I go to a medium sized, family owned cafe every Thursday. It’s the end of my work week and it’s a treat for myself. I relish the “me time” that I get for about an hour or so.
I always order the same thing at the counter. So much so that the clerk knows what to order for me without me telling her. Sometimes I sit outside if it’s nice weather, but with the Texas wind I prefer a seat inside if possible.
Sometimes the cafe is crowded – like today – and other times there are just a few patrons there.
My routine is the same – order at the counter, find a small table, eat my lunch and dessert and then go back to the counter to order a coffee to sit and sip and savor my alone time. (The coffee is delicious and is my favorite part of this ritual).
Today the cafe was very crowded. There was only one table in the dining room available. I ate my lunch and dessert as usual and before I could even dab my lips with my napkin, there was a person at my table, glowering at me. She said, “Are you done?”. I was confused because I thought maybe she worked at the cafe and was asking this to clear my dishes. I wasn’t sure though, because I had never seen her before and know all of the cafe workers. Nevertheless, I replied, “Yes, thank you”. She then said, “Good, hey guys we can sit here.” 3 people appeared from around the corner and began to put their things on the table.
I said, “I’m sorry, there has been a misunderstanding. I meant I was finished with my dishes. However, I’m not ready to leave.”
They all glared at me and the woman replied, “Well it’s really crowded today and you are done eating”.
Before this invasive incident, my plan was to go order my coffee at the counter and come back and enjoy it. I realized right away that even if I explained I was still going to get coffee and the table wasn’t available, when I vacated the table to go order, they would steal it immediately with no recourse for me.
The owner, whom I know well and is beloved by all, walked by at that exact moment. I hadn’t seen her yet and her face lit up when she saw me. She said, “Hi there! How was everything? Are you ready for your coffee?”. I responded with a, “Yes, that would be lovely. Thank you so much”. I then pointedly looked at the crowd gathered at my table and said, “Sorry, you will have to find another table”.
They all left in a huff. The owner saved the day and I kept my polite spine on. 0426-18