As I left my home for work, Storm Caroline’s snow was piling itself on thick. I wheeled my bike out of my driveway and took a moment to take in the scene in front of me before hopping on my bike and cycling away. Grazed palms and a detached bike chain ten metres down the road did not augur well.
When I arrived at the café, there was only one customer inside. I took my time hanging up my coat, enjoying the Christmas music being played (as much as Christmas music can be enjoyed for 25 days straight) and I wasn’t jarred when told that we would be two staff members down. Instead, their absences made me nostalgic for days spent at home committing snowball sins. However, being of a size where sledges would rather sink than slide and living walking distance from work made my chances of being excused from all responsibilities skid from zero to none. The closest I would be coming to a ‘snow day’ was the icy hands that cold water warms and a long day with damp socks.
On reflection, I could have milked the pain of falling off my bike but then I’d have to admit I thought I could bike on ice and I’m sure that my colleagues already think I overestimate my limited abilities.
When the clock struck nine, Mill Hill’s citizens were suited and snow booted and ready to take a trip out into the snow, conveniently comforted by the thought of a hot drink at the end of their expedition. Our queue began to build thick and fast, furthered by the power cuts faced by other cafes on the Broadway. It was game on.
We put our fastest coffee maker on the machine. Quickfire espresso shots. We placed Mr Nice Guy, our designated customer pleaser, on the floor, handling all the tables, walk ins and food running. Our steady handed porter made sure that we never ran out of cups and saucers. And I, the Attempter, handled the till and located those who had disappeared in the minutes between ordering and receiving their takeaway drinks.
In the hours during which the queue refused to subside, there was no time to think about snowmen or sledging. I became a machine, a temperamental one at times: take the order, give the customer change, close the till, realise that I’d given the wrong change, apologise, give the right change, smile politely at the rest of the queue.
That isn’t to say that the magic I associate with snow has completely faded away though. The next snow episode is likely to come out in January, a blessing for some and a nuisance for others. But at least one thing’s for certain: I won’t be cycling through any of it’s scenes. Next time, when I inevitably fall over once more, I’ll be blaming it on the ice alone.