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Monday, 15 August 2016

Something a little different

I've got class for the next two weeks, so as I get a moment I'll be scheduling posts. Today, I'm including writing I did as an assignment for my class on ethnographic methods. It was really hard for me to write, it's not my style at all.

The assignment didn't call for analysis, we just had to write up some of what we observed at a public spot for an hour. This is an assignment I can share, and not worry that it'll fall prey to plagrism [it's a massive problem] because it's observation without analysis. It's a bit long, but I hope you enjoy it some.

Moments of Waiting

Walking through the door at The Blue Crane & The Butterfly, you are immediately hit with smell of good dark roast coffee. There is a very good reason that it is known for having the best coffee in Stellenbosch. As with most sit-down places, as you enter you need to wait to be seated, or if you are lucky you spot a free table, quickly grab it and wait for the moment when a waiter gets to you.

On this particular late Wednesday morning, I do not spot a table to grab, but instead wait for the waiter. The cafe is a welcome warm relief from the crisp winter’s day, the sound of chatter, clinking kitchen dishes, and the buzz of coffee beans being ground is a welcome soundtrack to that from the walk to this part of town. I am seated close to the middle of the cafe, with a good view of the coffee/cake/front counter, a “if-I-tilt-my-head” view of the kitchen and it allows for me to to see door with a slight turn.

As I am seated, the table next to mine of two men get up and go over to the counter to pay. As they are waiting for their bill, a waitress notices that one has forgotten his top on a seat. The taller of the two men is busy with the snap scan tag, it would seem he is waiting for network connection to finish his payment. As they leave, three people walk in; an older couple and a middle aged man.

There is a longer pause as they wait to be seated. The older man has a walking aid, and needs more room to place it near his seat. The three are seated at the table behind mine. Their drinks order is taken by a waitress in jeans, flat black shoes, and a black top, with a long denim apron with the cafe’s logo and two large pockets on the front of it, over - all the waiters are dressed similarly, but each has styled themselves differently. The one taking the order of the three people behind me is wearing a bright orange aliceband.

While they are waiting for their drinks to arrive, a woman wearing a bright red short coat walks in. As she walks in she spots the people at the table behind mine, and goes over to greet them. They start chatting, and she sits for a moment. When the waitress returns with the drinks for the others she does not order, instead she walks over to one of the round table and high bar chair sets near the large front window of the cafe, The red coat woman places her bag, and others items down on the table, and returns to chat with those at the table behind me.

As the woman with the red coat walks back from the round table to the others she knows, she walks past a table where an older grey haired  woman is seated. The older women is wearing a long sleeved lilac high neck jersey, a string of pearls and grey pants. She has a cup of coffee and is busy reading the day’s Cape Times. Every now and then she pauses her reading, glances at her watch and looks around at the door. She seems as if she is waiting for someone to join her, someone that is quite clearly running late.

During one of the moments as the older woman is looking at the door, a younger woman walks in. Her long dark hair is loose, she glances around, and ignores the waitress that goes over to her. On her second glance at the tables, she spots who she was looking for - not the old, grey haired lady. Rather, it is a man and woman who came in a few minutes earlier carrying laptop bags. The long haired woman makes her way over to their table. As she gets there their body language - slightly standing up from the seats, a questioning look on their faces with a polite smile, and outreached hands - indicates that their meeting is a business one.

While I have a sip of my coffee, I glance towards the coffee/cake/front counter and notice three people standing at the side looking at the cakes of the day. One of the waitresses - this one is wearing denim shorts instead of jeans - is standing there with them clearly, telling them what the different options are. As she waits for them to decide, another waitress - her personal touch to the uniform is sparkly earrings -  comes to the counter to collect a bill. She takes the bill to the grey haired, pearl wearing old woman. The old women seems to have given up her wait, she pays her bill and leaves.

A few moments after she leaves a woman wearing a short grey jacket walks in, looking around for someone. The woman wearing the short waisted red jacket sees her, excuses herself from the table behind mine, goes over and they walk to the high round table. They appear to be having a business meeting as the woman wearing the grey jacket takes out a notebook and pen while they are talking.

At the table opposite those women another business meeting is happening. A man and a woman are huddled around a laptop talking fairly loudly about a website and its design. They are interrupted as a father and his son walk in. The father goes over to that table to greet and chat with the man at the table. They chat for awhile, and as they are talking the little boy is growing more and more bored. He was content for about half a minute looking around, but the longer his father talks to the other man the bigger the signs of him being tired of waiting grows. The blonde curly haired little boy first starts with tugging at his father’s shirt. When that does not get him the attention he wants, he starts hitting his father’s legs. Still no reaction. The little boy then starts headbutting his father’s backside. That eventually gets him a reaction. The two move to the table just behind the father’s friend.

The bright orange aliceband waitress takes their order. As she brings their order - coffee for the father, baby chinno for the boy and water for both - the father’s friend finishes off his meeting and joins their table. A well timed move for the six people who come into the cafe then. They need enough space for a larger group, and stand around waiting as two tables are pushed together. They wait a few more minutes, and another three people join them.

As the large group are contemplating the menu, two men walk in and are seated at the table next to mine. One of the men, fits the stereotypical image of a socially awkward nerd - long pants, long hair tied up in an untidy ponytail, stubble, a spot of mess on his jersey. The socially awkward impression is strengthened by the difficulty he has in taking part in the chit chat the other man is trying to get going. The other man, gives off a  much more confident impression, even though he is dressed more informally than the other in jeans, takkies and a long sleeved t-shirt. The conversation between the two is awkward and stilted, even with the welcome interruption of the sparkly earring waitress asking if they would like to order drinks - a no as they are waiting for another person.

They discuss the weather, traffic - particularly that of Johannesburg - and finally find some common ground for the conversation as they start talking about business modules. They are joined a few moments after that by another man. The man joining them has thinning hair, with a prominent bald spot. He is dressed more formally than the one who seems to be his business partner. It would seem that the three are having a business meeting, that is an interview, but not that for an employee...perhaps a new business partner?

As the three get talking I flag down a waitress - the sparkly earring wearing one - and ask for my bill. As I wait for it, a mother and her teenaged son walk into the cafe, looking for a table. They take my table as I go to the counter to pay my bill. And so the cycle of waiting continues.


  1. loved reading this! you really captured the moment. the power of good writing - doesn't need a story or drama to still be interesting and compelling!

    1. Thanks so much Zoe. You've made my day :)


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Me in a nutshell: I game, read, tweet, enjoy good food, have bouts of red pen rage and I'm a coffee snob.

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