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The Shortest Pint

Short story By: Derek Simon

Two Canadians take a refreshment break during a bus trip across Ireland, and learn the meaning of "Irish time".

Submitted:Jan 4, 2009    Reads: 171    Comments: 1    Likes: 0   

"This is a ten minute stop only. If you are not back on the bus in ten minutes, you will be left behind." With that stern warning from the bus driver ringing in our ears, JB and I were off to find a pub in Longford that could meet our need for a very quick pint.
JB was a friend from university days who had moved to Ireland shortly after I had. Although I had known he was coming to Ireland, it was only when I ran into him one day in an Internet café on O'Connell Street in Dublin that I discovered that he had arrived. JB had been to Ireland before, and had reasoned that he didn't need to track me down. We were bound to run into each other sooner or later: Dublin was that kind of city.
We each had our own reasons for moving to Ireland. But when I had recently declared my intention to see Ireland by having a pint in every county, JB had said he too was up for the challenge. This long weekend trip was designed to help us cover off a few counties at once. A bus trip with a stop in Longford, then overnight in Sligo before heading to Mayo for a couple of days. Unfortunately, it seemed our time in Longford was going to be shorter than we might had imagined, and who knew if and when we might be back.
We grabbed the nearest bus station employee, and asked where the closest pub might be. "How much time do you have?" he asked, as the precious seconds ticked away. "Ten minutes" we replied, with as much urgency as we could muster. He made a face, as if to suggest that the options close to the bus station were not very palatable. "Take that road over there. It's not too far down on your right hand side."
With nine minutes left, we hurried to the pub nearby and debated the merits of ordering a pint of Guinness. A well-poured pint of Guinness takes about three minutes to pour and settle before it is ready to drink. That would leave us less than five minutes to drink and get back to the bus station. It was going to be tight.
We burst in the door of the pub with seven minutes to go, and a startled publican looked up from an empty bar. We hurriedly placed our orders. JB went with his old standby, Smithwicks. In spite of the time pressure, I stuck to my usual as well, and had a Guinness. "Quality takes time." I reasoned.
We waited impatiently while they were poured. Some poor guy wandered out of the bathroom and seemed a little surprised to see anyone else at the bar, let alone two strangers in a hurry. The bartender poured the pints with speed and skill.
JB made a start on his Smithwick's. With one eye on my watch and one eye on my glass, I waited impatiently for my Guinness to settle. To enjoy it properly, you have to wait until the bubbles finish rising from the bottom of the glass, and it turns that perfect shade of black.
As the last bubbles rose ever so slowly from bottom to top, there were four minutes remaining. I had little time to savour my pint. I downed it with record speed, and we were off to the bus station with three minutes to spare.
We were on the bus and back in our seats on ten minutes flat. But the bus wasn't going anywhere. We sat in the bus for another twenty minutes until the bus driver returned, took his place, and pulled out of the station. I suppose he took a bit more time to enjoy his Guinness.


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