I sometimes have an irrational feeling of anxiety when I walk into a café, not knowing how busy it will be or how I’ll be received. I went to my local café a few days ago, having not been for months, and never regularly.
I had barely stepped inside today when the lady behind the counter smiled and said, ‘Latte?’
‘Oh, umm…Yes, thank you!’
The café was empty, apart from three older people, and I took the sofa seat by the window. The sun had returned.
The café lady caught my eye and said, ‘Scrambled egg?’
I laughed and nodded, and was quickly presented with my food – no toast, just as I’d had it on Saturday.
I was planning to have a cappuccino today and to try a different breakfast, just to ring the changes. But lattes are my favourite, and you can’t really go wrong with scrambled egg… I had a warm feeling, as if I’d somehow been integrated into a club.
I settled down comfortably to get on with some writing. About 200 words into my book, I found myself distracted. I could have kept my head down if I’d wanted to, but my ears kept being drawn to the nearby table and I chose to follow them.
‘I was cold in bed last night, were you, Tony?’ said one of the old ladies to her friend.
He replied, with feigned shock, ‘I wasn’t in your bed last night!’
I barely stifled a giggle. Their conversation continued in a similarly amusing fashion, and the café began to fill up.
From what I saw in the rest of the morning, everyone was given a friendly, considerate reception, and the staff had a good laugh with local shop owners who came in for their coffees and sandwiches.
‘Morning, Mike,’ someone called from across the room, as the Postman made his delivery. He greeted them cheerily.
The staff got into conversation with customers at quieter moments. They knew most of them by name. The café lady sat and talked to one of the regulars, who had entered in tears, for several minutes.
It’s not difficult to argue the importance of local shops and cafés in small towns, and this is a perfect example of their value: a place to be known. They mean so much to people. It is community at its very best.
I was remembered and made to feel important. Not only could I have walked in and said, ‘My usual, please,’ but I barely had to open my mouth. Perfect! Now I need to find out Café Lady’s name…