The lunch hour is strictly for business; suited and booted commuters returning for lunch meetings and terse exchanges over coffee. In the corner an old Parisian lady, who has lost none of her style, meets a former lover with business like decorum, and a number of middle managers type furiously on their laptops.
First, a hurried man in a smart suit.
He taps his foot, he coughs and adjusts his tie, and he waits impatiently for the large black coffee that he ordered not forty-five seconds ago. The black coffee and I have had a bit of a falling out. Or, more specifically, the coffee machine and I. I placed the coffee cup under the spout and quite deliberately pressed the ‘double shot’ button. The coffee machine, however, maintains that I pressed the ‘pour indefinitely’ button. It is for this reason that the impatient business man is currently watching as his cup quite literally overfloweth, and spilleth all over the floor and along the worktop. The scalding water is the coffee machine’s way of annoying me, and I have to rush over and turn it off. I have a quick glance; first at the coffee and then at the business man and then back to the coffee, and decide that, yes, he probably noticed and, yes, I better make him a fresh cup. After my altercation with the coffee machine, his coffee is slightly delayed and he takes it from me with much sighing and flaring of the nostrils. “My train was late” he eventually states in a tone of extreme annoyance. I look at him blankly.
“Oh” I say after the silence becomes awkward.
“I don’t appreciate having to wait!” he informs me loftily. It is, you understand, my fault that his train was late, and so I duly apologise on behalf of South West Trains, nay, the national train network, and he sweeps away with his coffee in tow. I miss Phil (SLING). I would never get this kind of carry on from him.
The man whose train I delayed is followed almost immediately by a group of babies who have decided to cry until they receive the gingerbread wands that they were promised by their fraught mothers. The sad news, dear reader, is that we have no gingerbread wands. Now, not only do I have four mothers who want to kill me, I have six screaming babies who are doing their best to push the business people over the edge of sanity.
The business people and the babies soon form two opposing factions and go to war; the babies with considerably more vigour than the business people, who prefer to huff and puff and stare angrily over the rims of their coffee mugs. One man actually puts in headphones as if the noise is distracting him from work, even though I know for a fact that all he is doing is playing Angry Birds and tapping the screen a lot to make it look like he’s typing emails.
One of the toddlers is, by this point, lying on his back on the floor, apparently attempting to conduct the other babies in a sort of infant choir, and perform a rousing chorus of Camp Town Races or some other classic. Some of the younger babies aren’t paying attention at all and the whole thing is rather tuneless and a little out of time, but certainly not lacking in enthusiasm.
The next business of the lunch hour is the business women. In large packs they are almost impossible to please, as they do not wish to appear greedy or impulsive in front of their peers. This, however, can lead to some rather strange requests. For example, today, a lady I served professed that she had a “craving for something Christmassy”. I suggested Turkey sandwiches, Brie and cranberry salad, mince pies, mini Christmas puddings, a cinnamon latte, and gingerbread-men-with-crudely-iced-santa-hats. I even offered to pop over to the Christmas display, crack out a gaudy tablecloth, and arrange for an aunt or uncle to get quietly drunk in the background. But no, none of this was “quite Christmassy enough.” I turned around to make a drink and when I returned I discovered that she had found “the perfect Christmassy treat”.
It was a croissant.
Of course! Silly me.
The same woman then ordered a Babyccino. I painstakingly explained to her that the babyccino consists solely of vaguely frothy milk served in an espresso cup, but she insisted. I ended up charging her 50p for the dregs of her colleague’s cappuccino milk but she couldn’t have been happier as she trotted off with her croissant and her small cup of froth.
In amongst this throng sits a serene, middle aged lady, who is trying very hard to become one of those ‘ladies who lunch’, right down to the effortlessly perfect hair and makeup, and the one shot skinny latte perching elegantly by her cashmere-shod elbow. She is thwarted, however, as she sits nursing her goat’s cheese and cous cous salad, by her husband. Her husband appears in the entrance of the cafe, waving extravagantly to her and holding up a large, bloody chunk of meat wrapped in tartan printed plastic. “Shall we get some ‘aggis?” he shouts excitedly, gesturing rather dangerously with the meat. She looks up, gives one long-suffering sigh and then replies, with all the grace still remaining to her; “No James, I’ve got you some Lincolnshire Poacher, now come and eat your salad.” He does eventually eat his salad, but not before shaking and squeezing the bag of haggis in an exploratory manner that nearly makes his wife divorce him right there next to the pastries.
The babies, meanwhile, have managed to marshall themselves and I can just about make out that they are trying to wail the tune of ‘Eleanor Rigby’. The business people rock back and forth on their seats and weep silently into their lattes while I take all of the babies congratulatory babyccinos, before returning to my real job, which is, of course, making sure that the trains run on time.
It’s not Saturday, don’t be absurd. It’s Thursday. THURSDAY I SAY.