I’ve been experiencing some strange encounters lately. I don’t like to say that people are “strange”, but it is the best word to describe the humans I’ve been coming in contact with.
1 unusual or surprising in a way that is unsettling or hard to understand : children have some strange ideas | he’s a very strange man | [with clause ] it is strange how things change.
My Saturday started off abnormally. I woke up a few minutes before my alarm was set to go off, dreaming of Christmas music. As I stirred from my slumber I realized I wasn’t dreaming of Michael Buble crooning “I’ll be home for Christmas” – the music was drifting up the stairs. I got of bed (slowly, there was no hopping), opened the blinds, and was greeted by whiteness. Snow must’ve been falling all night because everything was covered, and it was still snowing. Yes I am I in Canada, and snow is normal here, so perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised. It was beautiful, but it was MARCH 17 – St. Patrick’s Day. The weather had been getting nicer and it’s already in the 20s in Ontario, so I don’t think I was wrong in feeling like Mother Nature was being a tease. I am absolutely ready for spring weather and was a little annoyed at this minor setback. As I was getting ready for work N’Sync’s “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” started playing, and let’s just say some shimmying and off-key belting occurred – hey, I don’t think it’s humanly possible to not feel alive when that song is playing, no matter what time of year. You might think this behaviour is “strange,” but trust me – if you know me well you’ll know that this is not unusual. So, I decided to embrace the festive spirit and continued listening to Christmas music on my drive to work.
My first table must’ve been an omen for the day. Three people decked out in denim on denim, heavy duty boots, and the two women with long straggly hair lumber in and the man calls out – “you serving yet?”
I greet their table with menus in hand, and right away they start shouting out their coffee orders, change their minds, then go back to what they originally asked. There was lots of awkward moments in which they avoided eye contact, spoke in a hurry, and they always seemed startled if I asked them how everything was going. An overall slightly awkward experience, but they were friendly and I was happy to serve them.
I had about an hour and a half between my shifts so I decided to grab a drink at Starbucks and curl up with a book. When you approach the counter there’s a separator between the cash register and the line up, with a sign clearly stating to line up on the right side of the separator. I jump in line behind a lady with the Cadillac of all strollers, and I find myself wondering how she’s possibly going to make the tight corner to pick up her drink after she’s placed her order. As I’m standing in line all of the sudden there’s a couple beside me, on the other side of the separator, debating about what to order. The woman, flailing her arms and pointing at the menu, is shouting, “oh there it is! They have it! Caramel macchiato. That’s what we had, right? No! No, mocha latte. It was a mocha latte!!” “Alright dear,” her husband replies, “that must be it. Let’s get in line.” “Oh! Yes, mocha latte. Or was it the cappuccino?” “I’m not sure but we can decide in line.” “Oh, I guess we should just get in line. Yes, yes, it was the mocha. Aren’t you so happy they have it here, Ralph?” “Yes, dear.” “I’m just so happy they have it. I really like…” Meanwhile, I’m wondering if one of them is slightly deaf. It would explain her speaking so loudly that everyone in the Starbucks, and probably those walking by outside, now knows that she loves mochas. The gentleman hobbled over to grab a seat, and of course he sits on a bench right beside the table I claimed with my bag. Why not? She continued to chatter on and on, saying things as he wasn’t listening, but I was called to the front to place my drink order.
After a kerfuffle which was me helping the woman in front of me navigate her mammoth stroller, the friendly Starbucks staff asks what I assumed was “A name for the order?” I couldn’t make out what he was saying because the woman behind me was still verbally processing the entire menu, but I was expecting him to ask me that so I responded with “Grace”. This news delighted the woman who was in front of me because her baby in the stroller is named Grace.
Eventually I sit down right beside Ralph, who has been wearing a Bluetooth the whole time. He turns to me, bares a slightly toothless grin, and says, “It’s so nice to sit down.” I smile and agree that it is, then open up my book. A few minutes later I know that the woman has her drinks before she’s anywhere near me because she starts shouting to her husband that she has them. She comes over and asks her husband if they’re going, to which he replies he’d like to sit a while. “Oh good, good, that sounds like a good plan. I just love whipped cream, don’t you? Can you believe they have the drinks we like? I just can’t believe it!” she says, clearly pleased with her purchases. I smile to myself because I understand how a good hot beverage can make your day. “I’m so excited about this game,” she says as she opens up a plastic bag and takes out a wrapped video game. “Oh! Yes, see here, it says it has levels so I already know I’m going to like it. I guess I should’ve taken it out and looked at this book while I was in the store?” “Yes, that probably would’ve worked,” he agreed. “Oh yes, yes, I can already tell I’m going to like it. So, can we go now dear?” “Not yet, I want to finish my drink.” “Oh, ok. I just know I’m going to like this game.”
Suddenly Ralph puts his hand to his ear and says “hello?” His wife said, “Who is it? Who is it?” “Oh, hi Steve,” Ralph says. “STEVE!” her voices raises an octave, “Tell Steve I say hi!” “Uh huh, uh huh,” “Tell Steve I say hi! Can you believe it? STEVE!” Now I’m curious as to what’s so great about Steve – superhero, model, makes great mochas… “Yep here she is,” Ralph says. “Oh, Steve wants to talk to ME? I’ve never used a Bluetooth before!” I watch in awe as the two of them try to set her up with the Bluetooth as she says multiple times over that she’s never used one before. Once it’s on her ear she yells “Steve! I was just saying I’ve never used a Bluetooth before! Yes. Listen Steve. You’ll never guess where we are! Starbucks!” Ralph try’s to tell his wife that she doesn’t need to yell, but she continues to anyways. Soon after she starts yelling “Steve! Are you there! Dear, I can’t hear him. I’m left handed. It’s on the wrong ear. I need to switch ears because I’m left handed.” He patiently helps her switch ears, but she continues to struggle and eventually they just use the regular cell phone. I gather from her conversation that they’re going to meet Steve at his house on Monday at 10am, because they like to “sleep in, anyways.” She hangs up and repeats all of the information. Pauses for a seconds then says “Can we go now dear?” “I want to finish my coffee,” Ralph says for the umpteenth time. “Okay then.” Ralph asks her if there’s a washroom, and she replies that she doesn’t know. Ralph then promptly turns to me and asks if I know whether or not there’s a washroom, to which I reply “yes, there is actually. Right there,” I say with a point to the bathroom that is directly beside where we’re sitting.
He returns and she asks again if they can go. “I just want to talk to you,” she says as she lowers her voice to what is a normal restaurant speaking level. I’m wondering what it is she’s been doing all along then, but he seemed to understand what she meant.
After Ralph and his wife left I couldn’t help but feel fascinated by their relationship. As I stared at the falling snow through the window, all I could think was,