Sunday, 8 February 2009

People Watching

Cradling a large sweet latte in my very cold hands, I inhaled the reviving aroma of coffee with a hint of caramel, and settled back into the armchair to engage in the elicit pleasure of people watching. The coffee shop was half full of a mixture of young mums meeting up for a slot of sanity, work colleagues talking over business strategies, or sharing the inside track and the latest gossip, and I guess a few lonely people eking out a large coffee, so that for a while they could be part of something with a dynamic for more than one.

As I scanned the room my mind wandered from person to person and table to table, I noticed a colourful slightly eccentric jacket a woman my age was wearing, and became absorbed in meaningless speculation over where it had come from. I was interrupted in my cosy contemplations by the jarring noise of china and metal clattering on a ceramic floor. There was a sudden suspension in everything, the pause lasting for a second, before the wave of conversation moved on again, leaving the tired looking waitress to clear up in obscurity, free from the momentary unwanted attention.

I started watching the only person who had carried on uninterrupted by the mini drama, a young woman completely absorbed by the content of her laptop. I studied her face, not at all concerned that she may notice because she was so fixed on her screen. She had bright intelligent eyes, and although she was lost to her task, her expression relayed a pleasure in what she was doing. As her hands occasionally flitted across the keys, there seemed an urgency in her work. I realised there was a partial reflection of the screen in the window to her left, and I found myself squinting and fiddling with my glasses, trying to glean anything that might tell me more about what was so important to her. After about thirty seconds, I realised she was running PowerPoint, and was so instantly pleased with myself I grinned. She has a presentation I thought triumphantly, so enjoying that I had managed to work out this detail of her life.

With unexpected abruptness she closed the laptop and looked up. I lowered my eyes to my shoes, and started sipping coffee. Feeling caught out in my scrutinizing, I slowly looked up making ready to grab for the paper on the next table if I felt I needed the cover. She was looking straight at me, and before I could look away she gave a broad engaging smile. “I have a big presentation this afternoon” she announced, as she stood and straightened her suit. “I’m venturing into strictly male territory, but I’m going fully armed, all weapons locked and loaded!” I felt my eyebrows rise towards my hairline and my eyes widen in slight alarm. Not just caught out in my snooping, but now a semi-accomplice in some kind of hi-tech wholesale massacre of men.

“Take it easy on them” I offered “I’m sure they have no idea what’s coming through the door!” “Oh I think your right” she almost giggled, “and I’m going to savour every moment. Destruction in my wake; Triumph in my hand!” She tossed her car keys in the air and grabbed them back to emphasis the point as she swept passed my table. “Well you go girl!” I quipped (In a semi-instructional way, this girl was clearly dangerous to know!) She flashed a parting grin in my direction and sailed out the door into the sunlight.

I cast my eyes cautiously around the room again – this could clearly be a dangerous occupation.
Karen Mehta 03-02-08

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