"Three hundred missing." That was all I heard. The TV volume was set quite high, but this guy in front of me, the obese, balding chain smoker, was speaking so loudly, in some unintelligible local dialect, that the rest of the report was lost to me. What had happened? My new fat friend then turned slightly toward me, as if he had heard my thoughts and was about to bring me up to date on what had occurred. As he turned, I caught his profile against the light from the window at the other side of the room. He had the longest eyelashes I had ever seen on a man. Also notable was the skin condition. I have no idea what it's called, or even if it is a recognised disorder, but it looked pretty serious. He started to speak. Not to me, but rather to another, equally rotund, gentleman apparently somewhat older than the first. Not one word did I understand. Were they foreign? No, just country folk that had never strayed more than a few miles from their home town. I've seen the phenomenon before and I believe it's quite common in small communities. Language changes, and even though the ability to read and understand the mother tongue remains, the spoken word bears little resemblance to that uttered elsewhere. The other chap replied in an equally incomprehensible chain of sounds. By now I was choking audibly on the dense flow of cigarette smoke pausing to form a cloud around my head on its journey to the open door behind me. I decided to make my way to the television, partly to escape the smoke, but mostly with the intention of learning a little more of what major catastrophe had taken place, presumably in some faraway place where these sorts of tragedies generally occur.
The TV was right next to the entrance door. The rain was getting much heavier and a slightly built lady of some 70 years or so was trying, without much success, to close the door, as the rain was now blowing in to the bar. There was a wedge under the door to keep it open in the warm weather, so I bent down to remove it and the lady knocked me over with her next attempt to seal the breach. Rather than make any sort of gesture of apology she just finished closing the door, threw me a disapproving glance and returned to her seat. Nice. There was a vacant seat facing the TV so I sat down and waited for the news channel to go through its 30 minute cycle of news stories, hopefully returning to the item that interested me. The TV must have been as old as me and there was no remote control to be seen. I expect it had some twiddly controls on the back, but I wouldn't be able to reach them. Annoyingly, the same voice as before was now molesting me from behind.
While I was awaiting my story, the reporting moved to the plight of a stricken submarine, just off the coast of North Africa. Smuggling drugs, it would seem. Strangely enough, just a few days before, I'd been watching a report on drug smuggling and the James Bond style boat chases. I had thought to myself that if I were to enter into the drug trafficking profession, I would buy myself a small submarine, thereby avoiding capture. Ah well, that's narrowed down my career options.