Sometimes you wonder what makes people tick like they tick.
A few weeks ago, during the October break, we spent a day on an apple farm: picking apples and pears, enjoying nature, running around (the kids), chatting on a bench in the sun (the grown-ups). “We” being three mums with their kids of various age and height, enjoying a relaxed day, everything being easy and running smoothly (except maybe for the youngest girl, who was still tired from having started school 6 weeks before and therefore found life in general hard to bear).
At one point I got up from the bench and ventured into the cafe to get us some hot chocolate. Inside it was not very busy, but there was a small queue at the coffee bar, where you also had to pay all your other food and drinks. While I ordered our drinks from a nice young man I noticed two things: One was that the woman at the front of the line had some trouble with payment (card not working properly or something like that), that probably being the reason for the queue. Second was a woman hovering slightly behind us, carrying a tray with apple pie and obviously waiting for someone. “Someone” turned out to be her two teenage daughters (or maybe even granddaughters, I am horrible with age estimates) who apparently had needed some extra time to choose their food. The mum/grandma said something to the girls rather coldly, put their plates on her tray and moved closer to our queue.
Now you would have expected her to step to the end of the line, in this case two people behind me. But she didn’t. I did not see her move, but suddenly she was standing between the woman first in line (still trying to pay) and the woman in front of me, but still in second row. She ordered a cappuccino. A few moments later, a cappuccino arrived, actually belonging to the woman in front of me, who had ordered it minutes ago. At the same time, the woman at the front of the line finally won the fight against her card, took her tray and left.
And with one fluid movement , the woman from the second row took the cappuccino, stepped to the front of line, put down her tray and made herself ready to pay.
The woman standing in front of me seemed to need a few seconds to realise what had happened. Then she said something like: “Sorry, but that actually was my coffee?” She did not even mention the fact that it also was her place in the line. The other woman turned her head half way, just looked at her in complete calm, turned her head back and proceeded with paying. Then she took her tray and left.
The woman in front of me just stood there. Then when a puzzled expression on her face she took the second cappuccino, which had arrived in the meantime. The cashier had either not noticed the whole gambit at all (being maybe still stressed out from the payment trouble before) or chose to ignore it. I turned to the woman behind me and made a “did what just happened really happen?”-face. She shook her head in disbelief. “Well”, she said, “maybe not everyone can be nice.” Which I thought was a remarkable sentence.
When I got back to my friends with our mugs, I could see the strange woman sitting a few meters away. She was one of those immaculately dressed middle-aged(?) ladies who look like the impersonation of politeness. I told my story to my friends, to share my puzzlement. One of my friends said: “You know what I always think when I meet someone like her? I am really thankful that I am not like this. And that I am raising my children not to be like this either.”
So, why I am putting this here? Because it is still on my mind, after a couple of weeks. It was not the rudest thing I have ever experienced, but I think what bothers me is this: The complete calmness, coolness of it. This woman acted not in a stressed-out, being-in-a-hurry way of someone who has waited too long and suddenly cannot bear it any longer. She looked like she just decided she wanted that coffee, she wanted to pay now. And had the right to do it. Without any trace of guilty conscience. And managed to make the woman whose coffee she took look small and lost and defeated.
And so I walk around wondering how it must feel to be such a person. And at the same time I remember the words of my friend (be thankful you are not like this) and the words of the woman behind me. Maybe not everyone can be nice.