Woo Woos and Woe

By Clarke, Jeremy | The Spectator, February 15, 2003 | Go to article overview

Woo Woos and Woe


Clarke, Jeremy, The Spectator


For my birthday treat, we started off at a trendy cocktail bar in Covent Garden. We were there bang on opening time. Were we eating, said the babe standing just inside the door? Certainly not, we said. Downstairs then, she said, and down we went. A flight of stairs, a short corridor, a scruffy door without a handle. I pushed it open to reveal quite a smart little gaff. Half a dozen square tables around a horseshoe bar. Pink, mauve and orange fluorescent lighting. Lots of chrome. A DJ standing self-consciously behind his mixing deck. And a cocktail waiter writhing in agony on the stripped-pine floor.

Two employees were bending over him. `Get up! Get up!' they hissed. `We've got customers!' Then one of them marched across the room and blocked our view of the prone waiter with his body, which was well suited to the purpose. He must have been the manager or something. His sly face was decorated with a large golden earring. `Are you with the private party?' he blurted out as if it was the first thing that came into his head. No, we said. He glanced back over his shoulder at his stricken waiter then he looked back at me. He was trying to decide, I think, whether I was the type of person who might strongly object to a waiter lying on the floor. I had a Stanley Gibbons carrier bag, a razor-nicked chin, and I was wearing two coats. He decided to risk it. `OK, OK,' he said. `Sit here.' Then he pointed two fingers, pistollike, at the DJ, and said, `Music!'

While we took off our coats and perused the drinks card, he and the other employee, who turned out to be the barman, tried to man-handle the waiter on to his feet. This to loud trumpets of a soul-funk intro. But the poor waiter was like a rag-doll. Every time they managed to get him more or less upright, his legs would buckle and down he'd go in a heap again. His face was deathly grey. He must have been in considerable pain because now he was writhing in agony and flailing his head from side to side.

A waiter lying on the floor is one thing, but a waiter writhing in agony is quite another. They gave up trying to stand him upright and unceremoniously dragged him by his collar across the smooth wooden floor and into the gentlemen's lavatory. Shortly afterwards, the barman reappeared, took my order (two Woo Woos) and got mixing. …

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