Thursday, January 12, 2012

Then and Now 27 - Bar Trick

Then and Now 27 - Bar Trick
Time: Mid-to-late 2007, single and at the hostel, and later at my apartment.

Eli annoyed me when I first met him.

I got in touch with him through the internet, trying to find tutor work to improve my finances. I had been tutoring maybe four or five people at the time, one or two hours a week apiece, and putting that money into a fund to pay for my eventual housing when I found a job. I had two profiles on the same website, one for making friends and the other for making students. And to be honest, I only wanted the former; I didn't want to take money from people for the pleasure of learning English from me. Besides, it seemed unfair that I was charging some people, and not others, for my time, especially when I was enjoying myself either way.

But it was a survival issue. I didn't have enough money to pay for my hostel fees for more than three weeks, and even after I supplemented my savings with tutoring, I still was only able to extend my stay there to four weeks before I was officially out of money. I wasn't afraid to sleep in a park or an alley for a month if I got a job and couldn't afford a place to live. It would only have been thirty days of homelessness before everything turned around, and I've been in the same situation before. But I was still doing everything I could to save up money so that wouldn't happen, and had every intention of dropping all of my tutor students and hanging with them as friends when my finances were back in the black.

So when I got an email from Eli saying that he was interested in becoming a temporary student, I felt a bit relieved. With the money he could provide me, I would definitely have enough money to buy food for the month that I might be homeless. It was getting late in the day and the sun was about an hour or two from setting. I was at the main station, waiting outside of a coffee shop to meet up with my new student. He arrived well on time, an older guy in his mid-to-late thirties, and we sat down to some coffee, his treat.

And after our introductions, he said it: "Is it ok if I just take you around town to some bars while we study, instead of paying you?"

I mentally balked. He promised to pay me for my time in emails, and now he's going back on his word, I thought. Nonetheless, I said it was ok, because I figured I could get a free meal from him, then never speak to him again, and find a real student to hang with in the next week. It wasn't the loss of money that bugged me: it's that this guy promised one thing, then bait-and-switched it for something else. I figured that if I couldn't take him at his word, then he had other qualities about him that might lead to trouble.

We talked as he pulled out his laptop and showed me some stuff he did at his work. I don't remember what he did, to be honest... I might have still been miffed about the bait-and-switch. After coffee, we split up so he could get his car out of a parking lot, and I went upstairs to wait for him on the street. When he pulled up, I hopped in and we were off.

Eli played tour guide very well, and pointed out department stores, parks and other sights around us as we drove. After a short trip, we ended up at a sports bar that apparently catered to foreign men. They were everywhere: shouting, laughing, drinking, talking, and just generally making the place extremely lively. Unfortunately, the TV was turned to soccer, one of those sports that I feel is a blast to play, but boring to watch. It didn't stop the foreigners in the bar from cheering loudly every hour or so when someone managed to score, though. It was a great atmosphere, and when Eli and I got to our seats, an incredibly hot local waitress came by to take our orders. Eli told me to get anything I wanted, so I ordered a couple of beers and a big basket of french fries (and he taught me the local word for the latter).

The bar was really loud, and I had to strain to hear much of what Eli had to say. And to be honest, I don't remember any of what we talked about, because I spent a lot of time people watching around the bar as we snacked and chatted. I saw one very overweight foreigner at a seat in the middle of the bar with his very overweight local girlfriend. He seemed to really be enjoying himself, but the girl's face was a mask of either extreme boredom, or subdued anger. I don't know what her problem was. Most of the other foreigners were in good shape and very well dressed. Some of them were singing songs in the corner, but most of them had their eyes glued on the TV, and screamed, groaned, cheered or cursed in unison as events unfolded in the game.

That was my first time at a sports bar, but I got used to it very quickly. I let my experiences at my bud's aunt's place in Then and Now 21, where my bud, his uncle and I watched baseball together, serve as a guide to enjoy the people around me along with the sport. Soon enough, Eli and I started having fun watching the game with everybody. His and my cheers and jeers came a little later than everyone else, because to be honest, I didn't know what the soccer teams were doing that was so amazing, but it was still fun to join in with everyone.

After about an hour, he and I got back in his car, and he took me directly back to the hostel. On the way up the elevator, I think he had proven himself, and decided to hang out with him again someday. For that night, though, it was time for a late night talk with my friends at the hostel, a shower, then bed.

We didn't talk to one another, even through email, for about a month. After a while, I figured that the sports bar would have been the last time I ever talked to him, but after I moved to my apartment, I got a call on my cell from him. We set up a time to meet again, and I went to a very busy shopping district to meet up with him. It was night, and there were tall department stores with glowing neon signs climbing up into the sky everywhere I looked. I stood on the corner of an extremely busy intersection where cars were honking, speeding, turning, U-turning, braking, picking people up and dropping others off in every direction. It was an absolute madhouse.

Standing on the corner were a few foreigners. Two of them were shorter and kind of quiet, and the last was very tall and standing there with his local girlfriend. She was smoking hot. He and his girl left as I approached, so I spoke with one of his friends and asked how he was enjoying the country. He seemed to be a bit testy, and it didn't take much prodding to find out that he was pretty jealous that his friend had a girlfriend, and he didn't.

Still, he was a nice enough guy, and when I asked him where his friend had met his girlfriend, he told me of a personals website that I hadn't used before. Apparently it was in competition to the one I was using, but I was having success enough with the hundred or so friends I had made from mine, so I didn't bother switching over.

At about that time, Eli called me up, and directed me across the street to where he had parked. I got in, and we began our trip. We stopped off at McDonald's, and I hadn't eaten there (or much else besides convenience store food) in a good while, so I ordered a pretty big meal while Eli and I exchanged some words and grammar tips for our respective languages. And finally, we were back in the car to head to the highlight of that evening: another bar.

We parked a few blocks away where we could find a spot, then walked down some really quiet streets to the massive building. The bouncer outside was extremely intimidating, not just because of his mass, but because of this "reduce you to ashes" stare he fired at everyone entering the establishment. I was glad he was there to keep order. The bar was piping in some extremely loud dance music, and the place was both brightly lit by some neon signs, and very dim at the same time. And unlike the sports bar, this place was a gathering of hundreds of bald, overweight, middle-aged foreigners looking to get some attention for the night from a couple dozen local girls. Sausage fest didn't even begin to describe it.

I wasn't interested in picking up any women, and most of the men were busy talking to one another or trying to score, so I just kind of walked around with Eli and looked at some of the paintings on the wall with him. After a while, we found a good place to stand away from the music where we could hear each other well enough. We didn't talk too much then, and just kind of stood around, nursing our drinks, until the night's entertainment kicked up. A group of local girls climbed up onto the bar, Coyote Ugly style, and started dancing and doing some light, PG stripteases. I ogled them for a while, and though they all had nice figures, I was more impressed with the courage they had to get up there and dance for everyone. When I caught any one of them looking my way, I gave her a nod and a smile for encouragement.

Eli and I hung around for a bit, clinking glasses together in cheers of appreciation for these awesome girls, then we left the bar to go home. It was a very peaceful ride that night, because it was one or two in the morning when we left. There was nobody on the roads, and the trees alongside them were cast into shadow by distant streetlights.

The peace was kind of ruined by Eli getting a call from his girlfriend, and proceeding to berate her in the local language for bothering him while he was out with a friend. I guess he thought I couldn't understand him. At that point, Eli had had his second strike, and I knew I didn't want to talk to him again. Fun times at bars or not, a bait-and-switch followed by rudeness to a lover was enough for me to consider this guy an ex-acquaintance.

Still, I kept cool and talked with him normally on the way back to my house. We took the freeway back, and I had a very nice time looking out the window to watch the city lights dimming and winking out one by one. There were almost no other cars on the road, and it felt like I owned the entire world. Eli dropped me off at a construction site just west of my house, and I gave him a friendly goodbye before exiting the car. I walked past the site, turned right into a narrow alley, then I was back home. A quick shower later, it was off to sleep after a fun trip in the city's night life.

As for today...

I woke up at 11:00.
My wife went out to go shopping.
My mother-in-law came to take my son out.
I played video games.
I surfed the net.
My wife and son came home, so I turned off the computer.
I watched TV.
I played cars with my son.
I went to work.
I taught students.
I went out to tutor a student.
I came home.
I cleaned up the floor and table.
I started a load of laundry.
I played cars with my son.
I roughhoused with him.
I hung up wet laundry.
I watched internet movies with my son.
He fell asleep.
I played video games.
I slept.

No comments:

Post a Comment