Saturday 22 November 2014

Tyre kickers and cheapskates can keep me entertained but they drive the mother mad

Published 21/07/2014 | 02:30

Billy Keane and his mother Mary outside their pub, the John B Keane in Listowel Co Kerry
Billy Keane and his mother Mary outside their pub, the John B Keane in Listowel Co Kerry

The car salesman tells me he gets them as well. This is the peak season for the visits of the cheap people who window shop in our pub. They visit the car salesman in January, his busiest time. Tyre kickers he calls them.

The husband and wife take a drive about, usually on a Saturday, and in they go to the showroom. Every car is looked at and a thousand questions are asked like 'how's she on the juice? and 'who owned her last?' The man usually gives the tyre a tap with his shoe as if to check the pressure. The day out it's called.

We get them in droves. They have no notion of buying anything. One lad even asked me if it would be alright for himself and herself to eat their sandwiches in the pub.

"Fine", I said, just for the fun of it. I began to tell them about all my overheads. "Did you know that publicans have to pay a tax on pint glasses?"

It's true, we do. I wasn't winding them up. The plan was to make them feel guilty and then after a series of subtle hints they would be shamed into buying a drink.

The plan didn't work.

"Awful blackguarding that taxing people for glasses," said she. Then he takes two mugs the size of saucepans out of a bag and asks would I mind filling them up with boiling water.

"No bother at all" says I, "and are ye alright for tea bags?", knowing well the mother would be back in the pub in a few minutes and the steam would come out her ears.

The mother did come back in and for a minute I thought she was going to get the brush to them but then when she calmed just a bit over she goes to the cheapskates with her fist clenched and her lips go purple, which is a sure sign she's in a right tear.

In the meantime, he asks if: "ye have any oul books ye've read yourselves wrote by the father. We're gatherin' dem for the Bazaar for The Foreign Missions".

The mother tells the two she has to charge them corkage on the packet of biscuits they've just taken out for the last part of their picnic. The lady asked my mother if she had any souvenirs. The mother I signed a beer mat for them. Then the lady asks the mother 'what age are you now?' The mother is losing her reason at this stage. She replies, 'I'm the same age as I was this time last year, only a year older.'

I tell the tyre kickers the mother has just turned 107. 'Isn't she very fresh for her age all the same, compliments the nice lady with her mouth half-full of biscuits. Her husband whispers to me 'has she all her marbles?' The mother who can hear the grass growing in the family farm in Knocknagoshel, some 20 miles away, gets every word.

The mother is very annoyed by now and she says: "in all my 107 years, I've never met anyone as tight as the two of ye." The two get a desperate fit of laughing, as if the mother is joking or a cracked old dear or a bit of character.

They make for the door and I say 'call again the next time ye are back in town.' The mother passes a remark, something along the lines of 'I reared an eejit.'

The worst part is all the questions. It's not so bad answering questions when someone buys a drink and the tyre kickers never seem to tire of enquiries.

Last summer we had a glut of tyre kickers, what with the fine weather. By late September I was gone demented.

This lad who asked for glass of tap water asked me a million questions and I answer them all politely. I heard a story of the hotelier on the Ring of Kerry who used to charge €2 for a glass of tap water. He called it draft still. I'm not sure if that story is true or not but I hope it is.

The lad asks 'for a few knobs of ice, if it's no trouble.' I oblige.

"But wasn't your father a fierce brainy man. Did he leave much after him?"

"Oh he did indeed," says I, wondering if I'd get much jail time for doing him in with the ice tongs.

So instead of killing him I opt for torture. Out I go to the deep freeze and in I come with a frozen roast of beef. "There's the father's brain", I say. The man goes pale. He gets up off the stool he has been parked on for an hour and is about to leave, but I'm not finished with him.

"He was so smart" I continue, "the doctors took out his brain and when they were finished their tests, they gave it back to us and we froze it."

The foreigners are nearly as bad as our own lads. There was the night when the bar was buzzing for our summer pub theatre (Tuesdays and Thursdays) and six French people took up the best seats. They bought just one glass of Guinness between the six of them. The French passed around the glass. Each one took a sip and licked their lips. Two hours they stayed and, as our pub is small enough, a good few real customers came in and left because there was nowhere to sit.

Sometimes you have to laugh.

"I'd swear" said the mother, "that the French crowd gave a few staggers when they were going out the front door."

Irish Independent

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