There are plenty of trivial things I miss about the pre-lockdown days; having a fresh pint in a pub; going out for dinner; having a mad one and staying out until 4am (actually my body loves me a lot more for not doing this). Most of all, I miss going to my favourite coffee shop and escaping the world with a large iced caramel oat latte with a strong blend and not too much syrup, in my reusable cup please and thank you, and a stamp on my loyalty card and a serving of avo-toast on sourdough with a couple of hash browns, and tofu instead of egg….
…They spit in my food.
I’m half joking. I may be a little bit particular about my food and coffee, but it’s one of those super edgy places that if you tried ordering a “simple black coffee”, the whole shop would turn round and stare at you in shock.
Before the lockdown began, I liked to sit in the busy coffee shop, have a few lattes and pretend to do some work whilst taking part in my favourite sport: people-watching. Working from home does not have the same effect when it comes to people-watching my boyfriend. He’s very boring, and I can’t imagine him having some mad secret life, like some of the coffee shop patrons. The weirdest thing he does is microwaving his Weetabix. And apparently that’s normal.
Around November time I was in the coffee shop and I wrote a few lines observing the scenes around me; my nosiness (and desperate need for another distraction) rearing its ugly head. Reading back what I wrote recently immersed myself back into that little shop, almost able to smell the coffee beans and grilled halloumi. I thought, why not share my memories with the likes of you people and bring us back to normality once again, even just for a few minutes…
An observation was taking place at my favourite coffee shop. Not that anyone knew that. Other than me, the observer (or nosey creep some might argue).
A lady with two phones. The usual conclusion when a person has two phones is: drug dealer (or businessperson now I think about it). This lady is older than your average drug dealer, and wearing caramel coloured jeans, as opposed to like, drug dealer clothes… (A long overcoat?)
The cafe is busy, yet she takes up two seats; arse parked on one seat, her legs strewn across the second, a casual pose for a public setting. She stares with precise concentration at one phone, index finger used to scroll, as older folk often do. Her whole outfit showcases different shades of light beige: from her woolly knitted hat devouring her little head, dark eyebrows just peeking out, to her jacket: also beige (but not an overcoat). It looks like fur, but she has a kind face- not the type to be wearing the skin of an animal.
The lady talks to the young girl across from her: are they friends? Relatives probably, judging by the age gap. And they take up two tables, so four chairs in total. Greedy bastards, it’s an incredible busy cafe. Luckily I had found the perfect spot after ordering my coffee, and didn’t become one of the awkward customers loitering around, ready to pounce the second a table became free.
On a different table, two people sit; both drinking pink lemonade, both eating avocado on toast, both middle-aged white women. One of them dominates the conversation: a loud British mum. Her bright red nails cover her mouth as she laughs; concealing the mushed up avocado about to spill out. She seems the type to bring up her kids a lot, whilst bitching about her terrible husband. He never washes up! They never do. Her choices of Converses and skinny jeans shows she wants to stay relevant: she’s a ‘cool mum’.
A few minutes later she picks up the phone, “can you do me a favour, text me that over… And don’t forget… Yeah- make sure it’s done please.” She’s the boss, in control of whatever situation is at hand. The iPhone still in her firm grip. “Thanks Rob, ba-bye.” I like her sassy energy and confident loudness.
To my left, a group of three students are typing away furiously on their MacBooks, silent, other than the odd word in Spanish. Or it could be French, languages were never my strong point. I could join them: become a part of the laptop club tap tap tapping away. Although, I don’t have a sexy Spanish accent.
Another table contains three people: mother and daughter, and a third person who could be a brother or boyfriend, the dynamic is a weird one. He gets his phone out, so I would assume brother or long term friend: feeling comfortable enough to send a text mid-chat. He speaks to the girl in sign language, she wears a hearing aid. The mum of the group speaks to the girl out loud, who seems to read her lips and reply in sign language. interestingly, sign language is the only language I didn’t completely suck at.
My eyes are drawn back to the lady in beige. She wears brown heeled boots. She clearly values her style in her older age. But why the two phones? My granny struggles with one phone, and it’s the same one she’s had since 2002. But this lady has 2 smartphones, both appear to be iPhones too. She’s no longer propping her legs up on the chair, but instead leans over the table, analysing the screen, brows furrowed, deep in thought
The deaf girl and her family leaves. I don’t that I’ve labelled the girl by her disability, so I’ll assume she’s a brain surgeon or something in her spare time. It’s difficult to concentrate here with that middle-aged lady, her voice seems to have increased in volume. Even her actions are loud. Pink lemonades gone straight to her head.
A ginger curly haired man approaches my table. He is wearing a red cap and red shoes, everything else: black. Bold fashion choices from my boyfriend. With him, a large oat milk caramel latte. What a hero. I explain that I have been spying on people. He isn’t surprised by this confession. After we catch up, I go to point out the lady in beige, but she is gone, along with her two phones and potential daughter. I feel deflated: how could I miss the ending to this interaction, does the story finish happily? In reality, I will never see the endings of the interaction; they are just strangers in a coffee shop.
Sadly, back to July 2020, I am no longer in a coffee shop. I really wish I was, but I’m stuck in my flat like a spider in a glass. If spiders drank buckets of instant coffee…
I should add that at the time of posting this, normality in the UK seems to be closer than ever, with coffee shops, pubs and all sorts of establishments reopening this Saturday (4th July). But will it be the same hustle and bustle of a busy Monday morning coffee dash? Or will things be changed forever? Well soon we will know.
Thanks for reading!