Wetiquette

In which The Author revisits the unwritten rules of pub culture

We all know (at least in theory) what Etiquette is – the generally accepted rules of polite conduct in society. Most of us also know what Netiquette is – it’s the system of unwritten rules which have evolved through the growth of the Internet. But how many people these days remember Wetiquette? In a nutshell, it’s the age-old and dying art of behaviour when you’re drinking in a pub. (Or, as the dialect usage has it, ‘having a wet.’)
Maybe it’s time to remind everyone of the basic tenets of Wetiquette. There are the obvious ones, of course, like never bringing politics or religion into the discussion, but people don’t seem to know the rest. It’s been a long time since I learned them, but from my vaguely-remembered early days in pubs, they go something like this:
  • If you see a coat on the back of a chair, or a bag on a seat, ninety-nine times out of a hundred it indicates that someone’s already sitting there. That person may be at the bar, or having a smoke, or answering a call of nature. Don’t sit there. It’s just fucking rude.
  • Forcing yourself into the personal space of a complete stranger and trying to establish conversation is also fucking rude. If you’re pissed to the point of incoherence, don’t be surprised when your New Best Friend tells you to fuck right off. Similarly, if it’s obvious that the person you’re talking at is not the least bit interested in what you’ve got to say, shut the fuck up.
  • Not everyone is interested in your drug habit, your criminal career, your prison experiences, your relationship problems, or your track record as a street brawler. These matters are best confided to your GP/ counseller/ probation officer/ priest/ whatever. If you do feel the need to talk about them in public, try not to do it at such a volume which enables the whole pub to hear. Otherwise, shut the fuck up.
  • The Six Degrees of Separation theory is just that: a theory. Simply because you know someone, it doesn’t mean that that person’s friends will automatically become your friends. Seven times out of ten (at least) it fails to work. You may well be told to fuck right off.
  • The sight of a person reading a book, or perusing a newspaper, or doing a crossword, may be an unknown phenomenon where you come from. You might have to ask an older relative to show you the skills required to read anything longer than 140 characters (or three one-sentence paragraphs in a tabloid newspaper). Once you’ve mastered them, you’ll find the novelty factor soon goes away. Until you acquire them, don’t be surprised if you’re told to fuck right off.
  • A camera is a device for capturing still or moving pictures, so that the user can look at them in the future. It isn’t witchcraft, or the instrument of the devil. (Although the late Sir Arthur C. Clarke once observed, ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.’) Put your primitive fears to one side. Cameras don’t steal part of your soul – except for the really expensive DSLR gear, of course. If you see someone taking these still or moving pictures, it’s probably nothing at all to do with you. Simply relax, drink your drink, and shut the fuck up.
  • Truly original comedians get to appear on Live at the Apollo and similar TV shows. Every hugely amusing witticism you utter towards complete strangers is, in fact, simply a variation on an existing theme. We’ve heard them a thousand times before. It’s not callled ‘banter’, it’s called ‘being a twat’. There are venues which allow would-be comedians to road-test new material at open mic nights. Go to one of them, get up on stage, and see how long you last. Otherwise, shut the fuck up.
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