So yesterday, I decided to go for a walk. A long one. With the promise of a hot, creamy Hazelnut latte in the middle of it. Starbucks’ finest beverage. Simple but sweet, it’s nutty goodness all mine in the mug I clutched in my chilly hands. I mainly left the house to get a change of scenery, a breath of fresh air and a chance to listen to other peoples conversations. To be surrounded by noise rather than my own thoughts was an ideal prospect. Until I actually got there. I was meant to go before 11 to get the cheaper deal, £1.50 for a latte before the clock struck 11. But I woke up at 9:30 and there just wasn’t enough time. So up I went at 3:30…if only I’d gone earlier.
They say that everything happens for a reason which I most certainly believe is true. So I clearly overslept because the day held tangible and awkward excitement for me to endure. There I was snuggled in the corner of a buttery, soft leather armchair, lost in the world of my own imaginings, trying hard to start the book that has been festering in my mind for all too long now. My ears catching the occasional drift of a few intriguing words here and there; dragging me out of my reverie.
So there I was sitting in this corner of the window when all of a sudden I caught a whiff of cigarette smoke, the most vile smell known to mankind. How the hell could I smell smoke through huge double glazed windows? I turned around, an expression of utter disgust tattooed over my face to behold a large group of late teens, puffing and inhaling death. Clouds of smoke billowed in through the door and I thought to myself, ‘I was never that selfish at that age?’ They clocked my annoyance but took no notice, too high and mighty, too hoity toity and cool to care what a 21 year old, unemployed graduate thought of their immature exploits. So I continued to passively smoke, my life lessening with every drag they took. Eventually they stopped and I resumed my creativity, fired up.
But the smoke had unsettled me and it was after hearing a man tell his daughter that his mum used to tie him to a chair and leave him there for hours whilst she went out, that the headphones went in. Bon Iver and his skinny love immediately calmed me and I continued to write. Soon enough it was 17:50 and I had been in Starbucks for about 2 hours, scribbling away, raising my head occasionally to see how dark it was outside but generally oblivious to the goings on around me.
I put my pen down and decided to read a chapter of the Hunger Games, Mockingjay, before going to the toilet and walking home for dinner. I did just that, then popped everything into my bag and made for the toilet. On my way there I noticed a man, beefy, authoritative with a walkie talkie on his belt. Immediately I thought, ‘Why, who is this wise guy?’ I shrugged it off thinking it was one of those money guys who comes to collect the contents of the till as it must be closing time soon. However as I approached the toilet which is in an alcove at the very back of the coffee shop, my eyes caught on the yuppie smokers, whose nicotine inhalation had been so very disturbing to me an hour or so ago. Then the man with the walkie talkie and another man dressed identically in blue, made their way towards the group. I turned to look at these men who said almost simultaneously ‘Oi, YOU!’ I’m not quite sure why I turned around seeing as I was completely innocent, having spent the afternoon trying hard to mind my own business, but my turning of the head allowed me to see the words, ‘Metropolitan Police’ blazoned across what must have been bullet proof vests.
Convinced that it was not me they were after, I reached the toilet. As I proceeded to empty my bladder, I heard quite a kerfuffle outside the door. Just what I needed. The offending lad was pushed up against the corner of the door and the Policeman’s voice oozed with annoyance, making weeing incredibly difficult. The tiled bathroom made my urination incredibly audible and exceptionally embarrassing; perhaps not the usual soundtrack of a potential arrest.
‘You are not permitted to stay in here. It is not common law, you are wrong. If he asks you to leave, you leave, you got it?’
‘I can stay here, it’s a free country.’
‘You can’t mate. He works here, you show him some respect. Not that you’ll be coming back here, you’re barred. You can’t come here again now.’
‘Alright alright, I got it wrong.’
‘Yeah you did. What’s ya name?’
‘Lance Abernathy’ (I’m making this up, not that this boy deserves to have his identity protected!)
‘Right. Are you known to the police?’
‘Err, not that I know of.’ This kid, is the surliest most unpleasant wretch imaginable. The sort of boy whose parents employ someone to empty the dishwasher.
At this point, I tried to continue weeing but my ears usurped my bladder, refusing to let the cascade of urine interfere with the sounds of the scene outside. So after washing my hands and making as much noise as possible to let them know I was in the toilet – an innocent bystander who simply answered to natures call at the wrong time indeed – I checked my makeup, pulled a Miranda-esque face in the mirror, dried my hands, lifted my bag off the hook on the back of the door and turned the lock.
I opened the door and stepped out, finding myself unable to move from this awkward situation. I was worried that the police would think I was part of this youthful party, my maroon gilet painted me as an ideal candidate for teen tomfoolery and disrespect. So I stood there between the closed toilet door, the lad, two policeman and the archway to the shop, but I simply couldn’t get through.
The police were literally oblivious to my plight. Literally refusing to let this poor innocent girl go home until they had finished disciplining this idiot. In fact I cannot even begin to describe my entrapment, it was literally like I was completely and utterly invisible. I have taken the liberty of drawing you a diagram to best depict my dilemma.
I said ‘excuse me please’ about five times but nothing. I tried to squeeze past that small gap, to no avail. Police man number two actually saw me trying to squeeze through the small gap but didn’t move a muscle. So I literally had to wait there staring at my shoes until they had finished collaring snooty Lance. I was not amused and wanted to shout, ‘I’M INNOCENT! MY DAD’S A POLICEMAN AND I’M NOW LATE FOR TEA! LET ME THROUGH, I SAY!’
I didn’t do this because I have a healthy respect and fear of the law. Unlike the boy being warned. Eventually I got through, with Lance in toe, the police must have thought we were together. He was literally following me. The police stayed behind to chat to the manager – ‘He’s just showing off to his girlfriends!’ (I hope they weren’t referring to me, good grief) – the loveliest man you will ever meet and when the cold air hit my face so did Lance’s friends. Sorry that sounded like they actually hit me, they didn’t do that, no no, but they did eff and blind at the police car parked directly outside Starbucks.
I was never like this as a teenager, not that I recall anyway. I always wore my rucksack, properly over both shoulders, not jauntily resting on one, dangling around like a limp monkey. I didn’t smoke, or talk back to teachers or coffee shop staff, I was terrified of being told off. Literally terrified.
Respect. Oh where have you gone? I don’t see you much these days.