Wearing your yoga pants to the coffee shop with your “friend”, who you secretly bitch about to your shitbag husband, says a lot about you.
It says: yah, I read the Observer because I like to think of myself as liberal and progressive, even though I live in the 1.2 million pound townhouse around the corner, am directly responsible for driving house prices through the roof in this erstwhile working-class area, and work in an industry that promotes unpaid internships, thereby safeguarding membership to only those people who have daddies trust fund to dip into. You did not know this, being painfully un-self-aware, but that, Poppy, is what it says. It also says: I am a proud feminist who supports women’s rights. Even though that only extends to middle or upper class, white, western women…but women none-the-less. Again, Poppy, what you think of as feminism is actually a very well marketed form of elitism. Still, let’s not get lost in petty details, eh?
And you. The Millennial couple reading the Sunday papers and drinking a pot of Earl Grey, who the fuck do you think you are? Oh, darling, let’s go read the papers at the coffee shop; let’s play a little game where we pretend we are a happy couple from the 50’s who enjoy the simple things in life. Nobody is buying it. Least of all yourselves. The painful, self-conscious awareness of your own pretention is etched all over your faces. This type of aspirational role-playing will leave you feeling empty. The Greeks nicely surmised the main contributing factor to a happy life in the aphorism “know thyself”; if you are at peace with who you are, who you actually are, not who you wish to portray yourself as, then happiness will follow; in short, stop reading the papers in public with your partner simply to present as a paradigm of domestic happiness.
“And then we have the self-righteous prick on his laptop; he has no reason to be here.”
Who just walked in? Why, it’s the smug, well-groomed gentleman with his panoply of Apple products. Watch as he sets his iPhone, iPad, and wireless earbuds down on a table, claiming it for himself before he has ordered a drink (a cardinal sin: you may claim a table after ordering a drink, not before. You selfish bastard). He then saunters to the counter and orders a flat white, paying for this with his watch. Paying with your watch: straight red for me, Clive. Automatic six-game ban. We need to come down hard on this type of behaviour if we want to stamp it out the game. The advertising executive’s wet dream then saunters back to his table and proceeds to fire off a succession of querulous emails; it’s a gig economy, work never stops, got to stay ahead of the game. You, my friend, you are what is wrong with society.
I see you have decided to bring your children to the coffee shop; a strange decision, given that you are obviously incapable of parenting them. Toby runs amok, causing havoc at each table he visits; yet you see fit to simply sit here, chat with your terrible friends, and allow this behaviour to occur. Now Toby wants some brownie. No, Toby, you have already had some sweeties, you are not allowed anymore. Toby begins to cry. Oh, Toby! Don’t cry, shh, Mummy and Daddy are talking. Shh. Oh okay, here’s some brownie. Toby stops crying and wanders off to annoy other patrons. What’s this, two minutes later Toby is back for more brownie? And he is crying again? It’s almost as if you have taught him that by crying and making a fuss he is able to get whatever he wants, almost as if you have raised a child that does not respect boundaries, almost as if rather than do the difficult thing and parent properly, you have taken the easy route out and raised a child that will grow up to be self-entitled and devoid of empathy. Congratulations on that. Then again, what hope did you have? You are simply following the examples set by your own parents; just as Toby will grow up to raise his own terrible little people. The wheel keeps turning. It would be funny if it were not tragic.
The elderly couple being rude to the barista. We have been waiting five minutes for our coffee: this is unacceptable. You are quite right; it is simply unacceptable that this poor kid behind the counter is working as fast as possible, perhaps forgetting things, because the coffee shop is perennially understaffed. Because the hospitality industry, in general, is perennially understaffed to maximise profits. None of which is seen by the boys and girls working on Saturday and Sunday mornings for minimum wage (£5 – £7.50, depending on your age; a genuine national disgrace), simply to help get them through university without further indebting themselves to the banks; or to support his or her artistic pursuits; or maybe because they happen to enjoy being a barista and had the bad fucking luck of picking an industry this country gives zero fucks about. But no, you have had to wait a few minutes for your fucking coffee; that is not acceptable.
And then we have the self-righteous prick on his laptop; he has no reason to be here. He could just as easily stay at home and sit at his kitchen table, listening to the radio, and bash out his latest article nobody asked for; but hey, if you are not seen to be writing, then you are not really writing. So instead, he spends time in a coffee shop he knows he will hate, surrounded by people he demonstrably dislikes; perhaps he has nowhere better to be. Or even worse, he is here because it’s where he belongs. Because he is just as much of a tosser as the rest of these people.
Certain places, at certain times, paint a succinct and accurate little thumbnail sketch of modern London. A chicken shop on any old high street at the wee hours of the morning, or just as school has kicked out; a Wetherspoons in the middle of the day, they have become somewhat of a beacon for the forgotten; a gym on a weekday morning, it is a sea of unhappy faces searching for fulfilment in any way they can; and your local coffee shop on a weekend morning, to name but a few.
The tragedy is that none of these places paints a happy picture; it is a picture of people either disenfranchised and forgotten or else self-involved and on the road to mental breakdown, trying desperately to convince themselves and those around them that everything is okay. A picture of people either forgotten or unhappy. Or both. A picture of modern London.