Frivolous Monsters

In Conversation with the Coffee Shop Stalker

I was in Costa Coffee when the large middle-aged woman who I’d already christened my coffee shop stalker came in and sat down next to me on the long sofa up against the back wall.

Costa Coffee barista     For someone who seemed to be as much of an early-evening regular as myself I’d already previously identified her as a bit odd when I arrived one day to find her sitting at the oddly-positioned table that would have allowed her to look over my shoulder if I were to sit in my usual seat; on the days when I wasn’t relegated to sitting outside the toilet.

I decided that I’d go and sit there anyway, because there were students on the other side, and they’re always worth their money, such as the time when I got the low-down about how one girl had been arrested for shoplifting baby powder, whilst a boy across the table from me tried to finger her friend; this was before I got to examine the contents of her text messages, which were narrated, and she did seem to put it about1.

All my mental seating plans whilst still in the queue, however, were academic because before my very eyes the coffee shop stalker got up and moved the half-metre around the low partition wall and went and sat there herself. She knew what she was doing: she had her favourite seat, and I had my favourite seat, and although it didn’t have a blue plaque above it or anything, yet, it was still my seat.

After collecting my drink I walked straight past her and the students and went to sit in the window, like an Amsterdam hooker, but as soon as I’d put my drink down, and taken my coat off, she then upped and moved again across the room to her usual, highly-padded, chair. Whilst I responded, by moving tables myself to the one she’d vacated, I considered that either we were playing out some-sort of coffee shop chess, or that she was starting a territory turf-war.

And to think that most normal people go into a coffee shop, grab a drink, and think literally nothing of it.

Another notable incident with the coffee shop stalker was when she was ensconced in her usual chair and was joined by a man at the table, who I assumed to be her partner, with long straggly hair and his slow reactions as if he’d fried his mind with acid in the seventies and somehow lived to tell the tale. Costa must have been quiet that day as I started absorbing their entire conversation and realised it was as if they were work-shopping a Harold Pinter play and thought that someone should be writing this stuff down, as there are art-theatres in London that would lap this stuff up, and so I did.

Of course I did.

  • To set the scene they were both sat, facing each other, in silence for several minutes, before she asked him what he was having for his tea.
  • He said he didn’t know, picked up the coffee receipt, and exclaimed “twenty points” as if he were gaining insight from the words and being mentally nourished as if by the writings of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
  • A silence of several minutes.
  • She then asked him what he was having for his tea again.
  • He still didn’t know.
  • She proclaimed that she liked wraps, but didn’t have any in, and stood up knocking over his Argos carrier bag which was propped up against the table.
  • He said it didn’t matter.
  • She took him at his word and stomped off to the counter, to try to buy a sandwich, where she explained to the Barista how she wasn’t hungry now and didn’t actually eat that much in a story that was not backed up by the size of her girth.
  • He then got up and picked up his trampled belongings.
  • He then sat down and picked up the Costa Coffee receipt and proclaimed “twenty points”.
  • She returned with her sandwich and they ended with a big awkward-looking snog.

So finally, sitting next to my coffee shop stalker, I knew what to expect, but didn’t necessarily know what I was going to get.

I just looked straight ahead, and carried on with my writing, as if I hadn’t noticed, and she was eventually joined by a female friend who turned up with two hot drinks and sat down opposite her. Before she could hand one of them over she repeatedly sipped at both of them, testing them out, until she’d worked out which one was hers. She then slid the other across the table. The coffee shop stalker, with the leftover drink, just sat there with it for a moment before piping up: “What did I ask for? WHAT did I ask for?” as if she were chastising a small child or rubbing a dog’s nose in it. She then clarified to her friend that she actually couldn’t remember what it was that she had asked for, but added that if it helped she could remember what it was that she was thinking of ordering when she was outside.

That matter unresolved she then just sat there whilst her friend drank her drink, over a brief conversation about the fat-content of frozen potato wedges, before finally the coffee shop stalker took a first sip of her own. She then exclaimed that it didn’t taste of caramel, and then effectively complained that she thought it didn’t taste like what she thought she might have asked for.

I just raised an eyebrow and considered that, even though I was there writing Christmas monologues that day, about turkeys called Irene and the like, I somehow came off as the normal-sounding one.

Footnote 1 – Another time there were three new college students on a table opposite and the boy was being cocky, showing off in front of the two girls, and audibly declared: “I can tell you what size you are”. This’ll be good, I thought, metaphorically setting out my stall for some entertainment. Girl One said “Alright, what size is she?” gesturing to Girl Two. I didn’t have a clue what he was sizing up, or what he was going to say, but surely none of us expect him to say “Four”. As the girls exclaimed “Four?” he just nonchalantly shook it off in much the way any god awful child who knows nothing about the world might.

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20 thoughts on “In Conversation with the Coffee Shop Stalker

  1. 🙂 Brilliant. M John Harrison would also love this dialogue…

  2. I am still at a loss to see how the preceding ‘conversation’ could have possibly ended in a snog. From your description of the participants, that must not have been an easy watch. Anyway enough of them – I want to know more about the Christmas turkey monologue. Have you been commissioned to write something for Aardman Animations’ festive output this year?

    • You are right, that does seem a bit of a leap, but all I can say is all those things definitely happened but at this distance in time I have no further information. I guess one of them (or both) must have been about to leave. And it did look uncomfortable. But then when does it not with other people?

      As for the Christmas monologues (not a happy tale) sadly Aardman didn’t come knocking on my door but the local (award winning) amateur dramatics society did wanting Christmas monologues for their Christmas show. I worked on them for a week, producing five, with some from real life stories I’ve put on here. I passed them over to the (award winning) producer via a friend, and… Nothing. Not an acknowledgment, not a polite rejection, not an invite to their show. Nothing. Left me very bitter about how some people treat you.

      The Irene thing used to be on here, but I see it isn’t now. Only short, I think. I’ll have a look.

    • Some of the monologues were fictitious, including one with the reader pondering what would happen if the Queen died at Christmas… to the TV. But this one is real: Irene. This is the original blog version (minus the formatting that WP has cut out in posting), although the “monologue version” didn’t seem much different.

      In the lead up to Christmas I’ve been mentally de-humanising poultry because I really don’t like it, wherever my parents got their turkey from, how the farmer thought it’d be nice and humane to give them all names. I know this as the tag has been hanging about the kitchen for a week, as if it’s been plucked from the toe of a corpse in a morgue, or from around the neck of a soldier fallen in battle, now that Irene has been anthropomorphised from a flock of nameless victims into an individual.
      I’m squeamish at the best of times and, along with my vegetarian-guilt, I get freaked out to know that the dearly departed Irene is presently resting in our oven. This gets to me like screeching nails down a blackboard because it becomes something of a tragedy; of the death of a character that I’ve only just become retroactively emotionally-invested in. Irene.
      The farmers do this to them, I imagine, so that we’ll believe with a single word that they’ve been raised with a happy childhood, a life of individuals and distinct characters, as if their time on the farm were a Disney film. This is before each and every one of them are slaughtered to death en mass, of course.
      This year, however, I’m saved from the mental anguish by recognising that the name Irene is the same as the name of the turkey that turned up last year and, as I suspected then, the year before that as well. I’ve thus outwitted what’s obviously nothing more than a marketing gimmick. That’s what I keep telling myself… that’s what I keep telling myself. Irene.

  3. I am NEVER going into Costa in Bury again!!!! 😍😍😍😍

  4. Gosh – how very, very rude of the local Am Dram lot! I feel indignant on your behalf. At the very least someone should’ve bought you a drink.

    • I’m glad you agree. Must have been two or three years ago now. Still not happy. All I wanted was a yes / no and to be told when they were performing them. I would have made my own arrangements from there to go see them. As it is I guess I can put it on my writing CV but have to be very careful how I word it.

  5. Well then, this was an ideal post for me to land on today! I’m on the final day of a self-imposed challenge to visit new bloggers and leave 300 comments in 30 days and .. .boy … have I found some blogs I simply couldn’t find *anything* to genuinely comment on.

    Then I find something like this! And could say all sorts … mainly that I too scribble down conversations I overhear, little scenes from an ordinary life. To run with your food theme how about this one I heard in my local Post Office queue:

    “You’re doing a salad today aren’t you?” “Yeah.” “Are you doing it in a bowl or on a plate?” “On a plate.”.

    You’ve got to wonder if that was the answer he was hoping for …

    So … for the record, this is comment No.270 and you’re the 100th blogger I’ve said ‘Hi’ to. Hi! I’m not going to force myself to reach the 300 mark – I’m just happy to have found another one of life’s small-scale observers!

    Julie 🙂

    • Comment 270? That means you’ve got thirty more to go before midnight then. Keep going as you’re nearly there. It is hard to find new blogs these days as WP changed their searching to make it a lot harder for us… my views immediately crashed. But well done for making the effort.

      Lots of conversations out there just waiting to be catalogued by us hardy individuals.

  6. love the foornotes on your blog!

    • I wasn’t convinced that they worked here, but I do like them, and in editing/writing up some of these posts to make what I laughingly call a book I am adding lots more footnotes where they’re required. Thanks.

  7. sorry a t it is!

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