Vote Charlie!

The bar and the burger

Posted at age 26.
Created . Edited .

I finally sat down to write about a night lying awake. To be clear, I was already sitting and had been for most of the day. Anyway, in laying out the context, I ended up with two pages about ordering the burger before I even got to my friend’s house, so I declared that a separate entry. This is why it takes me forever to catch up on my blog.

Not having had a hamburger for about a week, it was time. I didn’t have to feel bad about it as I usually do, for while I was indeed in a foreign country, the United Kingdom isn’t like China or India, where I should obviously be experiencing something other than a burger.

It was getting late, though, and I was toying with the idea of spending the night at a friend’s about a mile away, partly to retrieve my headphones I left there two nights prior. I briefly researched area burgers. Many had closed already since London doesn’t seem to stay up late. But one was both nearby, and open. For another 45 minutes at least.

After a quick shower and obtaining consent from the Buddhist painter friend to come over, I headed to Burger Craft. It turned out to be a bar called The Green Man that also serves burgers. I hesitated to walk into the bar, for I wasn’t quite sure where to actually order the burger, and bars make me nervous. After passing by once, pretending to do something on my phone, and then mustering the courage to enter, I confidently walked in and up to the bar.

The man was nice, and thankfully that was indeed where I should order. He said there was still time, and he took my order. I asked for clarification on fries versus chips, mentioning I was from America. Another bartender took delight in this and joined the conversation, which made me feel important. It kind of seemed like he might also have been an American, but I didn’t ask him where he was from. I thought that might sound silly since he was black and I didn’t want to risk being chastised for presumably assuming he couldn’t be from London. Maybe that sort of thing only happens in America.

After paying, the white bartender informed me it should be “less than 20 minutes. Or 10. If it’s more than 20, you don’t have to pay for it. Joking.” I wasn’t quite following, but politely laughed. He said to sit down, but again, I get nervous, so I opted to go outside for a bit and text some more. I was quite warm, anyway, and it was a great opportunity to pick up some Diet Coke. And snacks.

More awkwardness ensued when I walked into Sainsbury’s and, despite it now being 8:40 and obvious I would finish my transaction before they closed, I asked the man at the door if they were closing soon, hoping for some small validation that I was in fact welcome, and loved. Apparently he didn’t understand English or have hearing, though, for he just made some kind of noises. Still in motion, I just smiled and said, “OK, thanks,” and hunted down the Coke. Of course there was only Coke Zero, and the bottles priced annoyingly as in the U.S. I also grabbed some candy and walked to the checkouts, which were the self type.

Normally, in the U.S., I of course try to be expedient, especially when people are waiting. But I don’t rush through the screens with little confidence I read it correctly. But here in London, and despite there being no line, I felt a peculiar sense of urgency, like I was in the way. Maybe I was just trying to look like I knew what I was doing. I told the computer I brought a bag, not wanting to accidentally pay for one. When it asked me to set down my presumably self brought bags, I clicked OK, hoping it wouldn’t get confused about why I didn’t set anything down. Seemed all right so far. But I couldn’t get the second item to scan, and the staff had to tell me I put the first item down on the side where my basket was supposed to go, not on the scale. I felt like an idiot, made a comment about not having seen such a machine in reverse like that, and moved on. Then they had to check my signature because I’m an annoying American with a signature verified credit card, and finally, I was out the door, with the giant, 20-cents-more-expensive-than-the-size-I-wanted-but-so-much-more-economical soda bottle sticking out of my bag.

Having been there before, I was now confident enough to actually enter the bar the first time, and sat down to wait for my burger. Though now I was wondering if any of the other patrons would notice me and think I was too dumb to know the bartenders don’t take your drink order at the table. But I got past those hurdles and managed to look somewhat together I think. After a few minutes, the second bartender brought me a bag containing my food. He then handed me an entire, unopened bottle of ketchup. It wasn’t clear to me if I was supposed to take some, somehow, or if the whole bottle was included in the price. It was a pricey burger at about $17, and it didn’t weigh as much as I expected, but I didn’t think I needed a whole bottle of ketchup, so I coolly responded that I would be OK without the ketchup. This would at least avoid me looking like an idiot dumping loose ketchup into the bag. “Are you sure?” “Yeah.” Unlike most people, my life doesn’t depend on ketchup. All right then. I said thanks and goodbye, and while it wasn’t the perfected, gentlemanly farewell I had planned to deliver for all those minutes I waited, I think I at least kept my mother country’s reputation mostly intact.


Cars apparently can park any which way on this two way street.


Nice to see the struggle of package receipt is real worldwide.


First London burger. $17 & not so big so hopefully is delicious! Possibly came with an entire bottle of ketchup, which I declined.


Having dinner with my Buddhist friend