The table was occupied when I arrived. Two quiet older women. Silently sitting. Sipping tea and gazing into the middle distance. A sliver of conversation passed between them, almost inaudible. As one, they stood, shrugged on their matching but differently coloured quilted coats. Equally quietly they donned hats and paid their bill and left.
The table was cleared of two china cups and saucers neatly left in place, chairs pushed back firmly in place - it hardly needed cleaning.
Next a group of men came in. Old boys - chuckling at a previously shared joke as they came through the door. Regulars. Although only five initially, tea for seven was ordered and three poached eggs on brown toast and bacon and eggs on brown bread for two. No sooner than that order had been passed on to the kitchen, the missing two pottered in. They added to the order. Apparently all seven men order the same meals every time.
There was a gentle hubbub of deep male voices as they ate and talked, laughed and ribbed each other. A good group. Friends.
They left replete, courteous and politely jovial.
The table was cleared again, despite the quantity of plates, mugs and tea pots - there was still an element of tidy order. It took a couple of trips to take all the cutlery and crockery to the kitchen, table wiped and chairs straightened.
A new party. A party of four. A little disheveled and disjointed. They roamed the space separately, checking out tables finally, agreeing on the table.
They were restless, checking their cellphones, only really communicating with brusque grunts or short curt sentences. Four meals were ordered, large platters of food, pots of tea and toast. The kitchen stepped up the activity and with practiced movements and actions - bacon, eggs, toast, mushrooms, tomatoes, sausages, hash browns and black puddings were being cooked as plates were warmed and teapots filled.
Food served, the four sullenly fell apon their plates - it was strange - they appeared to only share the table, their consumption was treated as a solitary affair - roughly attacking the plates, lifting forks rapidly and shoving food in quickly, chewing once or twice then repeating the attack, lift, shovel, chew, swallow, attack, lift, shovel, chew, swallow. Only briefly halting to drain mugs of tea.
As quickly as they ate, they left the table, abandoning their chairs noisily. One of the men came to pay, the other three ranged again around the cafe. The women both walking quickly with their hands tucked under the apposing arm in a strange crossed arm position, the remaining male moved in a slouching lope as he left the building and folded himself up in their parked vehicle. Hardly a word said between them - they left.
The table was strewn with butter pat wrappings, sugar twist papers - torn and discarded. Tea slops and food remains were scattered everywhere. Plates still full of half eaten food. The table, yet again was cleared, chairs replaced. Calm normality returned.
Three times the table was used in a short three hour slot. If it could log each time it was used, what would it say?
And why was I table watching?
Every Tuesday, I get to see a difference slice of life while I help at a local cafe - spending four hours clearing tables, washing up and putting away.