It’s six o’clock on Saturday and a beautiful evening in Bali. There is a sunset tonight that has the power to still most conversations, lift one’s jaded spirits and remind us all that nature, as always, trumps the banal scurryings of day-to-day human endeavour. I would have liked to have seen it, but I am in a pub instead.
It’s one of those rare occasions where I actually feel like supporting my somewhat-beleaguered football team in its elimination round final. That’s the Australian version of football, I hasten to add, not the very different round-ball game that excites the passions of a very different crowd of supporters. I am watching the big screen, comfortably ensconced by myself at a table for four. However, tonight the pub has so few customers that I don’t feel in the least bit guilty about hogging this prime viewing real-estate.
I suspect it’s not the code of football that has resulted in tonight’s low attendance. It probably has more to do with the the group of five extremely inebriated patrons on the other side of the bar. Their ‘conversation’, if one could call it that, is amongst the loudest I have ever heard on the planet. They are all shouting and gesticulating simultaneously, a common, although ineffective strategy for winning arguments. Their strategy seems particularly misplaced, as there are at least five different fiery debates in play, meaning that each protagonist argues completely unopposed.
As it turns out, I completely lose interest in their antics after the first quarter of the game, and I don’t see them leave. Engrossed in a tight third quarter, I don’t even notice that the noise level has dropped to its usual dull roar. As the quarter-time break commences, my peripheral vision catches a flailing flash of arms and legs, and I turn to see a truly astonishing display of human locomotion.
A young bloke has lurched to his feet from somewhere behind me and is in the process of navigating his way to the toilet, a path that will take him past my table. He is so thoroughly plastered, that I am staggered and amazed that he is still conscious. He makes the earlier party of noisy drunks look like Mother Teresa by comparison. Unfortunately, the pub’s floor, in typical Bali style, has a small ramp-like rise at one point where two different floor levels meet. The height difference is less than a centimetre, but it enough to completely unbalance the unfortunate chap.
As he falls, he spins, his body at an impossible forty-five degrees like a racing motorbike, arms wind-milling, one madly swinging leg up at shoulder height. But he doesn’t fall – a feat that betrays either a masterly level of athletic prowess, or is clear evidence of divine intervention. Instead, he performs an almost balletic one-eighty degree change of direction, and forgetting his original destination, staggers back to a table of strangers, where, uninvited, he sits down. I cringe a bit, but as it’s not my problem, I resume watching the game.
A few minutes later, apparently after being asked to leave, he has miraculously managed to make his way to my table and make himself my problem. I studiously avoid looking at him, subliminally sending psychic messages for him to piss off. I’m obviously transmitting on the wrong frequency, because he sits down and stares fixedly at the side of my head. When I don’t react, he does that arm-jabbing thing that drunks do to attract your attention. “Hooya-who ya followin’?” he slurs. I tell him. “Oh”, he intones sombrely. “Why ya follerin’ the wrong team?” he asks, looking puzzled. There is, of course, no correct answer to this penetrating question, so I just shrug.
But he’s already lost interest, his entire being now focused on one of the waitresses – a strikingly good-looking young lady who at that moment has her back to him while serving another table. His beer-fuelled mind fails to grasp that attractiveness of a stranger does not equate to a licence to accost them, and he is suddenly weaving over to her in a spasm of misplaced adoration. Demonstrating a remarkable lack of understanding of the subtleties of pick-up lines, he fumbles at her bra strap, though thankfully through her T-shirt.
Unversed in the niceties of western customer service methods of dissuading amorous drunks, she instantly lets fly with an barrage of perfectly-aimed cuffs and slaps to his face and body. Amazingly, she doesn’t even turn around, her marksmanship earning her a round of applause. Shocked, he retreats to the toilet. When he returns, wearing a dopey grin, he takes a few steps towards her again. She whirls, fixes him with a look that could melt tungsten and utters a short, inaudible sentence.
Shoulders drooping, the wannabe lothario returns to my table and collapses into a chair. I’m expecting some annoyance, if not downright anger. I’m waiting to hear the usual drivel about how rotten women are, and steel myself for the bawled “And whadda you looking at anyway?” - that unanswerable challenge of so many drunks.
But instead, he looks shamefaced, and says quietly, “Geez, I’m an idiot.” He is still for a moment. “I don’t usually drink”, he mutters. Then, almost inaudibly, he says, “She was right. I’m sorry.” The watching patrons see another drunk place his unfinished beer on the table and vanish unsteadily into the deepening gloom. I see a man who has just learned something important, one who has decided belatedly to take responsibility for his actions.
One sees a lot of drunks in Bali. Many act as if it is their complete and utter right to be offensive. When challenged about their behaviour, many will deny, justify, lay blame, or just physically attack those who dare to question them. But from time to time, one sees people who don’t fit that mould; those for whom being drunk is something they do, not something that they are. And that is refreshing.
I wish that man well. But I would still love to know what that waitress said to him.