This morning, after the gym and before a meeting, I sat in a cafe with a good book and a cappuccino. It was a typical cafe in central Wellington at 10.30 on a Friday morning. To my right were two business colleagues (an older woman and younger man) clad in corporate black, enjoying coffees, a date scone and a caramel oat slice. To their right were two women catching up on office gossip and complaining about the boss, wearing silky shirts and boots. To my left was a middle-aged couple, speaking intently over their empty coffee cups, gazing into each others’ eyes, sighing about whatever problem was worrying them this sunny warm, almost spring-like Friday morning.
Directly in front of me were two middle-aged men, dressed in casual Friday jeans and business shoes, sipping on coffee and chatting quietly. I barely noticed them until a cellphone rang, and was answered. The bigger guy, loud and with an accent from the old country, proceeded to inform the caller that he had missed a meeting that morning and was too busy to do whatever was needed. He looked conspiratorially at his companion, grinning smugly. A casual observer (ie me) would have expected him to hang up then. I am sure his companion expected this. But five minutes later he was still on the phone, by this stage laughing uproariously, and sharing anecdotes about what else so-and-so had done, what a good bloke he was, and what would happen on Sunday at the game. His companion had by now finished his coffee, his empty cup pointedly pushed to the centre of the table. His smile had waned, and he had that awkward look that always afflicts the party not included in a cellphone conversation. He looked away, around the cafe, and shifted uneasily. A few minutes later his body language spoke volumes. He sat at a 90 degree angle to the table and his still-talking-loudly companion. His elbows and back were his defence to his embarrassment.
Finally, his companion snapped his phone shut, after unnecessarily stretching out the “goodbye” phase of the conversation, and added insult to injury by giving him a high five and proceeding to explain why there was cause for celebration, forcing him to listen (once again) to this torturous conversation which had already taken up too much of his day.