Beer Rules

We were seated at our usual table on the covered deck, in the corner under the TV, just above the pebble beach overlooking the scenic harbour and a couple of paddle boarders fighting the choppy water. One of them had a dog in front of him.

“Silly sport,” Camp said.

“I don’t think it’s a sport. Poor dog,” I said and then asked Camp: “Did you go to the Jazzfest last weekend?”

“No, I tried to be busy at the store,” he said. “Being the owner of the town’s one and only bookstore has its drawbacks, like having to be open on weekends when the rest of the world is enjoying a festival or a day off.”

“Well, you missed some outstanding music and a perfect setting right by the sea. There was only one problem. I got busted,” I said, ordering us a couple of locally brewed pints from Vicky, the waitress. The Irish Stout has grown on me.

“That should be a good story. Whatever for? Disorderly behaviour?”

“No, drinking in public.”

“At the Jazzfest?”

“Yep, I was enjoying a cold one, sitting on the grassy knoll above the beer garden, apparently outside of the allowed area.”

“You’re kidding,” Camp said, shaking his unruly head of grey curls.

“I wish I was. I was dressed down like a schoolboy in front of quite a few people that know me. Now they will remember me even better. I thought those antiquated liquor laws were a thing of the past. Apparently not. The consumption of beer was only allowed inside a cramped space surrounded by that attractive orange plastic mesh fence like a cattle pen.”

“That is so undignified.”

“You’re telling me. I had a bunch of kids stare at me like I was the town criminal.”

“What did you do?”

“I downed my beer, instead of pouring it out, and left with my head held high before I said something stupid.”

“Wise move,” Camp nodded. “Best to shut up in a situation like that.”

“I was reading my Swiss Newspaper the other day and they just passed a law allowing gas stations and highway overpass restaurants to sell alcohol. Guess what their rational was?”

“Sell more booze for more taxes?”

“Wrong. There are no booze taxes in Switzerland. You can buy a good bottle of Italian table wine for five bucks. No, the government said that it was not their mandate to legislate morality and behaviour. Adults know their limits and responsibilities and they are entitled to buy beer or wine or a bottle of vodka anywhere and anytime they please.”

“Wow, that doesn’t sound like government policy,” Camp said impressed. “Here it’s all about rules and if you don’t follow them you get busted.”

“There you have it. Reminds me of the time when my dad first came to Canada to help us build our house. He got off the plane around noon with a mighty craving for a cold beer. Something we both can understand. Clare worked near Main and Broadway and we were going to pick her up but we had about an hour to spare. I drove down Main wracking my brain for a place to have a brew and there it was, the old Cobalt Inn with flashing neon signs advertising Girls, Girls, Girls. This surely couldn’t refer to the lunch hour. In we went, momentarily blinded by the sudden darkness of the musty interior, smelling of smoke and perfume. We picked a table close to the stage where there was more light and away from the pool table where a couple of bikers were chasing the balls. The stale beer arrived but after the first sip my dad sputtered and almost choked when suddenly the lights started flashing in time with the heavy bass beat of a disco song and the scantily clad noon time dancer started gyrating on the small stage right next to us. My Dad forgot all about the beer and sat there open mouthed, probably wondering if this was hell or heaven. I felt like such a dolt Camp but it was too late to run away. After the show we paid and without a word stepped into the bright, blinding sunlight. We picked Clare up and when she asked my Dad how the flight was he looked at her and said in his awkward English: “The beer was naked.” Clare gave me a quizzical look and I confessed the misadventure. She just shook her head in disbelieve. My Dad stayed a month and left convinced that in Canada you either had to watch strippers or eat a sandwich in order to have a beer. Such were the rules then.”

“They are not much better these days,” Camp said amused by my little vignette, “but at least you don’t have to have a dummy sandwich behind the bar in order to have a beer.”

“Yes, but we still have drinking rules which are only stricter in the Arab countries, not like in Europe or in Latin America where you can enjoy a glass of wine or a beer anywhere, anytime: from the train station to the beach, from the side walk cafés to the rooftop bars.”

“There used to be separate entrances for men and women with escorts only,”

Camp pointed out. “Women could vote but not go to a bar alone.”

I guess, I’m just one of those irresponsible adults who didn’t follow the rules. Clare got a good laugh out of it. So much for drink thy beer with joy, she said.”

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