Last week I stood in a queue to get a drink from a coffee van on Worthing seafront.
A nondescript middle-ager was in front of me. An un-beautiful young man in combat shorts and trainers was serving, sporting a tattoo in writing around his left bicep.
So the service is quite slow and we’re all standing in line, then the chap in front says to the coffee guy:
‘Some of the writing on your tattoo is upside down, mate.’
‘What?’, says the guy.
‘It’s upside down, the writing on your arm.’
‘Yeah,’ responds the other, as if he’s been here before. ‘You’ll Never,’ he traces on the top of his arm, with a hand freed from his duties; then, shooting the same arm up into the air, finishes, ‘Walk Alone.’
The chap stares at him.
‘People like me doing it,’ he adds. Then he repeats the routine with the sound on mute (trace along top, arm in the air, trace underneath, on no-longer-upside-down writing).
‘Oh right,’ says the middle-ager, apparently unmoved.
So we all carry on standing there, until the coffee guy turns around to confirm quite plainly, sans emotion, ‘I told the tat bloke to do that. It wasn’t a mistake.’
‘Oh right,’ says the middle-ager, apparently unmoved again.
And we continue the rest of our wait in silence, save for the necessary requests: ‘Cappuccino, please. Got any marshmallows?’
Throughout, there was not even the trace of a smile from the serving Liverpool fan, his interlocutor or anyone else in the queue.
I still can’t work out the key factor in this exchange that transforms it into an anecdote.