So I’m sitting in the corner of a hipster little café in Hampstead. I have a flat white, complete with swan art, to my left, and a finished plate of smashed avocado to my right. I am wearing a big swishing scarf, and bright red lipstick, in the hope that I may scream some sort of sophistication in this place, that is definitely far too cool for me. On the overhead speakers, some husky man is murmuring meaningful lyrics, accompanied by a guitar and the chatter of the people dining in this small space. Of course, everything is wooden, mismatched in the way that looks put together, if you know what I mean. Even the staff are all co-ordinating in their dark shirts, pierced noses and waxed moustaches.
I love going to places like this, it’s a prime spot for people watching, and so let my totally inaccurate observations begin…
Sitting opposite me, are the ladies that lunch. Two middle-aged women who definitely do Pilates on the weekends. They are munching down on their gluten-free salad option, because they are trying to watch what they eat. They sip on their extra hot cappuccinos, but of course, no sprinkles, thankyou very much. Their double denim attire, completed with a beret and boots oozes luxury. As their second round of coffee arrive, they completely ignore the young server, as they are too busy gossiping to acknowledge anyone around them. A dismissive wave of the hand as the guy offer’s two cappuccinos, but oh no, they have sprinkles! A slightly curt suggestion that he should’ve known what they ordered before he served them is said, and they continue their loud catch-up as two new ones are made.
Next, are the cool guys. Two youngish boys dressed in an effortless sweater and denim combo. Pulled up socks cover the area of their shins that their too-short jeans don’t, and the white trainers tie the look together. One guy has his hair tied up in low buns behind his head, accentuating the three gold hoops in his ear that he and his mates pierced themselves. The other has a beige cap on to cover his mop of curly hair, and a strong beard to match. They are only drinking water, because they don’t actually like the taste of coffee, but that’s okay because coffee is probably to mainstream these days anyway. They are looking at a laptop, and discussing ideas together, maybe for the next start-up business venture in east London.
On the opposite side of the table, is the first-time mum. Hair tied-up in a fuss-free ponytail and a knit thrown on, that definitely has a stain from this morning’s breakfast. She clutches her latte for moral support while her baby cries in its pram, for no particular reason. As she pulls her little one out, and balances him on her knee, you can see her tired eyes wishing for some sort of magical cure for crying toddlers. She shares her portion of plain toast, out of love but also in the hope of a moment of silence. As she folds him in a hug, you can see the bond of love between them, despite the sleepless nights.
Finally, the coffee guy. He has short brown hair, and is dressed in vintage chic that only waiters in cool coffee shops do. He is shy, not wanting to interrupt his customers as he carries over coffee after coffee. He has been working all day, but still wears a smile on his face as he welcomes new people into the café, a smile that his masking how bored and tired he really is.
As I sit in the corner of the coffee shop, I notice each group of people, sipping their coffee and enjoying their afternoon chat. They flow in and out, but I am that one weirdo who has been here all afternoon. After all of the judgements I make on other people, which are definitely in jest, the staff are probably making the same on me:
There is a girl sitting in the back corner of the shop, who has only had one coffee all afternoon, but keeps asking for water, probably because she is too stingy to buy anything else, but wants to sap our free wifi. She has been furiously typing away on her laptop, probably writing some essay about the arts, judging by the colour of her hair, and her bright clothing, not to mention the nose ring.
If only they knew, that if café squatting was a sport, I would be the champion….