Doing all that writing about manele reminded me of something that happened a few years ago in my verrah own personal life. Now that enough time has passed, I can tell it to you now if you promise not to tell anyone ;)
I never look down at anyone because I’ve made just about every mistake a person can make in Romania and the following is as well. It was, however, one heck of a learning experience.
It was a cold and blustery wintry night near the end of December and I had been invited to a Christmas party at a bar by some friends. Everything went smashingly well and I had a really wonderful time and drank many delightful drinks. I had such a good time, in fact, that I ended up being literally the last customer to walk out the door, quite late at night.
Then the “Perfect Storm” of two serendipitous events collided. One was that during the festivities inside, a thick blanket of snow had fallen on the city and was indeed still falling. It was beautiful but it meant driving was treacherous and so there were few cars on the road.
The second fateful event was that all that drinking had made me hungry. Normally I would have walked up the street to go straight home but knowing how slippery the footing would be combined with a strong desire for some greasy fast food made me devise another plan.
I would go buy a sandwich, eat it and then catch a taxi at a nearby taxi stand. Unfortunately, the rapidly falling snow made even the short walk to the fast food place very slippery and difficult to negotiate. And after slipping and sliding my way over there, I found to my dismay that the fast food place was closed.
Now I was even farther away from home so I decided to cut my losses and just get in a taxi and go home. But there wasn’t a taxi to be found. I peered down the road and saw almost nothing but pedestrians slipping and darting their way across the ghostly, abandoned streets.
I was now in centru and there were hundreds of shivering, cold and probably equally drunk patrons pouring out of other bars, all of us chasing just a handful of taxis.
I began walking around one of the main squares in town, thinking that I would see more taxis circulating around there and then I could flag one down but the cause was hopeless.
As I slogged around the west side of the square, I passed by the door of a bar and three or four young guys emerged. I had never been in this little hole in the wall bar but as the door swung open I clearly heard manele music.
The three or four guys popped out of this bar and engaged me in conversation about the taxi situation. They offered to pool our resources and share a taxi. One of them called a taxi dispatcher to order a cab and another one tried to flag passing taxis as they came down the street past us.
After about 10 minutes of standing in the snow, miraculously a very spacious taxi arrived and we all piled in. Our plan was that the taxi would first drop these guys off and then I’d just stay inside and ride home, since their destination was closest.
Strangely, their destination was actually a bar and it was fairly close to where we left from, almost not even worth riding in a taxi for. These friendly guys I was riding with said they were just going inside for a quick drink and invited me to join them.
I guess I was feeling good with all the camaraderie and the still undiluted effects of my earlier merry-making so I said what Miles said and bailed out of the taxi. This bar was almost across the street from the bar I had left an hour earlier, so hilariously I was now back to where I had started.
But this new bar was something different as I immediately discerned when I heard manele music blasting the second we entered the door (many of the songs I knew quite well, I was interested to discover).
Although it had to be around 3:00 or 4:00 am, the bar was packed and we only barely got a table way on the end near a large TV screen showing manele videos.
I had already been speaking to my new “buddies” exclusively in Romanian but as I sat there, I realized that there was a palpable hostility to anything that wasn’t Romanian. They clearly knew I wasn’t Romanian but any usage or mention of English was not welcomed whatsoever. In fact, a few other people in the bar I attempted to talk to in English gave me extremely hostile stares.
Furthermore, although my new “buddies” had paid for the taxi, when the waitress came by to take our orders, a couple of them tried to suddenly tell me they had “no money” and could I pay for it? I mean especially since I was their new bestest buddy? Hell no. I literally told them “Drink what you can pay for” and then I insisted on paying the waitress on the spot when she brought my drink so later there wouldn’t be any “let’s share the bill” business.
So now I’m sitting at a table with two guys who just tried to openly swindle me and I don’t know them at all other than a five minute taxi ride. I realize it’s now almost dawn outside and I begin to look around me at the various tables and it’s about 90% young guys wearing leather jackets, many of them clearly drunk, tired and frustrated.
The few women are sandwiched in tight with their dates and completely unapproachable. I realize I’m sitting here across the street from where I left and wasting my time so I decide to drink the one drink and get out of there.
But for some reason I had ordered quite a stiff drink and so I couldn’t gulp it – I had to nurse it. And during that time, I engaged in some chitchat with the guys (despite my inebriation, I was quite curious) at my table. One guy kept bragging about how awesome and great this bar was and I countered by asking him where all the women were.
When I said that, his eyes popped open and he started telling me he knew some girls, blah blah, he was a real ladies man, etcetera. I told him to call some of them up and so he whipped out his phone and began dialing.
I began talking to one of the other guys until the first guy came over and said that good news, he had woken up (I know, I know) a girl he knew and she was on her way over right now. My eyebrow was already raised at hearing that when he said the fateful words: “One hundred euros”.
What? A hundred euros for what?
When I said no thanks, he made me a counter offer. We could share and then it’d only be 50 euros apiece. What a deal! :P
Amazingly, when I walked out of that bar, there was a taxi idling right there which I hopped in and I made it home without incident, thank goodness.
That manele club still exists in Cluj today with the same name as it had all those years ago: Club Romantic.