“That was a life-changing evening, that was!”
“Going to see the Queen”
He said it like he didn’t mean it.
“It was so loud!”
He said it like he wasn’t.
At my table, in Costa, Gatwick Airport, I was sitting with two other solitary travellers. The three of us had formed a circle of gratitude and mutual care – at least, that’s how I liked to think of it.
The first man was sitting alone at a table for four. In the absence of any empty tables, I approached.
Me: Do you mind if I share your table?
Man #1: You’re welcome to sit here.
Me: Thank you
And I start clearing old cups and plates from previous customers and must therefore look…reliable?…matronly? or just careful?…which I am at that moment (careful, that is) as I don’t wish to inadvertently tidy away his coffee cup. But, as it turns out, he doesn’t have one…
Man #1: Actually, could you do me a favour?
I wonder what.
Man #1: Would you mind my bag while I go and get a coffee? I’ve been waiting for someone to come to the table so I can go order a coffee.
And I think, “He looks reliable, tidy and orderly with his jacket neatly hung over the handle of his cabin bag, wearing neat, casual business attire. There’s a possibility he could be neat but dangerous – but I’ll throw caution to the wind”
By now I’ve finished the long and involved task of clearing cups from the table and then he, in what I can only assume is a repayment of my kindness, takes the crockery-laden tray away.
Me: Thank you!
While he’s away, I dutifully keep an eye on his bag and protect his chair from a determined lady gathering chairs for a party of five. There are now two chairs left at our table. Mine and Man #1’s.
Then along comes Man #2. A little less business-like in appearance, but neat, tidy and polite, nevertheless.
Man #2: Would you mind if I sit at this table?
Me: That chair there (indicating Man #1’s chair) is taken. But if you can find another chair, you’re welcome to share this table.
And he does (find a chair) and he does (sit at our table).
And Man #1 returns to the table with a coffee.
And Man #2 (carefully) opens his newly purchased novel.
And Man #1 (neatly) opens his newspaper.
And Me, I place my Kindle (precisely) on the table.
And we all read and drink coffee in solitary, companionable silence.
That is until the party of five sit down at the table next to us. The silence is broken by the story of meeting the Queen. And the story is loud…..
But then (finally) they leave and the three of us are, once again, in comparative silence.
No exciting stories at out table – or if there are, we’re not sharing them – just courtesy, company and quiet.