Around the time the lunch menu is replaced with the expanded dinner menu, our pub is in the midst of changing from one convivial group of patrons to another. Many regulars come in pairs or larger groups. Many are creatures of habit. A couple entertaining their granddaughter will order two pints, some spiced nuts, and pretzels, then repair to the middle snug upstairs. A doctor takes his place at the bar and orders a half pint of bitter. A retired Saint Louis city police officer pays for each pint he orders, saying “Cut me off after this one.”
Then two notorious local engineers arrive and take their seats at the bar. To protect their identity, let’s call them “Hall” and “Oates.” Hall orders a pint and Oates orders a half pint.
Here’s a word problem for the mathematically inclined: if Hall only drinks beer in volumes of 568.261 milliliters and Oates only drinks beer in volumes of 284.1305 milliliters, and if Hall consumes beer 41.9% faster than Oates, on which round will they finish their beers at exactly the same instant?
Take your time. A problem such as this takes care in formulating and calculating, the same care that Hall and Oates themselves take when they discuss thorny philosophical questions. For example, what is the precise nature of the sandwich? What are the defining elements that set the “sandwich” apart from other handheld comestibles?
Hall and Oates have been hotly debating this problem for as long as anyone can remember. On the face of it, “what constitutes a sandwich?” is a simple enough question. But consider this common definition from the second edition of the Random House Dictionary of the English Language: “two or more slices of bread or the like with a layer of meat, fish, cheese, etc. between each pair.” Notice the devilishly vague phrase or the like, not to mention the maddeningly expansive etc.
That could be just about anything. “I can’t go for that,” Hall says. “Can’t go for that, can’t go for that,” Oates echoes emphatically. Hall tries his own working definition, after being dared by Oates to draw a line. “Baked, risen dough, partially enclosing fillings, such as meat and cheese.” But the question of what portion of the filling may be enclosed by the bread quickly derails this attempt.
Wraps are out. Tacos are right out. But what of the hotdog? Our value-priced G & W frank, for example? One vote for and one against. Can the bun enclose three sides of the filling of the sandwich? This is clearly not a case of “a drink and a quick decision.” The definition needs work.
Hall sketches X and Y axes on the bar. “WHO-OA, YEAH!” Oates hollers encouragingly. They are talking foci, they are talking sines and cosines, they are talking limits of integration. Pints and half pints are refilled and the conversation continues.
It’s late now, and a voice from down the bar can be heard saying “cut me off after this one.” The sandwich remains a riddle, though a tasty affordable one. Next time you’re in, share your thoughts on the sandwich with Hall and Oates. Order a pint and a sandwich. Feel free to play some eighties music on the jukebox. No need to over-think it. But do raise a glass to some of the regulars who make each night at the Civil Life special.
The Civil Blog has returned. It is predominantly authored by Civil Life Barman, Dr. Patrick Hurley, who can be found tending to our bar patrons on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. He is also responsible for tending to our draft lines, which is recognized as one of our most important tasks. Special guest writers will appear from time to time. We hope reading this blog will give you much insight about the Civil Life and most importantly help you understand a bit more about all of us that work here and the beers we put our hearts into.