I knew it as soon as I saw his nasty rolled down navy blue socks, shorts and brown shoes. British.
As I?ve noted previously, there’s an alarming number of Brits in Austin and while I may occasionally seek them out – as in going to the pub to see England play in the World Cup – I generally pretend they don?t exist. Not possible in this case. The chinless wonder on his cellphone in Seattle?s Coffee was sadly one of mine and he’d brought some mongrely looking family members with him.
I mention that it was Seattle?s Coffee, or Seattle?s Best Coffee, because I like to irritate people that rant about how evil the Starbucks corporation is and how you should only support the local coffee shops because they?re what ‘keeps Austin weird’. I do occasionally go to one of Austin’s many independent coffee shops, but only when I want to be served with a degree of hipster attitude and wait about half an hour to get my drink. Interesting how slow the service is, given that they rarely have more than a handful of customers, mainly students sitting at a table nursing one coffee between three of them. Starbucks, Seattles, etc, may have infantilised coffee but at least the staff appear to wash their hair and I don?t fear using the restrooms.
But back to the skinny pasty-legged Brit. Among his rather dull ‘Brits on a holiday’ group was a child, never a welcome sight in a coffee shop. Or indeed anywhere. It was a nasty looking thing, dressed in a hideous pea/diarrhea green all-in-one and a silly floppy hat. I can?t tell the age but as it was walking I?d guess 2 or 3.
Erik and I had gone over to do a bit of work, so we had our laptops, as did most of the people sitting in there. I know, it always looks a bit wanky and I would go to the library to work but they don?t serve coffee and it smells of homeless people. Within a few minutes of sitting down, diarrhea boy starts running across the store towards the woman sitting at the table next to me. He just stands there staring at her, until she stupidly smiles and starts asking him questions. Unlike me, whose questions might have been a little more challenging, ?what?s the capital of Croatia, dipshit??, she was all gooey and asked how old it was and its name. Peabody just stands there like a mute not answering, so she starts guessing ?are you 2? Or 3? My name?s Helen, what?s yours?? Damnit, I?m trying to work but now I?m tuned into this inane Sesame Street dialogue. I glance across to its owners and the whole pack of them is looking over and smiling at this wonderful moment their son is having with a complete stranger. I wished it was a sweaty looking man in a dirty mac sporting a dodgy moustache. Anyway, there was clearly no impulse to come and get him, even though Helen is clearly packing up her stuff and getting ready to leave. Perhaps sensing this, the little delight goes running off to another table and does the same thing.
I?m totally distracted at this point and amazed that a Brit – even a gormless idiot like this one, probably from Watford – would let his child run around. If it were a dog, I could totally understand as it?s one of the great injustices of the world that dogs have fewer rights than children. I?m now watching the child while pretending to still be working and wondering when/if it?s going to come over to Erik. I know it won?t come over to me, because I?m channelling every ?fuck off? vibe in my body and scowling like a pantomime villain. Part of me also knows that if it did come over, I’d have the urge to stand on its foot or maybe kick its ankle, hidden from view by the table in front of me. I’m not evil, I just know myself.
Erik however, is quite the reverse of me and while he never wants to have children either, he does seem to have some kind of affinity with them. So the thing eventually comes over and hangs on the edge of his chair. Erik says ?hello? and then goes back to his screen. I stare at the mongrels until the father finally decides to come over and bring it back to the table. Ten seconds later and it?s off again, doing the same thing to some other poor sap trying to work. Again and again until I?m ready to go over to the family and have a word. Of course I didn?t, I hate confrontations and I?m so much better at them in my head. I did the more British thing of sighing loudly and looking over and rolling my eyes at them and tapping on the keys in an ever louder and more staccato irritated fashion.
Finally, they get ready to go. But not before Dad decides to swing son round and around by the arms, making an annoying ?whee? sound every time. They’re doing this in the middle of a coffee shop, in front of the main entrance. I became so irrationally angry that I contemplated leaving by the side exit just so that I could come around the front and push the door open really hard and crash in blindly like I was in a terrible hurry and couldn’t possibly expect to see them right there and therefore couldn’t possibly help but plough into them, knocking down at least one in a sad, but easily avoidable accident on their part.
Next time tosspot.