What The English Lady Said To The French Lady
A golden-aged lady walked over to the couch opposite me and sat down. She was perky and cheerful, befitting the roundness of her shape that portrayed a cozy, warm feeling that old ladies have. She put her newspapers and magazines down on the wooden table in front of me and looked around casually with her black eyes shining behind her thick, black-rimmed glasses. Our gaze met briefly and I smiled lightly at her before returning to my laptop.
One of the staff members was asking her something in French, and she spoke back happily, obviously enjoying the special attention she was receiving. Shortly after she chatted to the man who was seated on her right at another table. Another French person in the cafe apparently, or at least, another French-speaking person. Eventually this man (perhaps her friend) came to her side and half knelt down in order to listen better. The French lady continued to chat away happily, probably enjoying the sensitivity of this man.
A frail, thin old English lady has been sitting beside me prior to the arrival of the French lady. In front of her on the table she had a small crossword puzzle book and her tea. She slowly sipped her tea while her right hand trembled with the teacup, her left hand perhaps resting on her book. After placing the teacup slowly on the table, she decided it is time to begin her crossword puzzle challenge for today.
Suddenly the French lady pulled the table slightly nearer to her as she prepared to read her newspapers. The English lady immediately pulled the table nearer to her in retaliation. Even though my head was tilted down to face my laptop, I could see the extremely agitated expression of the French lady. She gasped slightly in disbelieve and disgust, her eyes now afire with resentment. She again pulled the table towards her, this time with much more force and hostility. The English lady then exclaimed, “Do you mind?!”
The French lady protested back that it was wrong of the English lady to pull the table away from her. The English lady shot back saying that the table should be shared, and scolded her for not knowing how to share. The French lady claimed she agreed that the table should be shared, but she was merely moving the table closer to her in order to read the newspaper better. The English lady continued to ramble on about the concept of sharing, and that the French lady was behaving completely absurd and rude.
Then the French lady retaliated in her subtle French accent, “YOO TINKH YOUU AH BETARR BEECOZ YOO AH INGLISSH??”
My heart skipped a beat. “OHMIGOD” was loudly ringing in my head. Where did that come from, I thought in horror. I wondered if the situation is about to turn into something even more ugly than it already is. The English lady pretended she didn’t hear this and continue to criticize and scold the French lady of being rude and not knowing how to share.
Suddenly the French lady stood up from her seat angrily. “Fine!” She grabbed her newspapers and magazines in a huff, and said something about how ridiculous the English lady was being. All this while (if I recall), the English lady never looked over to see the French lady in the eye, let alone the face. She pretended to continue doing her crossword puzzle as she mumbled away, scolding the French lady away under her breath.
The French lady moved over to the table at the left of the English lady. She too continued to scold away under her breath as she settled into her new seat. While the French lady told the people seated at the tables nearby of how ridiculous the English lady was behaving and how she was badly mistreated, the English lady continued to scold and mumble away under her breath, all the while rooted to her seat while her eyes stayed on the pages of her crossword puzzle book. I heard either one of them saying spitefully, “…. some people are just so stupid!”
Throughout the whole dramatic episode, I stayed exactly the way I was. I didn’t move in my seat, my eyes fixed on the computer screen, continuously trying to get some work done despite the situation, my expression plain as day (or at least I tried to). I just listened and witnessed all that happened like a ghost.
Eventually the hostile verbal attacks stopped. Silence once more. I found myself finally able to focus on my work again. I didn’t look at the ladies or the other people around me at all. I continue to work away diligently, as if nothing happened.
Within a short period of time, I felt the energy of the room brewing from a petty annoyance and built up to a fiery, hostile peak. The toxic, defensive hostile air was almost piercing my skin and ears at times. I heaved a sigh of relief silently inside me, glad that this is over and no serious damage occurred. Perhaps the French lady “gave face” to the English lady as the latter seemed to be much older. Perhaps there was some slight guilt and pity out of respect for the elderly English lady that prevented further drama. For whatever reasons, I am glad no one got hurt (seriously).
So who was the real mean old lady then? Was it the English Lady or French lady? It doesn’t really matter, does it? All I know is the world could use a bit more understanding, kindness and forgiveness, plus a lot of peace and love. And so there you go, just an eventful Wednesday afternoon in a small little neighbourhood cafe in suburb London.
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