The little place I stop into for lunch is packed. Not surprising. Same as everywhere in the city around this time. I place my order and they give me a buzzer along with my change. I look around for a table. None have magically appeared. Okay, just pick one.
“Excuse me, is this seat taken?” The guy looks up from his book and gestures an invitation to join him. “Please,” he says with a nod and a smile. “Thanks.” I place my headphones, lipstick and DVDs on the table. He’s not-looking as I try to contain my invasion to allow him to carry on enjoying his book and lunch.
My buzzer vibrates around the table and I return with my order. I help myself to a cup of tea from the carafe at the counter. I quell my instinct to ask Book Guy if he’d also like a cup of tea, while I’m up. Etiquette surrounding conversation in close quarters, much like elevators and airplanes, applies.
“Is that the Spicy Combo?” He eventually enquires. My eyes tear up a little as I smile, you know those moments when you just feel alive? “Yeah. They don’t mess around here. It’s spicy!”
He nods and returns to his book. Is he giving me my spicy space or does he prefer not to talk? Does he really want to read his book, or is it his alone-at-lunch book? What do people do nowadays? I survey the room. Everyone — everyone! — is staring at their phone or some device. Yes, of course, that’s what we do now. So much so that the art of polite conversation with strangers in close quarters has me at a bit of a loss.
The DJ interrupts my musings and I realize that the lunch place is tuned into a local rock radio station. How quaint! I open my tote bag on the table to find my phone, trying not to disturb Book Guy.
“Hellooooo, Caller! What’s your name?” Haha. “Sure thing, you got me. Can I put you on the air?” Images of Doctor Johnny Fever dance in my head. The only appropriate answer to the good doctor is, always, no. No, thank you.
The first few chords of my request surround us and my thoughts jump to all the music festivals I should attend this summer. Hey, maybe I should blog about it too. Because y’all need to know. I turn to Book Guy to find he’s gone. Where did those German tourists come from?
[“Rollover DJ,” by Jet. Performed live at Forum Melbourne. Original release: Get Born, 2003.]
Jet: Chris Cester (drums); Nic Cester (lead vocals, rhythm guitar); Cameron Muncey (lead guitar); Mark Wilson (bass).
Video posted to youtube by user citruslemons