As they entered Scrumpy Jack two tables on their left were joined together. The tables were occupied by seven people, three males and four females. The sports bar was still relatively empty yet showing signs of life. Those who were inside were relishing conversation and the copious amounts of beer they were consuming, perhaps gearing themselves for the match or unwinding after a long day. Some tables were still unoccupied.
Upon seeing Tshepo, Tumelo and Yonda, Olwethu screamed in subtle excitement, ‘Hey! These bastards are here.’
The other guys joined in a chorus. ‘Welcome boys!’. Olwethu stood up to drag a third table. He asked the girls to stand up so he could pull another table closer. Olwethu joined the table with the two where they were seated. Yonda and Tshepo reciprocated the noise with both their arms raised in the air, while Tumelo in his usual quiet self, smiled and contained himself. They joined their mates and the four strangers seated with them, quietly greeting the girls as if a spell of noise that just took place did not happen.
The boys chatted amongst themselves, exchanging pleasantries. ‘Girls, these are my friends’, Pule, as usual, led away with the introduction. ‘This here is Tumelo. He is scared of women’, he burned Tumelo.
Embarrassed, Tumelo dismissed Pule with a wry laugh. ‘This is here is Shaq’, he introduced Yonda. ‘Hee wena, who is Shaq?’ Yonda protested. ‘Sorry my leader. His name is Yonda.’
The girls were now curious. ‘Why do you call him Shaq’, Sindy, one of the girls enquired.
They boys could not contain themselves and they all exploded in slaughter. ‘Chief, do you see what you have started?’ Yonda, wearing a naughty smile, further protested.
‘Sindy, you are going to get me into trouble. This here is my leader, Tshepo’, Pule continued with the introductions. ‘He is a player and a notorious heartbreaker. I would avoid him if I were you ladies’, Mohau jump in, cockblocking Tshepo. In return Tshepo shot Mohau a playful, disapproving look. ‘Sorry bafana’, he quickly apologised with a smile. ‘Chaps, meet the ladies. Sindy, Palesa, Nangamoso and Lesego’, Pule, the choirmaster finally concluded.
The three tables were lined in a row with an idea to form a single table. Pule seated against the wall with a 180 degrees view of the bar, flanked by Sindy on the right and Lesego on his left. Dressed in an African print dashiki he cut the perfect picture of an ancient king. As the place was still empty he motioned to one of the barmen to bring more drinks. Minutes later the barman returned appearing to be straining under the weight of two jugs, together constituting three liters of South Africa’s premium beer, Castle Lager.
‘Hee banna’, Yonda exclaimed. ‘We are going to die here mos…Chief, don’t you have classes tomorrow?’ He asked Pule. ‘Shaq, stop asking too many questions and drink’, Pule dismissed Yonda. The barman went back to the bar to fetch extra three glasses and more drinks for the girls. They preferred the sweetness of ciders over bitter ale.
As much as it was a popular bar, attracting just about every age, race and culture under the sun, Scrumpy Jack was frustratingly small and it had only one exit, at least one that patrons were permitted to use. The sports bar was divided into four sections. The first partition which was the biggest of the four, was what could be referred to as the common area; an open room with sliding doors that led into Lower Main road. The room had three large similar television screens which were strategically mounted high on three of the six walls that completed the room. Like a neat canvas of fame, framed pictures of the owner with different sports personalities were plastered on the two large walls that did not have the television sets. If he had time to entertain his regular customers, most of whom were always male, especially if they were in company of beautiful women, the owner did not mind sitting down and to tell tall tales of how he was acquainted with some of the famous people decorating his walls.
When Scrumpy Jack is empty and you paid attention, the bar which was tucked away at the back on the right-hand side of the room can be gleaned through the sliding doors. Behind the bar was an obscure door that was reserved for staff. If the owner did not wish to mingle with patrons and was on the premises, he would hide behind that door.
Opposite the bar was a doorframe that was used as an entrance into the second bigger partition where people who did not wish to be found hid away. From the main entrance the third partition, the second largest of the rooms, could not be seen. Some patrons would only find out later about these partitions when they wanted to use the bathroom. Even after years of frequenting Scrumpy Jack others still thought the sports bar was just a single room twice the breadth of a train carriage servicing the throats of thirsty avid sports fans.
The third partition while connected to the larger area accepted as the actual sports bar, can be described as a back room. Without a single window, it did not have the natural light enjoyed by the common area and thus relied on coloured electric bulbs, which were not exactly bright, for luminance. Perhaps it was the owner’s intention to create a relaxed ambiance to calm some of his customers who might be in a rush to leave instead of enjoying a drink or two, if not more.
Like the common area, the walls of this room were decorated with framed pictures but these ones were images of abstract art. One had to look closely to notice. At the back of this back room two white doors next to each other were visible under the dimmed purple lights. The door on the left had a black sign carved out in the shape of a Victorian man while the second door on the right had a similar sign but carved out in the shape of a Victorian woman.
When the place was full and the patrons had had quite a lot to drink, the signs of the doors did not matter. Women could be found in men’s toilet, which was often the case and men on a rare occasion could be seen entering the female toilet. Under the weight of alcohol and inebriation they all understood that when mother nature summoned, she did not care for the different signs on the doors; what is important is that her call is answered, as urgently as possible.
As the congregation of ten soaked their throats with alcohol and so came the conversation to life. Not sure what the plans were between the girls and their friends, the trio that arrived late to the party decided to hold a quiet lekgotla of their own while they waited for the match to start. Yonda was seated at the edge of what was now a single, long table. Tumelo sat against the wall and faced Tshepo. On the opposite end of the table was Olwethu who was flanked by Lesego on his right and Mohau on his left. The other two women we crammed between Tshepo and Mohau. Besides the tight sitting arrangements, the girls did not mind. They were having fun, laughing at Pule’s jokes.