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costa theatre

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Writing a piece about the place I used to live, due Tuesday, so there I was at Costa Coffee of a Sunday, yesterday:

Hipster-hippieish type comes in, with his red t-shirt and woollen cap, tries to game the girl at the counter with the “I gave you a tenner, not a fiver” routine. She insists. He says what one says: “I know what I had in my pocket and it’s impossible that I could have…”

She heads back to the back to review the CCTV. He sits in a corner with this latte. She never even stops on her way back, walks right past him with out comment or glance, back to work at the till, and he sits in a funk of awkwardness – a lazy decadent twit, not as clever as he thought, who’s just tried to game the Bangladeshi girl out of £5 that she’d end up replacing out of her own pocket, tried to steal an hour of her life but failed. Fuck this. Fuck her. I’ll sit out my coffee and hit another one. Fuck all of this. I’m not going to leave and let her see that it matters to me, any of this.

Then a young couple, baby hung in a harness which in turn is hung on the petite her of the her and him, come in, order. She lectures, in great detail and with increasing frustration, the barista on a better way to make the drinks that the barista makes all day, makes for a living. It is a matter of technique; perhaps the communication of better technique to employees of chain coffee houses is how this one does her share of world improvement. Knowledge transfer, the art of living.

Then, just as before, the turn. The creepy guy who is here all the time, incredibly skinny, dressed all in black and with a pointed beard and a cane (one might think junky, or even HIV-infected junky, but I am actually going to go with MS afflict, like my mom, from the way he walks…. There’s a softness to the way MS-types move through the world, and he has it in spades…) lurches over to her and begins to coo and cack and their precious one. Mom is forced to lock her feet and smile nervously. These are the things that one deals with living in the city, and I must bear it, I must be tolerant, though I’m increasingly unsure just why that is the case. At least something like that.

Street theatre. Love it. It’s like nature but with money and words. Like the best sort of tv but on all the time and for the price of a single cup of coffee or even for free.

Written by adswithoutproducts

August 31, 2009 at 8:24 am

Posted in coffee places

4 Responses

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  1. I like this kind of observational writing a lot, looking in as it were, but I do think you should have gotten up and punched the scheming hipster kid. Although that may have detracted from the detached tone. And you could have punched the lecturing mother as well. Seriously! North London! There’s a reason we all live on the other side!

    infinite thought

    August 31, 2009 at 9:01 am

  2. I was a little tempted, but I think what the barista did to him in not doing anything at all was far worse, actually…

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    August 31, 2009 at 2:16 pm

  3. Nothing wrong with just letting those scenes play through on their own, without interference. That way you can observe them like the Joycean narrator, indifferent as a god paring his fingernails. Your descriptions remind me of some of the characters I used to come across on Greyhound buses (“used to” because ever since Greyhound’s prices went up, I began taking the more comfortable Concord Trailways. I did pay a price for the comfort: the passengers are nowhere near as colorful).

    Fourth Night

    September 2, 2009 at 10:41 pm

  4. Yeah, I like the bus thing. I spend so much happy time sitting in places listening to people when I shouldn’t. Hotel bars, though, are my absolute favorite. Especially crap-swank NYC hotels where the um “bar girls” operate. Most fantastic thing in the world to listen to…

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    September 3, 2009 at 10:52 pm


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