Saturday, August 13, 2011


Soak [verb] (se ow keh)
  1. To make thoroughly wet or saturated by or as if by placing in liquid.
  2. To take in or accept mentally, especially eagerly and easily

It happened in a pub.

The musty booth was obtained.  The fish and chips were ordered.  The music was picking up.  The crowd soaked in Guinness from the inside out.  All was well.  And then the people in booth next to us – to my completely shock and horror - started talking to us.  Animatedly.  Interestedly.  Without pause.

My reaction: What the heck do you want? 

O'Shea's!  Packed with chatty tourist and locals alike.
In public, friendliness is a smile, a shared joke about poor service, a “don’t worry about it” if you have to move your chair for someone to walk by.  I believe that general concept is well understood in the States.  If not that exact wording, at least the sentiment of privacy even in crowded spaces.

Not here, not in the pubs of Ireland.

It happen almost every night.  In Dublin, in Doolin, and Westport, too.  Complete strangers would strike up a conversation with you out of the blue.  One moment you'd be sitting by the bar, nursing your diet Coke (okay, stop your judging), and listening to the music, and the next you've been swept up into a conversation by locals who you could have sworn were not there a moment ago.

I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t off-putting, that it didn’t make me feel uncomfortable and want to go back to my quiet, question-free room and lock the door.  The first time, I may have done just that.  But (and there's always a but when there's something to be learned), by the time I boarded the plane for Boston, I was more open to the giving people the benefit of the doubt.  Don't be mislead: Never did I turn into Sally Social  – that would have been devastating to my introvert credit.  However, in the end it seemed like people were motivated to ask questions at the bar because, well, they had a question.  Curiosity was the motivator most of the time.  A desire to show thankfulness another.  Or, my favorite, visible opportunity to show commonality – Obama did just leave Ireland the week before we arrived and it was a chance to talk about something we both understood.
The very first batch of Irish fish and chips. And mushy peas.

On that night in Dublin, with old men singing and fish and chips and our chatty booth mates,  I learned not only that mushy peas are really, really mushy, but also that our neighbors were all siblings, regulars to this pub, loved the piper (who was only 16!) to pieces, and had no idea where Vermont was in the States ("By Montreal.  Just in the States and with more confusion about health care.").  

And it all happened in a pub.

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