How to get hustled in Bucharest
9 min read

How to get hustled in Bucharest

What happens when those Bucharest Nightclub hustlers get their way and lure you to a club?
How to get hustled in Bucharest
Photo by Marian Mirea / Unsplash

You’ve been walking around the Old Town for over twenty minutes, looking for a specific place. You don’t know its name, what it looks like, or who’ll be there, but you’ll know it when you see it.

When you finally do see it, at a crossroads around the corner from Dristor Kebab, with a bright yellow sign and a long wooden bar inside of the dim interior, the impetus takes you past it. You even like the name: Shot Factory. It’s for people on the move, like you. But there was that other place you wanted to check out first and a cold beer is waiting for you if you make it. Except now you’ve got the Shot Factory in your head, the bird in hand as it were, and the further you walk away from it up the winding, cobblestoned street lined with sound and light, the more you’re wondering if you shouldn’t just turn back. It's drizzling anyway and chilly in early December. You’ll find the beer another time. Still, you keep walking. You follow the road up, hang a right, then another right past the busy bars with their makeshift patios covered in heavy, transparent plastic sheeting, warming the seated groups of miticus extraordinarus with orange gas heaters,  and then you stop, realizing you had almost walked past it.

The white background, the black and red lettering with the subtle green trim confirm it. You walk up to the door and look through the square window inside. It’s sterile. Bright, white, and subdued, with chrome beer tanks exposed along the wall. You don’t like it, instinctively. It doesn’t look welcoming, not like the Shot Factory. You see people sitting at white picnic table style benches in a modern-looking beer bar. Too modern. And, at the door, a staff member checks for the COVID ‘green pass’. Definitely sterile and the end of the line for you, at least you’ve seen it. You keep walking like Johnny, hit a main thoroughfare at the periphery of the old town and decide to follow it around, back toward the Shot Factory, instead of trying to retrace your steps. If providence was good enough to land you right at the front door of Csikisor just now, you’ll manage to end up where you need to end up.

On your brisk walk you can’t help but wonder if it isn’t the case that that a man’s face can be open or shut, like a door, and the more open it is, the more people – both wanted and unwanted – try to step inside. You don’t have to wonder long, your face is, as usual, curious and inquisitive though also tinged with a sardonic bit of ennui, enough to inevitably attract the attention of every type of promoter and street-hawk. Earlier you’d gone as far as telling one insistent ‘Nightclub’ promoter that you don’t like girls. But he only left you alone when you said you’re a good guy, you don’t go to nightclubs nor mess with ladies. But now, when another, with a funny eye and tight, dye-faded jeans asks, “Where you from?” you say, “Why do you guys always need to ask?” He laughs and says, “Come to my bar, free shot for you, for visiting my country.”  You tell him you got your bar and your shot already, point at the Shot Factory sign - providentially ahead of you - and walk inside where a dark-stubbled bartender in a checkered shirt and an ornate sleeve tattoo gives you a nod by way of greeting. You like that the interior is dim aside from the light beside the bar and, aside from a group of young locals near the entrance, quite empty. You order an Irishman because you’re feeling funny tonight but it’s not what you expect when it comes; too sweet and not enough humour.

It doesn’t take long for the hustler to follow you in. He's a gypsy, of course and unlike the more typically reserved Romanian he's not shy about approaching people like you, especially if there's a potential something in it for him. You’ve got a choice to make: ignore or tell him to fuck off, or hang tight and see where it all takes you. When he asks for a shot for himself (because, "I will get you two shots in my place."), you make up your mind.

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