When the glasswasher slits my jeans in the first hour of my shift, I know that today is going to be long. This is only the second glimpse of the public eye my jeans have enjoyed. If before, my jeans were an irrelevant matter strolling through the public’s periphery, the right-angled ‘L’ shaped hole gaping over my shin have now made them a focal point. The rip isn’t fashionably frayed; it looks like a mathematician’s attempt at authenticity.
My colleague, Positive Miranda, helps me consider ways to hide the hole. I could fold the fabric over itself, but the hole is so large it creates the illusion that the maker ran out of material. I could staple the fabric together, but the stapler is conveniently out-of-order.
Opting for invisibility instead, I suggest switching roles with the porter, washing dishes in the back room. However, I’ll need to collect the plates from the front, so there’s no real opportunity to hide all day.
I reluctantly fold the trousers and walk to the front of the café where an elderly man is rambling on to Efficient Ellie, our waitress with an eye for detail. I venture over and ask her, while seemingly including the man, if everything is okay. ‘I don’t know. Maybe you can help,’ she says as she strategically edges away, smirking, leaving me at the till with the man who has not yet stopped for breath. His eyes slide seamlessly from her to me as he continues his monologue. I’m trapped.
When he momentarily pauses, I ask him what he wants. He gestures to a blueberry muffin, ‘A crumpet’. ‘A muffin?’ I retort, not wanting him to get an unwelcome surprise when he put this, not so crumpet, in his mouth. ‘Sweetie, in England we call these crumpets,’. He is wrong, but as I look down at my jeans I decide this is a battle not worth fighting, I have larger problems at hand. ‘Right, well that’ll be £2.70 please’. As he searches for his money, he continues talking. I feel like my stating of the price has been mistaken for ‘Encore’.
As customers start to queue, his desire to share is becoming a problem. To intensify my feeling of discomfort he reveals that I’m the the only person he’ll talk to all day and that this’ll be his first bite of the day. I wonder why he isn’t in more of a rush to eat it. I now feel pity for the man and decide to remain patient while he speaks. I serve the woman behind him without losing eye contact and ring the bell to encourage Miranda to come and help.
Finally, once he pays, I pick up the tray I came to collect and let Miranda take over. I walk speedily to the back, avoiding eye contact with those surprised by my interesting fashion choices.
En route, I see the man interrupting a studying student. As I pass, I hear the familiar words, ‘You’re the only person I’ll talk to all day….’.