Small Town Bars
While firefighting the last few summers I’ve had the opportunity to experience the bars in quite a few small towns. These are the towns that have as many stoplights as schools, where Canadian Tire is the only store you’ll ever need, men are judged by how many digits are in the model of truck they drive, and the main attraction is the worlds biggest something. While drinking at these bars I have, at various times, received the number of the town transvestite, seen strippers that weigh as much as I do, been beaten up by a girl, and had my own groupies while singing karaoke, all while being challenged to fight unceasingly. So, for those of you that have not yet experienced the wonders of small town drinking, this little note will tell you what you can look forward to.
As you enter the bar at about 8pm, early by city standards, late by town standards you’ll notice there are usually about two tables of foam and mesh wearing 30 year olds. Not the stylish foam and mesh hats, the legit ones they get while out on the rigs fracking or powertonging. These guys have been taking advantage of the happy hour that starts at 3pm. Small town happy hours usually start at 3 so the boys can go out and get pissed after The Peoples Court ends at 230.
So enter the bar and keep your wits about you. This is a very crucial part! Do not make direct eye contact with any of the locals this early in the night! Instead, walk by while staring at your table and know that each of them is thinking they’ll be twice as manly when they challenge your soft city ass to a fight. Now as you walk past a couple pinball machines featuring Playboy and Rocky III note the crane game in the corner with all the stuffed animals in it. Every small town bar is required to have at least one crane game in it. Inexplicably, all the toys inside are always covered in dust despite being in a closed environment.
Take a table near the back. The tables and chairs usually double for use during Sunday bingo and will probably have Royal Reserve stickers on them from people that sneak their mickeys in. Dabbing cards is always more fun when the numbers blur together!
Now send one member of your crew up to get drinks. Usually your most unassuming average sized guy is best as sending your biggest will be seen by the locals as a calculated move to intimidate them.
Here you get one of the best parts of small town bars, the bartenders. They’re usually young girls with coketeeth and brown hair with thick blonde streaks that looks like an egg was cracked over their head. However, they are always really talkative with you and probably just really excited to get away from crazy Louise on the side of the bar that plays Mah Jong on the touch screen computer and enjoys talking about General Hospital.
But be careful! Even these sweet ladies can turn on you if you order the wrong drink. A bottle of Corona can be met with “oh you’re one of them metrosexual types then.” God forbid you ever buy a drink with Sour Puss in it. Your best bet is to stick with a good domestic. And of course an order of Pilsner will probably get you a little added respect.
Sitting back at your table take the time to look around and absorb the surroundings. Breathe deep. Yes that is the smell of cigarettes, cheap ones. Smoking laws are as adhered to as firearm laws, and as seen on numerous bumper stickers when driving into town that will be when you can pry it from some cold, dead hands. And yes, that is a Vancouver Grizzlies pennant. Everything decorative in a small town bar has to appear as if it came from a late ‘90’s yard sale. The goofy gnome on the corner of he bar, the stupid wooden clock with some sort of animal painted on the background and, of course, the helicopter made of beer cans hanging over the VLT’s.
Ah the VLT’s. The keystone of every small town bar. If you ever want to feel better about yourself and you don’t have access to a TV to watch an episode of Maury, go to a small town bar and watch as Les puts in a twenty, selects all possible arrows, and presses spin until the money is gone. Every spin, win or lose, completely devoid of emotion. Awesome. Should you decide to play a VLT do NOT under any circumstances pick the VLT with the chair leaned up against it. That is crazy Peggy’s VLT and if you happen to use it she will run up to you screaming and drooling, staring you down with her googly eye and demanding any winnings that came from her machine…one of the most traumatic moments of my life.
Now usually within the first 30 to 40 minutes you’ll be challenged to a game of pool, either by one of the foam and meshers or by ol’ Murray, the guy whose pool cue has never left his hand. He’s a great drinker but too cheap to ever get drunk unless others are buying. Always accept their game so as to not offend them, and don’t try to lose on purpose to make them feel good, you can try as hard as you like and rarely win. Being able to play pool is equivalent to a high school diploma in a lot of small towns. So you’re gonna get your ass kicked but at least it’s on the table and not outside on the pavement.
Now depending on where you are you may have a chance to see a small town stripper perform. This experience is a story on its own and usually funnier than watching an old episode of Life Goes On. See, they’re usually 35+ and have more cottage cheese than a Dutch goat farm. Every routine is the same, performed every half hour, only the outfit changes. You’ll probably see the nurse, cop for sure, and whatever else Spencer’s Gifts sells at Halloween. Usually one show is enough to bring you to tears, both from laughter and pity, and by then you’re ready to hit the hotel bar.
All small towns have two bars. A regular bar and a hotel bar. All the young kids hang out at the hotel bar because their parents are usually regulars at the other one since it opens earlier. The hotel bar is usually pretty busy and your best bet to find some girls. Or swamp creatures that resemble girls. A small town girl can make you blind with her looks, and not in a good way. I mean that after spending 2 weeks in the bush you become blind to something like the fact she has a better moustache than you, or that you can see her cavernous belly button through her shirt. Bad decisions often result.
Now these girls may be ugly, but they know what they’re doing. The best pick up line I’ve ever received was in Hinton, AB from a young lady of about 25 with a waist measurement of about 45. She came up to our table and said “which one of you boys wants to dance? Speak up now ‘cause I only ask once.” I gave her the dance just because of that line. It was like two stepping with an elephant on acid but the elephant probably wouldn’t be feeling you up at the same time. Anyway, the bar girls are usually pretty fun but if you do find some talent, be wary because there’s a good chance her baby’s daddy slipped away and she’s looking for a child support check.
I won’t even get into the brawling because that’s just best to be avoided. One tip with that though, don’t rely on the RCMP, they want to see your city ass get kicked just as bad as everyone else.
So all in all that’s pretty much what you can look forward to. If you do decide to hit one of those towns up let me know because it’s a guaranteed spectacle every time you do.