Do You Enjoy People Watching?
IN THE CORNER
They sat me in the corner as I had requested. I loved to observe the guests coming down to the restaurant for breakfast and this table offered the best viewpoint from which to see the differing states in which people began their days. Wherever I went I enjoyed discreetly making notes on peoples habits in my trusty notebook. Notes that one day may be used to create characters for my stories.
Today was definitely one of those morning after the night before mornings. There had been a wedding party in the hotel the night before so it wasn’t really surprising. What I did find surprising though was that these guests were appearing for breakfast at this hour at all. People were entering the room looking as though another five hours of sleep wouldn’t have gone amiss. A pale, drawn looking man, who I would say, was in his late fifties, shuffled over to the buffet. He stood there for a few seconds contemplating whether it was actually wise to eat at all. By the look of his bloodshot eyes I think a darkened room and alka-seltzer would have been a better choice of remedy. But he obviously knew his body better than I did as he took a deep breath, grabbed a white plate and walked along the servery placing on it, two sausages, three rashers of bacon, a fried egg, two hash browns, mushrooms, tomatoes, beans and toast and just as he was going to head to his table he paused. He looked down at his plate and appeared to be contemplating something. After a few moments he turned back to the servery and on top of his already full plate he added a massive portion of scrambled eggs. This I thought; was going to be a make or break breakfast.
Amongst the other early partakers of breakfast were a couple sat gazing lovingly into each others eyes, a tea and toast vicar and at the table next to him a couple of highly stressed parents who rather than eating their own breakfasts seemed to spend the whole time picking up a selection of food and small toys from the floor, that the high-chaired twins continued to enjoy throwing back down there. It didn’t look as though mum and dad were going to make it through to elevensies let alone lunch if their kids continued to run rings around them like this.
My stomach churned as the bearded man sat opposite me enjoyed placing buttered croissant and marmalade into his whiskers. I did notice that a small portion of his meal did manage to find its way through the greying forest and into the small orifice that I think was his mouth, beyond. I had to smile as I saw a brother and sister who both looked in their teens chuckling, chattering and pointing at the man as their parents kept telling them to behave. The bearded man seemed totally oblivious and continued to take great pleasure in caking his facial hair with the thick cut preserve. I was sure he was planning to complete his meal when his hunger called for it later in the morning.
As I stirred some sugar into my coffee I noticed a lone woman enter the restaurant. She appeared to ask for a specific table as I saw her point and the waiter escort her over to it. She walked in a slow and calculated way, almost as though it was beneath her to even contemplate sitting in this eatery let alone stoop to nourishing herself in it. And unusually for this hotel he pulled a chair out for her and held it as she sat. She couldn’t even sit at the table like the rest of us. Putting her knees beneath the table was far too peasant-like – sitting at an angle with one leg crossed over the other was, I guessed, how the well heeled did it these days. I was looking forward to witnessing her dietary preferences and how she would tackle the process of moving it from crockery to her mouth. I quickly placed my napkin over the notepad as I realised that she had noticed me observing her and writing. Panic set in as she elegantly stood and strode slowly but purposely over to my table.
‘Does something amuse you?’ she simply asked. Feeling somewhat inferior as she loomed over me, I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. I asked her why?
‘Well – you seem awfully interested in me and amused at my presence in this tacky place. I saw you looking in my direction and writing things down.’
‘Oh no,’ I said, ‘you’ve got it all wrong.’ I then stood up beside her and said in a low voice, ‘I’m a restaurant critic, I’ve been asked to do a review of the restaurants of this hotel chain. My apologies if my glazed musings happened to be in your direction.’ I was quite surprised at my creative quick thinking.
‘Hmm,’ she moaned. ‘Which publication do you write for?’
That threw me and I far too quickly replied, ‘The Telegraph.’
‘Well please muse in a different direction. It’s most off-putting and I think muesli will have to be replaced with a glass of cranberry now as my appetite has totally vanished.’ With that she did an abrupt about turn and returned to her table where she clicked her fingers toward a waiter.
Having lost my enthusiasm for this morning’s people watching session I wiped my mouth and headed off. I thanked the young lady at the reception desk as I passed and then suddenly stopped. I asked her, ‘If you don’t mind me asking, who is that snotty woman sat over there?’
‘The one with the long hair?’ she asked and I nodded. ‘Well,’ she whispered as she leaned towards me, ‘she doesn’t think we know who she is but we were tipped off a couple of days ago. She’s the bitchy restaurant critic for the Telegraph.’