An Hour in the Café, closing time.
It’s almost as if the chef thinks I’m forgetful. “I’m going on my break at six, okay?”
Yes, yes, I nod distractedly and carry on dealing with the huge queue of customers that has been steadily building for the last hour of my shift. I finish up making an extra hot half shot skinny decaf latté and take the next lady’s order.
She reaches to hand me her money and I hurriedly decline saying, “I’m going to run you through in a minute!” Horrified, she jumps back, her hand flying instinctively to her chest “oh, I’m sorry” she says, looking terrified. I didn’t speak unkindly, I think to myself as I warm the milk, but I probably should have clarified I meant “through the till” and not “with a sword.” This makes me chuckle quite a lot and the poor lady probably thought I was deranged as I took her money, apparenty struggling to keep a straight face while discussing pain au raisins.
“I’m going on my break now” says our chef in my ear, if you want hot food, call me down again, okay? there’s no one in the kitchen, so you’ll have to call me.” I nod, entirely more interested in our next happy customer. In he rolls, wedged between the orange juice and the weetabix in the depths of his mothers shopping cart, clearly having a whale of a time with some small plastic finger puppets. She looks harassed. “I’ll have a latté, and an almond croissant please, and what do you want darling” the small boy looks up, “Quiche” he says, before returning to placing the puppets on his chubby fingers. “He’ll have quiche” his mother says, with a weary sigh. I nod – far be it from me to question the judgement of so sure a choice.
While I make the latté, the small boy, who is quickly becoming my favourite customer of the day, invents a new game called Push the finger puppets through the bottom of the trolley and watch Mummy pick them up. I won’t lie, it was an incredibly amusing game, but I felt very sorry for his poor Mother. “No darling!” She cries finally, “if you drop them again, I’ll take them away.” I hand her her latté, and as she pushes her trolley over to a table the small boy collects up all the finger puppets in a neat row and then, taking the empty cardboard packaging, stands up and, with the air of a dissatisfied artist, hurls it gracefully over the side of the trolley. His mother doesn’t even notice, which is probably no bad thing.
Regretfully, I turn my attention to the next customer, who wants the ‘half price danish with hot drink’ deal as well as the ‘free hot drink’ promotion. I try and explain to him that he’s not entitled to the benefits of a hot drink that he hasn’t even paid for and by the time he’s settled at his table with a lemon and sultana swirl, my shift is almost over. I do a bit of cleaning and then look across to see that the child prodigy of finger puppets has not received his quiche yet. I wander into the kitchen, and then I remember. Our chef is on her break.