Thursday, November 19, 2009


In the absence of regular lunching partner Yazzle Dazzle, I have recently taken to entertaining myself with a variety of other things on that small island of hope that splits the working day. Proofreading, writing, watching episodes of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia on my iPhone, and more recently reading a book have all helped relieve the emptiness that comes from not engaging in half an hour of endlessly witty, exceedingly puerile banter.

Today, though, I had Helen.

I arrived at Secret Starbucks a little later than usual today which meant that all the decent tables - particularly the two with the comfy chairs - had been nabbed. Being utterly shameless, and seeing as both tables with the comfy chairs where each occupied by just one person, I decided that I would ruthlessly invade one of them and take it for myself. The first was taken by a man with a laptop; the second by a young woman on her phone. I plumped for the latter.

I made my presence know to her by waving like a special and mouthing "is this seat free" in an overly exaggerated fashion. She nodded and gesticulated at it (as if there was another chair I'd been planning on taking instead), so I popped my coffee on the table, sat down, and pulled out my book.

Usually when I'm in Secret Starbucks I knock the volume of my iPhone down a notch or two so my music doesn't bother anyone else. This young lady, I realised a little too late, was talking rather loudly, however, and so I was forced to turn it up a notch in what turned out to be a somewhat futile effort to drown her out.

As it turns out, though, I soon found myself riveted to what she had to say.

Her name was Helen, and she'd recently accepted a new job. BUT! She also had an interview for another job that she *really* wanted and she didn't want to start the new one only to have to resign and work out a notice period if there was the possibility she might get the one that was just - girly squeal! - perfect for her. I never actually found out what either of the jobs were, but I'd be really disappointed if one was at Tesco and the other at Sainsburys.

So Helen was on the phone the entire time I was sat there, which was at least half an hour. After about 20 minutes I covertly turned my music off so I could listen more carefully. I made sure to keep my eyes on my book, however, to give the illusion that I was still reading. It's things like this that provide a clear indication that I would make a good ninja.

I don't know whether it was one person on the end of the line, or whether the phone was being passed around a variety of different people so that Helen could canvas a broad cross-section of the population on what she should do. At one point she got particularly loud and I wondered whether she'd taken to broadcasting her dilemma to all the patrons of Secret Starbucks or simply gotten a bit overwhelmed and emotional about the whole thing. If I'd been in more of a carefree mood I might've considered giving her a hug and telling her to get her roots done, because whichever job she ended up taking I somehow doubt they'd tolerate the current state of her hair, particularly if it was a position in which she'd have to deal with the public.

So I was warming to Helen somewhat - that is until she made a cardinal sin. Turning to face the window beside her, she pushed against the table with her leg, pushing it into my thigh and almost spilling my coffee. It also meant that I ended up looking like I was sitting slightly side-saddle in the chair as the area previously occupied by my legs was now occupied by table. This warranted - and resulted in - a withering stare. And I don't mean one of those smouldering ones that makes none all of the ladies swoon in my presence.

Helen didn't notice because she was too busy procrastinating and using her reflection in the window to pick something out of her teeth. I picked up my coffee and took a mouthful (while this may have appeared on the surface simply to be me enjoying my beverage, it was actually a second, slightly more subtle response to her nudging of the table - i.e. 'I better drink some of this so you don't spill it with your random and bizarre movements'). A couple of seconds later I put my mug down and resumed fake-reading my book.

And it was then that she did it again.

To be brutally honest, if I'd had one of those little wooden sticks that Starbucks give you to stir your coffee with, I would've snapped it in fury. I briefly considered getting up, going and getting one, and then snapping it in fury in front of her. As it was, though, time was up and I needed to be getting back to the office.

As I arose and tucked my iPhone into my pocket I glared once again at Helen and her outstretched, slightly dumpy legs. She remained oblivious to my rage as she continued to talk the hind legs off the donkey she was speaking to. I never did learn if Helen came to any conclusion about what to do, but quite frankly I don't think either company would benefit from her employment; her decision-making skills are appalling. What's the betting she's still sitting there tomorrow dithering about what to do?


Tara said...

I'm thinking that if that girl had managed to spill your beverage with her selfish, table shifting moves, there would've been quite a rumble in that Secret Starbucks. I would've flown all the way over there to watch it...while pretending to read, of course.

She sounds like the type who would answer her phone in the middle of a job interview.

Inexplicable DeVice said...

You mean to say that this Helen creature continued speaking after you got her attention and didn't fall at your feet, drooling? She must have been a minion from Hell rather than an actual human female.

Tim said...

Tara - If she'd spilt my coffee … well, there'd be hell to pay, quite frankly!

Inexplicable Device - She was clearly broken in some way.

Jeaux said...

I need to find a Secret Starbucks, with or without a Helen. All the Starbucks around here are too obvious. But I don't know how to go about looking for one.

Tim said...

Jeaux - Hello! Ah, there's no real knack to finding a Secret Starbucks, you'll just know it when you find it (particularly if the baristas undercharge you/give you freebies).

the projectivist said...

Tim, you should carry some of those sticks around in your pocket in case of emergencies such as this.

i think that Helen was tossing up between a job at Secret Starbucks (your Secret Starbucks) and some poor medical centre somewhere. you know the ones where the staff carry on entertaining conversations with their friends, whilst you die of the slowly expanding (imagined) brain tumour in your head?

i hate those girls.

Tim said...

OMG! Can you imagine if she got a job in Secret Starbucks? She'd take aaaaaages making my drink and then I'd end up with something completely different!

I think I'd prefer her to work at the medical centre!

CyberPete said...

Did you remember to turn a page from time to time?

Dumpy legs, poor dye job and frizzy hair. Did you say someone actually hired her?

Maybe her name sister Helen Keller?

Tim said...

Someone had offered her a job … god 'elp 'em!!

CyberPete said...

I suppose they need someone to charge your credit card at Asda..

Tim said...

Did you just accuse me of shopping at Asda?!

How very dare you!

CyberPete said...

I don't know. Now I'm tired AND confused.

wordless words said...

there are so many Helen's in the world! sigh. I was working at a Deli a few months ago. And I was in the middle of slicing lunch meat for this man who was on the phone talking about his prostrate. literally describe the test he had just undergone to make sure he was A-ok... I stopped using my phone in public after that.

Tim said...

Ugh, that's gross! You've should've put something unmentionable in his sandwich. I'm not exactly sure what, but something that would equal how grossed out you felt!