The Battle at Harry’s Bar

Jack was horrified. But my warrior had emerged, sword in hand, and she wasn’t having any of it.

We were in Sligo during a massive music festival. The place was packed. Finding a place to eat was an issue, especially for the nine of us who had arrived at Harry’s Bar for diner. Elizabeth and Brendan, our B&B hosts, had made several calls earlier in the day and secured reservations here. But when we arrived the head waitress Harry's Bar 2said no, they had no such reservation. I glanced at the two tables close by with reserved signs on them and sensed they were ours, but this woman was not working with me.

I insisted that our B&B hosts had called earlier in the day and secured reservations. She asked the nearby bartender and other waitresses if they had taken a reservation. No. They shook their heads, clearly not willing to contradict the woman in charge. But the folks from Serenity Lodge had booked us tables, perhaps the booking was under that name? Without really checking she said again they had no such booking.

This is when I leaned across the bar and said, “Are you telling me that our B&B hosts lied to us?” “No, now I’m not saying that,” she said, ” I’m just telling you we have no such booking.” When I suggested we call Brendan, Jack leaned in and said there must be some mistake and we could go elsewhere. He was clearly uncomfortable. But I knew that wasn’t an option so I stood my ground. My adversary wasn’t happy but disappeared around the corner to get a phone book. It was then that the owner appeared. In fact he had taken the booking himself and in fact those tables with the reserved signs were ours.

The head waitress was chagrined and offered an excuse that she thought I had said I had just called in the reservation. Our exchange, although not loud, was intense and had shifted the energy in the place. The Irish don’t like confrontation.

The people here are so nice. I can count on hearing this comment within a day of folks arriving in Ireland. And it’s true. Beyond the vary rare exception, the Irish are extremely gracious, hospitable, and accommodating. Willing to go to great effort to have things work and work out. Especially interested in stepping around or beyond tension and conflict they generally employ indirect rather than direct communication.

Over the years I’ve come to speculate this arises from a heritage of both code and subjugation. The Brehon Laws of early Ireland, the civil codes that guided the Irish for millennia, were clear and explicit on expectations of hospitality. However centuries of subjugation fostered survival skills of acquiescence and vague communication. The Irish excel at both and I’ve found it the best strategy to relax into the gentle, wandering, and sometimes circular nature of conversations.

However there are times. And this was one of them. Breathing deeply I put my sword away and we enjoyed a lovely dinner. The wait staff were totally gracious and the warrior energy soon subsided. The battle at Harry’s Bar was over.

Judith –