the bitter aftertaste of popping out for a cuppa
Sunday afternoons are surprisingly busy in Costa, even as closing time looms. One family appear to have turned it into a proper outing, hunched around a table with a tablet of some form. Two teenage boys, about 14 and 16, call out film names excitedly, jabbering away on the technicalities of whether Qui-Gon Jinn could beat Darth Maul. I think we established that in 1999. There’s something about video games that I don’t understand, I mean, people know they’re not real, right?
The parents take over the tablet; no, not take it away, but take over the game. The older boy can almost not contain himself at his desire to help them. How can they be so useless? How can they not know who the protagonist of Tron is, or where Star Trek: Nemesis was set? The older boy begins to quiver. Their younger son cups his cappuccino in two hands and proceeds to down the entire cup in a gulping, slurping cacophony. I’ll be honest, it was hard not to stare. Coffee finished (it’s not as if that’s what you come for after all) he lurches across the table, fighting his brother-jedi at the table for supremacy. Their mother stabs uselessly at the tablet. Please don’t get it wrong, I don’t think I’ll be able to hold my laughter in much longer. Their dad frowns at the paper.
Further along, a father sits on the settee with his son and daughter. The father’s friend, think Flanders from the Simpsons, nods earnestly in conversation. Upright, rigidly wooden in movement, he makes every effort to show his interest in his friend’s conversation. We all know what that kind of conscious effort really means.
Hold up though, it’s a big question at the other table. “The Holy Grail! The Holy Grail!” The younger boy is on his feet, fingers flapping, almost hyperventilating. A sigh of disappointment. What a defeat. C’mon, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? Even I knew that one.
Flanders is giving life advice to the little girl beside him. She nods seriously. Well, for a moment. The marshmallows in her hot chocolate are far more exciting and who can blame her? Flanders laughs nervously and robotically adjusts, hiding his rejection. No, we know you weren’t really talking to her.
Flanders gets up to leave just as the next table erupts into ecstasy at the winning answer of “Wolverine!” from the jedi apprentice. His master looks on, beaming. Ah well, if you didn’t get all the answers there’s always next Sunday eh? Can’t promise I’ll be there. As Flanders moves out, I realise I have seen him before, several times in fact, at gigs in London. Well, always time to re-evaluate my music taste I suppose.