I was at the bar, waiting to be served. The outlook wasn’t good.
Two young men beside me were watching intently as the barmaid poured some vodka and then a large measure of milk into two glasses. She smiled as she popped a straw in each glass, as if she was a dinner lady at infants school, serving the morning milk. She looked at them expectantly, as if to say, ‘there you are. Drink up now’.
One of the men looked at her a little apologetically and said:
‘Er, could we have some Kalhua in that please?’
‘Kalhua?’ replied the barmaid quizzically.
‘What colour?’ The man looked helplessly at his friend.
‘Well, it’s a white russian, but…’ His voice trailed off, as he tried to think of a way to explain that Kalhua is not white, but it is a vital, THE vital ingredient in a white russian. The barmaid’s first language was not English. It would have been ironic if she had been Russian. She looked at him blankly and pushed the milky liquid drinks forward on the bar.
‘Kalhua?’ he said again, a note of desperation entering his voice. He looked longingly over at the counter behind the bar, where a bottle of Kalhua stood tantalisingly, next to the till.
‘No.’ said the barmaid.
‘That will be five pounds eighty please.’
The men looked at each other and shook their heads. One of them handed over the cash. He did not have the strength to argue. But I did.
‘You can’t drink that!’ I declared, possibly appearing slightly mad.
‘It will taste disgusting! It is just vodka and milk!’
The man smiled weakly. ‘I know. Let’s see shall we?’
To my complete and utter horror he proceeded to sip the vile concoction through the straw. He grimaced.
‘It’s not too bad’ he pronounced. And then his face changed into a spasm of disgust. ‘Ugh’. ‘There is a certain aftershock’.
When he saw the look on my face intensify in pain, he smiled.
‘And the milk is full-fat, which adds a certain, je ne sais quoi’. I think he enjoyed my feeling of nausea as he seemed to relish the words.
‘Aren’t you going to do anything?’ I screeched. ‘You can’t let them serve you milk and vodka. Its supposed to be a WHITE RUSSIAN’.
The man smiled weakly again. For he was a weak man. He sighed, and he and his friend just sloped off to sit and sip their horrendous white vodka milkshakes.
I tried to remonstrate with the bar manager. His first language wasn’t English either. But white russians are international aren’t they? I did not get very far. He told me the barmaid had told him the customer had told her it was ok.
‘It’s NOT OK’ I said.
I looked over at the pathetic creatures sat in the corner, their drinks barely touched on the table. I took my beer to a table outside. I thought about how everyone these days just seems to accept how life is, the unfairness, the disgustingness of it. And nobody seems to want to face up to a little bit of conflict, a little bit of awkwardness, for the sake of making things better for everyone, for the sake of enjoying a delicious, coffee-flavoured licqueur-based drink. We are all like those two saps, sat in the corner of the pub, sipping on foul vodka and full fat milk, accepting what is given to us, while the world slides into the abyss before our very eyes.