One of those things…

I went shopping a couple of days ago. Having done the bagging up and paying bit I decided to have a cup of coffee before heading home. The cafe attached to the store is a couple of notches up from meah but it’s convenient.

It was pretty full for a cold Tuesday afternoon. Clutching my cup I headed for a bank of four seats by the window. One seat, next to the glass was taken; the customer was aged, even by my less than exacting standards. His full trolley sat next to the aisle seat which was empty. He didn’t look up so I sat on the other aisle seat diagonally from him.

In front of each of us was a low coffee table. On each sat a copy of the Evening Standard, a free paper. The one on the table by me faced away so I glanced at it and spun it round, to read the Trump-blasting headline.

‘That’s our paper, thank you,’ said a sharp angry voice.

The elderly gentleman glared at me.

‘You can get your own over there.’

If I’m honest it hadn’t occurred to me both papers were his, that he was waiting for someone to join him. Equally I hadn’t given it a lot if thought. As the red dots on his cheeks grew with his indignation, I realised he had no cup in front of him. Glancing to the counter I noted an elderly lady being served with two hot drinks. His wife I surmised.

‘I’m so sorry. I thought they’d been left here.’ They are free papers after all and are always being abandoned either for others to read or because people are too lazy to dispose of them. I turned the paper back and repeated my apology.

His anger didn’t abate. He pulled both the table and the paper closer to the seats on his side and narrowed his eyes.

His wife joined him. A whispered conversation ensued. She too gave me a glare, a brief one as she didn’t want to maintain eye contact.

As I drank my coffee I wondered what he thought. It did feel as if he hadn’t accepted my actions as innocent albeit wrong. Rather his continued annoyance suggested he felt I had to have known the paper was his and I was deliberately taking it.

But, as my musing continued, was I wrong to think him angry? Was that just his way? A trifle gruff, perhaps. Defensive. Maybe he thought I might get cross, be violent and needed to stand up to me just in case?

How easy is it to come to judgements about other people? To ascribe intentions to actions. To lack that essential empathy that would lead to a better understanding. He could have had a really bad day, be in pain. Maybe the last person he interfaced with was gratuitously rude.

I finished my coffee and stood up, meeting his beady eyed stare. As I prepared to repeat my apology he said, ‘I hope you’re taking that dirty cup away.’ With that he raised his paper and hid his righteous indignation from my gaze.

Oh well. Sometimes ‘fuck you, grandpa’ is all they understand.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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52 Responses to One of those things…

  1. Rachel says:

    Wow. You gotta love people, huh?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ritu says:

    Oh dear His Geoffleship! Well at least you tried!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lots of reasons why he acted like that, but none of them were personal! You can’t win ’em all 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. barbtaub says:

    I’m stunned. Somebody BRITISH spoke to you in public? Twice? And it didn’t even involve the weather or a dog????? Admit it now–you were actually in New York, right?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sometimes you just want to slap them round the head, but I know what you mean.
    I was given a filthy look as I sat at a window seat in a cafe waiting for my friend. Two women came in and demanded to know when I was leaving. They were most put out when I said I was waiting for someone and huffily placed their order and sat at the back of the shop. Mistakes happen, apologies are gracefully accepted, but you’re right, sometimes it is just those Two Words people understand.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s situations like this that make everything else look almost perfect. 😀 I once helped an old lady get a jar of coffee off a shelve in a supermarket and placed the item in her shopping trolley. She removed the jar of coffee from her trolley and put it in my shopping trolley and then tried getting the same item off the shelve with her umbrella. Needless to say, the jar of coffee fell and smashed on the floor. She blamed it all on me when a security guard and member of staff arrived.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Darlene says:

    I always thought of British folks as being so polite. Another bubble burst. Sigh….

    Liked by 1 person

  8. fireflyby says:

    Starbucks…
    Whaddyou expect? !!!

    😉

    Liked by 1 person

  9. noelleg44 says:

    How often I’ve TRIED to understand the rude person’s point of view only to get shot down. I have a whole dictionary of smart responses now, not that I’ve ever used them!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Anabel Marsh says:

    John had a similar experience (in Euston I think) when he sat at a table for four occupied by one other person because there was nowhere else to sit. I can’t remember the exact words but it was made clear he was not welcome and the parting shot was “Well thank you for spoiling my lunch!” That doesn’t tend to happen here – in Glasgow it’s quite normal, if not expected, to chat to strangers. My (Harrow) nieces are totally horrified by this when they come to visit – they don’t even want to make eye contact although neither of them is exactly a shrinking violet. It takes all sorts it seems!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. In the end his behaviour says everything you need to know about him – and apart from feeling sorry for the miserable old twat, pretty much all you can leave him with is the middle finger raised in salute to his unkindness 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Charli Mills says:

    If you’re all having to endure Trump-inflated headlines, that’s enough to sow seeds of discontent among people. Funny, though, he had no idea sometime empathetic was giving him the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes our best attempt at outreach is to walk away.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Rachel M says:

    Wow! What an arsehole. I hope you left the dirty cup right where it was.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Allie P. says:

    Well done. I was properly pondering my past assumptions about similar rude encounters when I got to the ending. I guess some times face value is exactly what you get.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. willowdot21 says:

    Oh! I agree. Geoff I do agree!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Sheesh. Some people shouldn’t be allowed outside. o_O

    Like

  17. Sometimes, misery happens. F U works for any age.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Eileen says:

    So sad. It seems to me he has given up the struggle to not let age torture him into a twisted version of himself. And while he may have been that way from birth or soured when old age put paid to his unrealistic expectations, I know from my own and my husband’s daily jousts with life, that for dreamers – running out of physical strength, mental acuity, and the illusion that there’ll always be better times – casts a funeral pall on hope. You really only have two choices to help you bear the sadness of old age: be angry about everything all the time or learn to live in the present moment focusing on the beauty of God in the small things and to revel in the pure grace of laughter.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. You’d stolen what he believed to be his personal space, Geoff. I was with you all the way, thinking grumpy git. But, like me, you were ready to appease. Sometimes it’s just not worth it. That last line cracked me up!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. That’ll learn you, you young whippersnapper

    Liked by 2 people

  21. I would like to be the sort of person who would let rudeness wash over them. Unfortunately I’m the sort of small-minded person who would leave a cup on the table to claim a ridiculously small victory. Your last sentence had me punching the air.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. M. L. Kappa says:

    And then someone smiles at you and you feel like hugging them. What’s it cost to smile…

    Like

  23. jan says:

    He was probably a Trump supporter and didn’t like his man being blasted!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I’m always shocked at how rude some people can be. Then again, I don’t get out much, so perhaps everyone’s like that!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Yvonne says:

    I did try to leave a comment a few days ago, and just discovered it didn’t work (because I was tidying up my browser and closing tabs.) I’ll try again. I think it’s good that you question your assumptions about the old man’s anger even if it does seem they were accurate. He might just have been having a very bad day I suppose, and we all have those sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

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