Seats were scarce in the café as queues of tray-laden customers circled the room looking for a place to park. Those already seated sat smugly with their meals. There were a few plush couches in the establishment whose patrons would leisurely, aristocratically pick at their lunches. Even in a greasy spoon you’ll find snobs.
One window stool facing out to the main road stood empty. This sticking out like a sore thumb location was sub-prime. Windows to the world are for writers only. From this spot they can observe humanity in all its guises giving them reams of future material. I gave it a miss.
Ex nihilo a space appeared. I plugged the gap with a plumber’s precision. My table was inhabited by a random population of unknown people thrown together like the balls in the lottery. The only thing we strangers had in common was that it was our table. Just as I was getting to know the faces one of the table folk decided to leave. Chivalrously, he gave his position to an old lady.
“Does anyone know where the ladies toilets is?” asked the old soul.
Somebody pointed it out to her. The old woman asked if we could watch her seat for her. This really was a big favour. I was going to propose we should put this to a vote when another one of those chevalier types said “nae bother.” This put a soup-laden burden on the herd as there were predators everywhere. Hackneyed or not, the ancient one was not flavour of the month.
She was ages. Young at the time of Bill Haley it was getting to the stage where the comet would be back here before the old Emily brontosaurus. Through the fields of heaving carnivores ready to cannibalise one another I saw the aged one speak to a waitress before finally sitting down. Our sigh of relief was short-lived as the long-lived one said.
“The girl told me the key in code to enter the toilet is on the back of the seat.”
Leaving no vapour trail as she slowly bent over the side of her chair
“There’s no number on the back of this seat.” she declared.
The mayor of our table hit his spoon on his cup and motioned with an anti-clockwise stir that we should check our seats to find the number. This was a where’s Wally moment I was not prepared to do. Our party were all on their hands and knees upturning chairs hoping to be the called the next Dan Brown. No code showed; it was enigmatic.
A domino principle occurred where other tables, without knowing why, aped the goings on at ours. The room was a mass of kneeling mantises juxtaposed by zombie creatures wheeling round with their hot dinners freezing cold.
I made a partial effort to join in the charade and as I twisted round I nudged a burly man with a plate of pie in his hands who had just been served. It resulted in one of those slow motion frames that directors use for effect in a film. The pie fell to the floor in a non-Newtonian law of gravity time of just over three seconds.
“One thousand and one apologies.” I was very sorry for the pie that revealed itself to be of the blackberry variety. It’s not been their week, has it?
“Stuff your palindrome apologies.” he said thus conveying the knock on fact he was a pseudo-intellectual college rugby player.
“That’s not quite right, you know. There’s a comma after the first one and none before the last one so technically it’s not a palindrome. If I had said 10 01 apologies to you-”
He swung a punch at me and I ducked; I could duck for Scotland. I heard a roar.
“arrgghh.” and thought he’d hit someone else by mistake. I was mistaken. It was a nearby diner tasting the new Portuguese Man o War cheese. It was spicier than Pink in the Lady Marmalade video.
The commotion in the café was brought to a halt when the waitress on hearing of the reason for the heads down, thumbs down tumult shouted.
“Toilets are for customers only. To use the toilet the key in code for the door is on the back of the receipts.”