Shaun: A Very Short Profile of a Regular


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“If Shaun’s not here by nine I’m going to call the hospital.”

The bartender at the unfortunately named Thursty Nelly’s Irish Pub had made this joke countless times and anyone who knew Shaun, or spent any time at the pub, understood the underlying humor. Shaun never missed a night. 

Short of a debilitating illness, Shaun’s wiry figure would prop open the door to the pub no later than 8 o’clock every night. He’d stand in the doorway finishing what was left of his cigarette while beginning his nightly ritual. Pleasantries were spread across the room and heartfelt greetings were paid to those who had earned his respect, admiration or friendship. His seat at the bar was always chosen in haste as it rarely mattered, he favored traveling around and striking up conversations with whomever looked interested.

“How ’bout a pils love?”

…was undoubtedly his first request whenever one of the female bartenders was on duty. His English accent, ravaged by decades of cigarettes and booze, still maintained a level of affluence sufficient to make an American such as myself question the quality of my education. Even when ordering a cheap German pilsner, or pisswasser as those who didn’t favor the brew had dubbed it, Shaun sounded like a cheap facsimile of an English gentleman. 

The first beer would be down to its final third and he’d whip out a change purse to ready payment for the next. Most of the regulars were allowed to settle up their tabs at the end of the evening but Shaun was always charged by the pint – a consequence of wandering out without paying one too many times. This is not to say that Shaun was less welcome than others at the pub, quite the opposite in fact. If Shaun had forgotten to pay, his tab was always settled the following evening with a sincere mea culpa, or at the very least an entertaining story about his walk home.

“Fancy a fag mate?”

Even in the dead of winter we would have to go out the front door of the pub to have a cigarette as most bars and restaurants in Germany, particularly those frequented by Americans, did not allow smoking. Outside was a cobbled pedestrian street lined with various shops and restaurants. The savory odor of deep fried potatoes and roasted lamb wafting over from a nearby döner kebab stand would mix with the miasmic smoke to produce an atmosphere capable of undoing the sobriety of even the most steadfast recovering alcoholic. As we smoked the conversation would almost always turn to work.

“Fuckin’el! You should have seen this bird who came in today to pick up her new Chrysler van. She spends thirty-two grand on this van and then starts to give me shit about it not having a full tank of petrol!”

His thin lips and fingers would cradle the cigarette as he puffed. The cracks and wrinkles in the corners of his mouth were accentuated by a lifetime of smoking and working outside. In the summers his thinning gray hair would be cropped as tight as possible and his neck and face would be beet red from the nearly 14 hours of constant sun. In the winters his hair would fall like fine thread over the tops of his ears. His face was leathery but surprisingly expressive given its condition.

For 350 to 360 days a year, Shaun worked in a small car lot at a nearby Army installation that specialized in American cars. A holdover from World War II and Cold War proliferation, the American military installations that dotted much of Germany would allow English speaking Europeans to sell cars to active duty servicemen and women and their dependents. Shaun’s EU work visa, on account of his English citizenship, made him a perfect candidate to conduct sales with the Americans. The long hours and unrelenting schedule were the result of a commission based wage system and a boss who was not too proud to take advantage.

“He’s got me by the short and curlies mate. He knows I haven’t got anywhere else to go.”

We never discussed the circumstances surrounding his departure from England, or his arrival in Germany for that matter, but he alluded to an ex wife and some estranged children more than once. He suspected that he may be a grandfather but was not certain.

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