Because, of all the cafés in all the world, I chose to walk into this one at eleven o’clock in the morning. Taking a break from writing, I had just popped in for a small cappuccino. Only one customer was sitting at a table across from the counter and as soon as I came in asked, ‘What do you think of men?’
Only one answer occurred to me in that moment – ‘I don’t think of them.’ The two young women who work there laughed, nervously.
It turned out there had just been an incident with a man. The female customer, a visitor from the US, had asked if he could read what was on the monthly newsletter that advertises what’s happening in town. The print is so small on this paper that I’m sure no one can read it without a magnifying glass. Obviously he couldn’t, so one of the girls told him to put his glasses on. And he went off on one. Very loudly. Telling her, with appropriate exaggerated hand gestures that she shouldn’t be putting him DOWN, she should be building him UP. And then he stormed out. It turns out he works there and his co-workers weren’t at all surprised by his behaviour.
However, as a result of this the American woman was declaiming that ‘Men are the new women’ – which is all very well as a catch phrase – except that I feel it’s an insult to women.
Anyway I started chatting to her, asking where she was from, who she was visiting. Then she said how she liked Hebden Bridge because it was full of artistic types. She asked me what I did and for the first time in my life (in a public place anyway) I said, “I’m a writer.”
“Oh, wow! What do you write?”
As it happened, a paperback copy of my novel was sitting on the café bookshelf. They have selection of books that customers can either read with their coffee or buy to take away and I had donated a copy of Starting Over for this purpose. So I found it and gave it to her to look at. Then I sat at the table next to hers and we talked some more. She said she would like to buy my book and I was able to tell her that it was available from the bookshop across the road.
After we’d paid for our coffees, and she asked another customer take a photo of her and myself with the staff, we went across to the shop. She bought my book and I signed it for her.
Outside on the street we hugged and said goodbye.
I walked back home in the sunshine and thought about this unexpected encounter and the joy it brought into my life. I hope reading my book brings some joy into hers.