She sits at the window seat surveying the world in front of her, as though she were a Queen bee watching the mere mortals buzzing about their daily work.
Never sitting in her seat properly, always finding some ‘creative’ way to position her ‘derrière’ on the stool, that usually entails unveiling some part of either her under wear, legs or bottom to the rest of the café.
Poor thing is having a bad day today, or be specific, her actual greeting upon entering our establishment, late on this Tuesday afternoon was:
'I am having a shit day and for absolutely no reason!'
The first time I met her, she said ‘You’re Irish.’
Must have one of those degrees in ‘Stating the obvious’.
She told me that she lived in Ireland ten years ago and that she went to a certain school and she was bullied and bullied so much that she went to a barber shop and shaved her head.
I knew by the first couple of seconds of conversation, or more precisely, her talking at me, that the smart decision here, would be not to ask why she would shave off her hair to amend such a situation.
I had also figured out in those first few seconds that the condescending, upper class English whines that spewed from her gob as she moaned, probably were not received with hugs and kisses in Dublin.
This rant I had thrown at me when I first asked her if she was having her flat white for ‘here or takeaway’, as she continued to blather at me expecting to apologise on behalf of the peoples of Éire. Maybe I should have asked the President if he could write a letter of apology to her, as I am sure he would have done that quicker, than she would have decided where she is consuming her beverage.
Poor petal, today she was having a bad day for absolutely no reason and no amount of me saying anything or not saying anything was going to make anything any better, this afternoon is a one way ticket to Infuriation-vile, via Exasperation-town and Vexation city.
At least today I had established that she would be a having a mint tea to sit in, that’s some consolation. Perched on her throne she had began to flick threw her touch screen phone, choosing the next victim in her phone book. Some poor soul is probably enjoying a lovely afternoon in a park, maybe having a picnic in the sun, ‘Pimms’ on the green, and unbeknownst to them, the wicked witch of the East is about to gather dark clouds over their day.
Such a whine! Why do they answer the phone to her? Does she block her number so they don’t know it’s her, or does she have some spell that can make her number come up as someone else’s number on their phone, so they think they are answering a phone call from their Mother, then, tragedy.
'I am having the WORST day ever and I don't know why!'
No ‘Hello how are you?’ no?’ Just straight in with your counselling session?
I did suggest to her one day that she probably has some medication that she hasn’t taken but she insisted that she doesn’t use any medications because she doesn’t need them. I would love to have a conversation with her GP.
'No, I can't even blame anyone it's awful, it's just a shit day'.
She always does this on a Tuesday afternoon when the café is empty and us little bee workers like to scrub the shop early and get out, go home, make some dinner, nice relaxed evening.
She will of course insist on sitting there right until closing time with one, maybe two other customers there. But they know the vibe, they know it’s quiet, they know if they leave, then we can leave early, no one’s making anymore money at this stage. They’re cool, they think about other human beings in the world.
I bring her the mint tea and the next phase of operation infuriation has begun. Not only is she, mid phone call, putting her feet on the stool next to her, she is wearing those ridiculous looking short socks or ‘Pomp’ socks. Of course they are see through and frilly, they look like tights from the 70’s gone wrong. The shoes are off obviously and now she twiddles her inquisitive toes discovering every inch of that stool.
I have to say it to her, I should:
'it's disgusting, this is not on. People are trying to eat here or have a coffee and you have your manky toes fingering stool legs!'
It’s one of those moments where you know that you’re not the only one that feels this way. She needs to be told. She’s a regular, she’s in here all the time and I bet I’m not the only one who’s head she has being doing in. I bet if I say something here, it’ll be a moment like out of the films, like ‘As good as it gets’ and all the people will stand up and applaud when I tell her:
'Look we've all had enough, you're attitude stinks as bad as your feet, I'm sure you were attractive once upon a time, but you're a sour fish now and we have no need for your custom anymore. Please leave you toad.'
I could possibly risk losing my job here, but it’s worth risking as I walk up to her, they may even give me a pay rise, they probably hate her too.
I approach and she doesn’t even look up from the phone:
'Is it too late to have a Granola?'
Keep calm, keep cool, no need to the use of bad language, don’t let her drag you down to her level.
She’s a genius. She’s also made me look like a fool when I have to go into the chef at 5:30pm on a Tuesday and say: ‘Em can you do a Granola for table 1’ and he looks at me like I am going to get his frying pan across the back of my head.
'Are you serious?' he hisses.
I get back to cleaning the shop floor and the other customers have politely left, it’s just me and her on the floor. I stand, watching her whine, while I think about the broom in my hand. If chef isn’t looking, and she doesn’t see me coming, there are no cameras no one would know. I’d have to be quick, quiet and ninja-like, but I can do that. It will have to be a clean hit though, swift and firm to make sure she is knocked unconscious. I’ll just pretend she’s fainted when she awakes.
'Granola, order up.'
I take the dish from the kitchen and as I walk up to her my blood begins to boil again as she has moved into the next stage of the act: ‘Talking about the divorce’.
'I mean I don't think people realise I've been through a very difficult divorce this past year'.
Difficult for who exactly? I want to meet the man, or the saint who was at the alter with this chick. Was he on heroin when he decided that he was going to be with this woman till death do them part? He must have been dreaming of beautiful ways to die when he sobered up.
I know that one is supposed to be positive in life and always look at the bright side of situations, but having thought long and hard about this particular strife, I have decided that I, hate, this woman. I hate everything about her. I know that’s probably wrong and maybe I’ll even get past it one day, but today I hate her.
Perhaps the thing to do is to let her know, maybe then she will never come back.
I put the granola down and she begins to eat it without recognising how it got there.
I mop the floors, put up the stools, turn off the music, shutter down, still nothing she sits there:
'I need a holiday'
Of course you do dear. Finally at 6pm on the button, she begins to make gestures to move, slip the pomps on, hands me the half eaten bowl of granola all while still talking down the phone. Is there even anyone on the line or is she talking to the Samaritans? They’ll need to talk to a professional after she’s called in.
She slowly drags her feet to the door. Does she even know my name?
I want to tell her, scream at her as she leaves, ‘I hate you!’ but she is already out the door and all I can muster is a middle finger to her from underneath the counter.
Then just as I think my evening is free of her clutches, her head reappears through the doorway, still on the phone. She looks at me, with a twinkly smile:
And with all my might, and every part of my being, with all I have wanted to say from every time she has called in I let out:
'You're very welcome have a lovely evening.'
Writing for the Monngrel Productions, ‘Stevo James’ will be performing his stand up show around London in the coming months. You can keep up to date with all things Mongrel
Illustrated by the great Robin Hoshino follow her work at hoshinorobin.tumblr.com/