Thursday, 17 September 2015

On Criminal Behaviour and Coffee.

Having lived much of my life at various levels below the official poverty line, I’m well practiced at being very close with money. I have a simple rule: ‘Do you need it?’ If the answer is ‘no,’ I walk away and revel in the sense of martyrdom thus engendered. (Alcohol doesn’t count as long as it’s obtained at minimum cost. A man has to have some form of recreation, doesn’t he? He does. One item of recreation may be deemed a necessity.)

Today I broke my rule; I went into a coffee shop and had… a cup of coffee. Having coffee in a catering establishment with Mel or my daughter is permissible because that’s only doing my social and familial duty, but having one alone is bordering on criminal behaviour. How else can you view the spending of £1.95 on something that would cost around 5p if you made it at home? But today I must have been feeling a little wild; I have nothing else to offer in mitigation, m’lud.

The serving wench behind the counter was young, pretty and friendly, which is an intoxicating combination when you’re feeling like a criminal.

‘Fancy doing bad things in the Badlands, babe?’ I asked her. 'The Chevy's hot and this hombre's hotter. Erm... Yo.'

(No I didn’t; I’m just being silly and finding an excuse to indulge in a spot of alliteration, which I haven’t done for ages.)

There was a woman in front of me paying with a credit card, but instead of typing in her PIN, she simply held the card in front of a little screen.

‘How does that work?’ I asked the serving wench. ‘Is that so you don’t have to run the risk of revealing your PIN to some nearby ne’er-do-well with a copying machine who’s intent on emptying your account?’


‘Can anybody do it?’

‘Only if your card has the Wi-Fi symbol on it. Do you know what the Wi-Fi symbol looks like?’


‘It’s a little dot with two semicircles above it.’

‘Oh, that.’

‘Your bank will update your card if you ask them,’ she continued helpfully (and in a young, pretty and friendly sort of way.)

‘Really? How interesting. I’ll bear that in mind. In the meantime, I’d like a small Americano with cream, and I’ll pay by cash. Are you local?’

‘Yes, why?’

‘You don’t sound it.’ (It takes a lifetime of practice to be quite as suave as that.)

So then I sat down with my guilt-laden brew and watched another pretty young woman tapping on a laptop in the corner without ever showing the slightest inclination to be friendly. I looked for the Wi-Fi symbol but couldn’t see one. And it occurred to me that when I was her age, the nearest thing to a laptop was one of those padded trays that elderly people put on their knees so they can be comfortable while eating their dinner in front of the TV set. I always used an old newspaper.

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