It’s Not Easy Being Green

The simplest way to explain St. Patrick’s Day is that it’s the day that makes you absolutely hate a place you’d probably love any other day of the year.

Granted, the somewhat last-minute decision to go to a place called Hagan O’Reilly’s Irish Pub was probably not the best plan, but their website talked about tents and festivals, so I pictured a big, spread-out event with room to move.  Instead, we got what would have been a charming little spot had it not been for the hordes swarming all over it like drunken ants in a kicked over hill.  Again, should have been expected, but I foolishly thought a place wouldn’t hold an event like this without being able to reasonably accommodate people.

Here, “reasonably accommodate” meant at least ninety minutes before we got a table.  Seeing as we’d driven about twenty-five minutes to get to this place, we stubbornly decided we were not simply going to turn around, buy a six-pack of Guinness and call it a night.  We could have gone to wait at the bar, but that would have meant the possibility of not hearing our name called, which would have meant we drove all the way to Winter Garden to stand at a bar.  So we hunkered down near the entrance, dodging those venturing in and out, deftly staying away from precariously held plastic cups of green beer.

Getting a chance to look at the place, it seemed really folksy and welcoming.  At least, that was true for the bits of it I could see that weren’t blocked by crowds standing around.  They’d shoved all the tables into long rows, so the effect was more like a Viking feast than an Irish pub, and the behavior wasn’t too far removed either.  You really had to feel for the servers, because there was barely room for them to weave around this seething mass.  But beyond the crowd, there was a great old dark wood bar, little alcoves to the sides dressed as the fronts of pubs, and a huge map of Ireland painted on the ceiling.  Like I said, any other day of the year, we’d have probably fallen in love with the place.  This day, it was a quickie behind the bar.

After about fifteen minutes, Hannah said the word that would be our savior:  “MOM!”

Yep, Hannah’s mother strolled by, plastic cup in hand.  Our first words weren’t “Hello” or “How are you?” but, “Do you have a table?” said with the same amount of urgency as, “Is there a doctor in the house?” or “Can you help me, there’s an arrow in my head?”  And bless old St. Patrick himself, she did have a table.  With chairs and everything.  It was beautiful.  That bullet dodged, we made sure to give our entire order to the server immediately, since we had no clue when she’d make it back to us through the green sea around us.

Once we’d breached the perimeter defenses, things went about as smoothly as you could expect for an evening spent inside a fire code violation.  And it really made me wonder why people put themselves through this.  It’s almost as if people feel it’s an obligation, that if they don’t cross the threshold of a bar on St. Patrick’s Day, they’ll end up in the part of Hell with the really crowded bar, and once a year for life is enough of that.  These people were shoved into this place, shoulder to shoulder, drinking beer out of plastic cups, eating food off of plastic plates with plastic forks, and I could probably count the number of smiles I saw on maybe two hands.  And I shudder to think what it was like outside in the tent, where they were shoved together like it was the U.S. embassy at the fall of Saigon, only with a live band instead of a helicopter.  It makes me wish lemmings actually did follow each other over cliffs into the sea, because that story not being true has robbed me of a really good metaphor here.  Damn you, Walt Disney.

Now, the food was good, the beer was cold, and the servers nothing but friendly.  But that night, that was like saying, “Yes, the boat’s sinking, but the band is really good.”  However, everyone we sat with raved about how great the place was — any other time but this.  Hannah and I even talked about coming back, preferably on a day most diametrically opposed to St. Patrick’s as possible.  Like maybe Columbus Day or something.

What’s funny is, I talked to a native Irishman at the Star Wars Celebration last year, and he said in Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is basically Thanksgiving.  You get together with family, have a big meal, and confuse the hell out of American tourists who expect the last days of Sodom and Gomorrah.

And the sad thing is that most people will go through this whole routine again come May, when we pretend we’re all Mexican instead Irish.  On yet another day that means something entirely different to the people who actually have cause to celebrate it.  Only this time, I don’t think we’ll drive to Winter Garden to do it.  We’ll buy some Cuervo and watch The Magnificent Seven.


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