Why cafés should come with an age guide.


It had to happen. I knew the day would come but thought I might’ve had a few more years yet. Sadly, I’ve begun to realise that perhaps I’m too old to frequent certain types of establishments. Sure, you might be thinking underage discos, rave parties (do these event exists any more) or skateboard parks, who am I kidding I was never right for skateboard parks. No, I’m talking about the far more innocuous pastime of lounging around in a certain type of café. You know the ones, they’ve been popping up with what’s become an annoying regularity … hipster cafes.

As a freelance researcher and writer my job often sees me out and about conducting interviews with all and sundry, from multi-drug users to CEO’s … who on some occasions appear to be one and the same.

My day usually involves racing into a nearby café for a quick cuppa, a peruse of the paper and if I’m honest, a warmed-up chocolate brownie. The other day it was time to check out an uber cool, hole-in-the-wall café, I’d been eyeing off for several weeks.

Although it was only 2 o’clock, as I ventured into said café I was confronted with an atmospheric gloom reminiscent of a dank cave that would’ve been the ideal hiding spot for Osama Ben Laden prior to his demise.

Thankfully my eyes adjusted just in time to make out the bearded (naturally) gent positioned behind the slick black counter, patiently waiting for my order, at least I think that expression was patience, though I couldn’t be sure. Tea ordered and paper retrieved from the wooden wall rack it was time to find a seat.

A waist height wooden share-table ran down the middle of the café, ten iron and leather stools on either side. My high jumping days ended abruptly in school, shortly after the Fosbury Flop replaced the step-over scissor kick. Neither seemed appropriate today and so I bypassed this option.

Squinting towards the back of the café I could just make out two tables and chairs of regular height, however they were occupied by three beards and their obligatory op-shop-designer-clad praying mantis companions.

To my right I noticed a small wooden knee height square box nestled against the distressed brick wall. At first I thought a permanently disenchanted delivery boy had left it behind, but on further inspection I noticed two toadstool like ‘seats’ on either side of the square box. A table and chairs … evidently. It was my only option.

I dropped my folded newspaper and handbag onto the ‘table’ thereby covering its entire surface, and began my descent onto the stool, a descent I’d been successfully performing all my adult life, yet on this day I quickly found my cellulite-riddled derriere gliding towards the polished grey concrete floor. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to stop yourself mid-sit but I can tell you that once commenced, there’s no means of stopping said trajectory.

The resulting thud saw the barista rush from behind the counter to see if I was okay (and not contemplating a law suit no doubt), while the three beards and praying manti looked up momentarily, then returned to their mumblings.

In my defence, the leather cushion on top of the stool had been polished to within an inch of its life, and the stool was positioned hard up against the ‘table’ leaving only a quarter of the sitting surface available to catch descending buttocks.

I quickly regained the newspaper that had accompanied me on my fall, but not my composure, that would take a little longer. As I perched half-on half-off the stool I pondered whether some cafes should come with an age limit? The question was quickly answered.

With the ‘table’ too small to house the paper I resorted to sitting side-saddle on the stool with my back hard pressed up against the wall for support.

When the tea and brownie were placed down any thoughts of whiling away my afternoon sipping tea while reading the paper evaporated. Even a lifetime member of Cirque de Solaire wouldn’t have been able to pull off these two feats given the ‘table’ and ‘seat’ configuration.

I gave up reading the paper and faced the ‘table’.

On doing so though it became apparent that in order to get close enough to reach the brownie I had to straddle the ‘table’, my legs spread wider than a first time mother in birthing stirrups.

No doubt this configuration would be no problem for beards in jeans. In fact I’d lost count of the number of times I’d seen said ‘presenting’ position, particularly during business meetings where perceived, if not actual, power was paramount. However, this position presents an entirely different range of problems for a woman. Should I be wearing any form of skirt other than a wafting bohemian number it would have been utterly impossible.

Undeterred I resumed my side-saddle position, ate the brownie and attempted to read the paper. At first glance I was shocked to read that Perth was underwater only, to realise that the café gloom had rendered my tried eyes useless. Placing the paper at arm’s length revealed that there were a few more years before the rising water levels would warrant transportation by gondolas. I contemplated using the torch on my iPhone to read the rest of the news, but one look at the scowling prayingmanti stopped that.

Tea drained in record time and paper not read I gave in, it was time to leave.

As I moved to stand I sensed the barista halt his tap, tap, tapping on the coffee machine as the other patrons held their collective breathes.

Attempting to rise from one of the deepest squats of my life took all of my powers, the strongest being my intense hatred of embarrassment. Turns out the gods were lenient that day and somehow I made it up in one go. I could almost hear the applause.

The barista smiled and bid me farewell as I exited the café. I wasn’t sure if this was a well-meant salutation given to all patrons, or a sign of relief on his part, but I like to think it was the former. Either way it was enough to encourage me to continue to fight the good fight against dim lighting, milk crate seating and café ageism.

Wish me luck.




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