Field Research

By David Kessler

In this installment: No Green Discos, Please.  A saner situation.  Thanks, dad.  "I see by your outfit that you are a sailor".  Field research.

I left the house of an old professor of mine on St. Patrick's day with a single drink in me.  It was still reasonably early, so I thought I'd stop in Central Square for a pint in honor of Irish culture.  I headed for Phoenix Landing, but as I opened the door my senses were stunned; Green disco-style lights flashed about, blinding my eyes in the moment that they registered the wall-to-wall crowd inside.  Music deafened my ears in the moment that they registered the large cover charge announced by the doorman.  I retreated to the sidewalk and headed down the street.

The doorman at The Field smiled and asked only for my ID - no cover charge - and he could easily be heard over the music and chatter inside.  I threaded my way to the bar and ordered one of the Guinnesses happily settling by the tap; Okay, drinking Guinness from a plastic cup is weird (I never realized how much having a solid rim improves the gulp), but on St. Pat's I can overlook it.

I found an open seat and began talking to the very pretty girl next to me.

Among the odder bits of information my father once told me are 2 phrases in Hungarian that I have never been able to use.  They are both the same words, only with the stresses placed on different syllables, and those stresses mark the difference between giving a toast, and exclaiming, "Kiss my ass!" (The literal translation for both being something like, "bottoms up!").  A nice bit of trivia, but perfectly useless as he couldn't tell me which version matched which meaning.

That pretty girl and I toasted Saint Patrick with the Gaelic "Slainte", and then "To the death of the liver!"  She was surprised that I didn't know that latter toast, but a little impressed when I offered the Russian "Na zdorovie" (just a little impressed).  That may be why she decided to challenge me with the most esoteric toasting idea that came to her mind - she suggested Hungarian.

"Eggesheggedru!" I shouted, as I hoisted my glass!

As it turned out, Ashley was there with the fellow sitting beside her, which brings me to the odd part of this story.  Something about him and the way he sat and moved made me think he was a sailor.  This isn't something I've ever noticed (or thought I've noticed) before, so in my mind I tried framing a question that he hopefully wouldn't think came completely out of the blue (A pint or so later, I would have accepted that there is no other way to ask if he was a sailor, but at that point I was still thinking too quickly).  Before I could ask he stood up to get another round, and as he rose and adjusted his cap I saw "Resolute" written on it.  I changed my question to "So when did you crew for the Resolute?" and when he came back we all talked boats and sailing for a while.  They had met for that evening, and I never did find out of they were a couple. "They left, and I took up talking to Leandro and Andreas, a little further down the wall.

I have no idea what it was that struck me about Kent to think that he sailed.  I've wondered since then if his posture, his clothes, or how he drank his beer clued me in, or if I somehow read the hat earlier without realizing it, but I can't definitely nail down what it was.  She sails also - delivering sailboats around the east coast a couple times each year as working vacations from her internet job - but I didn't see this in her before she told me.

One of my housemates sails, and when I asked, she said that, yeah, she could usually tell a sailor.  How?  I'm not sure how I did it myself, or if I ever could again.  We have accents in our speech that we learn from our region, and we have specific vocabularies that we learn from our training and education.  I guess we also have accents in our mannerisms and posture.  I've seen this before in Dancers who obviously studied with a certain teacher, and I've heard it indirectly pointed out in so many Sherlock Holmes movies, but somehow forgot about these, to be reminded while in my "Field research".

If I visit enough bars and watch my fellow drinkers carefully, who knows what else I'll learn to see in them. Anyone up for a pint?

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