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I Didn’t Mean to Spit

Whisky Bar

If this date was a shoe it would be Clarks: definitively sensible, eminently pleasant, and with a fine orthopedic support you didn’t know you needed but appreciate now it’s there.

We’d both had big, boozy preceding weeks and set our date for a Monday, which was a mutual insurance policy of sorts – you can’t get lairy on a Monday, it’s just not proper. Plus it offset the danger of going to a whisky bar, which is basically a minefield jacked with fun-bombs. It also meant we avoided the ubiquitous line at The Baxter Inn, a queue in which I spent most of my late twenties.

Sitting at the bar is a goddamn masterstroke: the barman, already Labrador-friendly, is happy to pitch into the introductory small talk, taking some of the pressure off us. And by us I mean me – I habitually fill any empty conversational space with useless patter, and we’re not talking anything poignant like amusing anecdotes or Paulo Coehlo quotes, but with a particularly inoffensive brand of white noise. Nature abhors a vacuum.

It was about then that I spat on her. Not intentionally, you understand – my twin shooters went off. You know those two saliva glands beneath your tongue? Those little dudes that, every so often, and apropos of nothing, fire off a pair of drool missiles at some real or imagined enemy? I need to get mine serviced because the damn things are on a hair trigger. One minute she’s purring something about traveling abroad, the next she’s been gobbed on.

What does one do in this situation – ignore it and hope she didn’t notice, or reach over and wipe her face with your shirtsleeve? And what is she meant to do, pretend it didn’t happen and plough on with her story – both of us horribly aware of the brontosaurus in the room – or yell “YUCK” and flap her arms around like a startled pheasant to try and  shake off my errant spit giblets?  She did the best thing possible, really, which was to laugh it off and wait a respectable amount of time before wiping her face when she thought I wasn’t looking. I was, though. Of course I was.

Which was as good a time as any to move from beer to whisky. And there’s a veritable shit-ton of it, a Hadrian’s Wall of golden, glowing mother’s milk from one end of the back bar to t’other. Picking anything from the menu was impossible; it’d take you a day just to read it. What you want to do, right, is point your finger at something vaguely Scottish-sounding and hope it’s nice. And it was, reals nice. Her whisky and fresh-squeezed apple juice was a winner too.

We said goodbye on a random street corner a couple of blocks down from Town Hall. I was pretty tired but thought about suggesting another bar because chivalry, but she pre-empted this with a “Well” followed by “Thank you for a great time” and a hug where we both did that thing where you over-exaggerate your sideways lean-in-for-a-kiss-goodbye so there’s no danger of getting anything but cheek, followed by a small, mutual pat on the back to acknowledge we were on the same page.

See? Clarks. Plus she has a funny story to tell her friends.

Ben Barnett is YELP Sydney Community Manager and Five in Five Ambassador.