Tag Archives: Conversations

Coffee Shop Tales: The meeting


A Chinese buffet restaurant in the United Stat...

Four men stood in the doorway, their dark suits a contrast to the casual attire of the other customers.  They removed their sunglasses and waited while their eyes adjusted from the bright sunshine to the dark interior of the coffee shop.

The moved towards a table in the corner, hesitated, and then one of them pointed to the stairs.  They climbed up to the tables on the mezzanine floor.  A waitress followed with a jug of water and four glasses.  Two of the men took seats at a table at the top of the stairs while the other two commandeered the couch in the opposite corner.

The waitress placed the jug and two glasses on the table and discussed the buffet with the two men before moving over to the couch.  There she placed the other two glasses.

“Are you also going to have the buffet?” she asked.

“No,” one of the men mumbled.

“Would you like the menu?”

More mumbling.

“I’ll just bring another jug of water then,” she said and walked towards the steps.

The men at the table shed their jackets and followed her down the stairs to choose their meal from the buffet.  They returned with full plates while the waitress brought the promised jug of water to the men on the couch.

The meal was eaten but not enjoyed.  The business on the table was more important than food.  Notepads and calculators soon replaced plates as the two settled down to work.  Cell phones became tools to bring others into the discussion and to source additional information.  Was this a conspiracy to take over the world?  A business deal?

On the couch, water was drunk, newspapers scanned and cell phones engaged.  Now and again one of the watchers would get up and saunter past the meeting and down the stairs, to return a short while later and take his place on the couch.  At the table, ties were loosened as the discussion became more serious.  On the couch, ties remained tight and jackets on (hidden weapons perhaps?), although bodies slipped down to more comfortable positions and newspapers were read in more detail.

Intense discussion at the table contrasted with the silence on the couch.  Would the two drowsy watchers spring into unexpected action if tempers flared or a suspicious customer threatened the table?  I was tempted to find out but, preferring the quite life, I paid for my meal and slipped out into the bright sunshine, leaving the talkers to talk and the watchers to watch.

I scanned the papers for the next few weeks to check whether someone had taken over the world or a business deal had been struck—nothing.

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Coffee Shop Tales: Hannah


(This and my next post comprise two stories I wrote while in a coffee shop, observing people around me, and waiting for inspiration.  No real names are used.)

She walked in with her mother and they looked around the room for an empty table.  She was about eight and still in her primary school uniform.  She pointed to the stairs and they climbed to the top.  They sat at one of the tables that overlook the customers eating their lunch below.  She was clearly excited.  This would be a special time with her mom.

A waitress followed them up the stairs and took their order: a milkshake for her and coffee for Mom.  She looked around the walls fascinated by the pictures of Nguni cattle, while her mother sent an SMS on her cell phone.  Mom put away her cell phone and said, “So, Hannah, what happened today.”

Hannah thought for a moment.  “Mrs Lightgood was cross with Stephen,” she said.

“What did Stephen do?” asked her mom.

“He forgot his costume.  Again!”

“Oh dear.”

Hannah drew her chair closer to her mom.
“He had to stay inside when we went to break.  And he had to tidy all the books during swimming.”

The waitress brought their order and there was silence for a while as Hannah sipped her milkshake and her mom stirred her coffee.

A man walked up the stairs and stopped at their table.  He had been talking with other customers around the shop.  He greeted Hannah’s mom like an old friend and soon they were chatting away.

Hannah finished her milkshake and looked at her mom.  She glanced at the man and back to her mom.

“No, we moved,” her mom was saying.  “We now live in Jack’s old house.   You remember Jack?”

Hannah slipped off her chair and looked over the rail at the customers below.  She slumped to the floor still scanning the shop and stealing a glance at her mom every now and again.

“We struggled to find a buyer at first.  The garage was the problem.”  The conversation went on.

Hannah got up and wandered over to the pictures on the wall.  The Nguni cattle seemed just as bored as Hannah and she turned away.  She sat on the top step, leaning against the rail.

“It was nice to see you again.”

“Likewise.”

The conversation ended and the man moved off to his office.  Hannah’s mother got up from the table and walked to the stairs.  She followed Hannah who walked down with heavy feet.  Hannah waited by the front door while her mother paid for their order, before they walked off together.

I sat there wondering whether the mother realised what had just happened.

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World Cup Confusion


Everyone is still talking about the FIFA World Cup.  I heard a delightful conversation last Wednesday afternoon—a most important public holiday in South Africa.  It was also the day that our beloved Bafana Bafana lost to Uruguay (but no one is talking about that).

I was at a coffee shop in the afternoon, enjoying a chance to do some writing (OK, and drink some coffee) while Jen was working.  An elderly couple came in and sat down. They must both have been at least 85.

One of the great things about older folk (older than me that is…..) is that they tend to talk rather loudly.  The TV was on, showing the Chile/Honduras game. The wife (speaking very slowly as if trying to understand something) said, “Are there lots of different teams?”

The husband, very gently, replied, “Every country in the world has sent their best teams here to play in the World Cup.”

“Yes,” she said. “But our team; do we have more than one team?”

I didn’t hear his reply.

“So, if it’s the same team,” she was still struggling, “they have to travel all the way to Port Elizabeth!”  She pondered this for a bit and then added, “They must be exhausted!”

Later, in the parking lot, I came across a group of guys getting into their car carrying beer and bread rolls and snacks.

“Enjoy the soccer,” I called out.

They beamed and one of them said, “It’s going to be great. Three-nil,” he said.

Little did either of us know how tragically right he would be.

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