barman – tall, aproned, mustachioed – asks what I want. My glass of Guinness arrives and it’s delicious – frosty, bitter, and thick.
The seats next to me are empty, but the tables in the back of the pub are full. A group of friends is huddled at the back, and I feel conspicuous all alone, but tell myself there’s no shame in drinking alone here in Ireland. After all, it’s the country where the sport got its start.
The barman comes over and passes me a slip of paper. He says: “Write down the song you’d like to hear and we’ll play it for you. Your favorite song. Ruby Tuesday? We can do that.” He and his wife disappear, and soon, the first mournful piano chords sound. I smile into my empty glass; ask for another glass of Guinness. There is a man next to me now. He is old, shriveled, his gums knitting together. The fresh Guinness arrives and it is awesome.
“The Rolling Stones,” says the old man. “Yes,” I agree. “The Rolling Stones.” “Brits,” he says. “I used to live in London. Now that’s a real city. Dublin – we’re just a village with big ideas. Nothing’s happening here anymore. Gone to shite.”
“I like Dublin,” I say. “It’s a great place.” His toothless mouth twists. “I have a sister out in California,” he says. “I used to be out there meself. Back when I was a young man. I’m 58 now.”
I notice that I keep watching the door. Who am I waiting for? That’s me being silly. So I look down at my Guinness. I drain the rest.
“You were in America,” I say. “The Irish are like Superman out there.” He blushes. “All you have to do is talk,” I say. “Lucky you.” “Well,” he says. “I did have a nice time there myself.” “It’s not quite the same for us, is it?” I say. “No one ever waxes poetic about the beautiful American accent.”
The bottom of my glass is empty, bubbling with a thin layer of foam, and I realize that whatever noble intentions I might have had to get out of the house on this Saturday night, I’m done. Like, done. Pissed, as they’d say here in Dublin. Such is life when you’re 4’11” and weigh 95 pounds.
“You’ll have another,” says the man. “Ah, go on, so you will.” “No, no, I’m done,” I say. “Thanks a lot, though. Have a nice night!”
And I’m off, out of the pub and down the street, over the Grand Canal – my feet as light as air.
A Dublin Pub by the Numbers
Average number of pubs in Dublin city: 1000
Year the Brazen Head on Bridge Street – reportedly Ireland’s oldest pub – was founded: 1189
Time the pubs close on weeknights: 23:30
Time the pubs close on weekends: 00:30 – 02:30
Time the off licenses close: 22:00
Fee for selling alcohol to a drunken person: €1500 for a first offense, €2000 for a second offense
Average number of vomit splatters in the street in any given neigborhood: 1-2
Legal drinking age in Ireland: 18
Date smoking was banned in Ireland pubs: 29 March 2004
Date Happy Hours were banned in Dublin: 18 August 2003
How much to tip the bar man: 0%
Year Arthur Guinness set up the Guinness brewery at St. James Gate: 1759
Years of Arthur Guinness’s lease: 9000
The average cost of a glass of Guinness: €2.50
The average cost of a pint of Guinness: €4.50
ABV in a pint of Guinness Draught: 4.1 – 4.3%
Pints of Guinness it takes to get a 45kg, 4’11” American woman drunk: 1
Old, toothless men sitting at the bar: 1
Actual age of old, toothless man: 58
Patrons in GAA team colors: 15
Times “Galway Girl” is played: 1
Traditional Irish songs played as the hours grow wee: 4
Mock Irish reels danced: 1
Times Irish people tell you, “No, one foot in front of the other” before they give up: 2
Friends you arrive with: 3
Friends you leave with: 4
Time the chippers close on weeknights: 01:00
Time the chippers close on weekends: 05:00
Orders of drunken early morning fish and chips: 1
For more on Dublin, there’s The Expeditioner Travel Guide to Dublin, Ireland. For pub protocol, there’s Irishmen Lecture Americans on Pub Etiquette.
Have you been out in Dublin? How did your night compare? Let us know in the comments.
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Eva is an American freelance travel writer who has lived in four countries in the past four years. She likes to write about her daily humiliations as an expat. She is currently living - and driving very badly - in Terracina, Italy.