Reasons why Fran will make things clearer next time she's in Costa
I went to a writers' day recently and stopped in a nearby Costa at 9.30am as I was early arriving. I ordered a coffee, then spotted in the fridge some impressive chicken salad baguettes. That's when I remembered I was meant to be taking a packed lunch with me to the writers' day. Serendipitous!!
The assistant gave me the wrapped baguette on a plate, which I didn't need, but, hey, no worries. When I got to my table, I slid the baguette into my rucksack alongside my notebook and pens, and began to sip the coffee.
Barely 30 seconds later, the same assistant came past my table, looked down at my empty plate, back at my face, and said, 'Have you finished with this, Madam?'
I didn't realise the implication at first or I'd have said, 'Oh, the baguette was for lunch. It's in my bag.'
Instead, I realise, I let him think that I had necked that baguette in half a minute in the same way a sword-swallower appears to: all in one, and without it touching the sides of my mouth.
When I left the shop, I dared not look behind me in case he was whispering to his colleague. 'Shall we get her back in to do it again? Shall we ring the Guinness Book of Records to come and film it?'
Do you ever have incidents like this, when you realise you've been misunderstood and wish you could explain yourself? So often I miss the moment and then have to leave it be, knowing I've been misjudged. But what could I have done? Whip the baguette out of my bag and shout, 'See! I'm not the Amazing Baguette-Swallowing Lady you thought I was!'?
You gotta laugh, eh? Except that inside I don't think I was laughing. The incident touched on all my insecurities about weight and image. Were they looking at me as I left the cafe, thinking, 'She must do that baguette trick every morning. Look at her.'
Sorry to get serious on you. But I hadn't realised until writing that incident down just now why it had stayed with me.
Now I've got serious, I'm going to have trouble shaking it off. Bear with me, peeps.
It happens when you're a child, doesn't it? You misunderstand situations all the time and get into trouble because of it. You don't realise bugger is a swearword, so you say it and your mum goes bananas. You didn't know your sister had a test the next day so you interrupt her while she is doing her homework and your parents hit the roof. A teacher says, 'Give me one minute.' You time her, then ask again. She gets cross. A parent says, 'What do you say?' when you leave someone's house, and because the instruction is vague, you say, 'Can we not have baked beans again next time we come?'
I wrote an article for a magazine recently about metaphors, and how some children, particularly those on the autistic spectrum, don't pick up on the hidden meanings in instructions such as 'Pull your finger out' or 'Pull your socks up.' I read a story about a little boy who was kept in at break time for literally pulling his socks up when given the latter instruction by a supply teacher. The teacher, not aware of his particular needs, clearly thought he was being cheeky by pretending not to understand.
That kind of story makes me sad. So many things happened to me like that in my childhood that my heart hurts for the little boy, sitting alone in the classroom, deprived of his break time, and maybe not fully understanding why.
Have you ever been misunderstood in a similar way, either in childhood or as an adult? I'm sure we've all got stories.
Here's Nina Simone. She sings, 'I'm just a soul whose intentions are good. Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood.'
I'll pray that prayer next time I'm anywhere near Costa.