Sunday, 25 November 2007

Starbucks-crossed Lovers

by Bertrand Boer-Waugh

Now that winter is truly upon us and we curl up by the fire shivering and waiting for the green shoots of spring to arrive (no parallel with the UK economy intended), I thought that I would inject a little romance into the blog by telling you how a visit to Starbucks changed my life. Return with me to 2005, and to the Starbucks in Cabot place, Canary Wharf, and I will tell you a romantic tale.

As would be expected of early afternoon at the beginning of the year, there was a convivial bustle about the place. It was into this bustle that I inserted myself. Now, picture me. I was a twentysomething Management Consultant and, since my project had finished before Christmas, I was awarding myself some well-deserved rest by keeping quiet about not being on another project yet. This meant that I was ‘working from home’. Since I didn’t have broadband internet at home, did actually have work to do, and was running low on coffee, I decided that for the time being the ‘home’ I worked from would be the above Starbucks outlet.

Having installed myself at one of the tables, and resembling something from You’ve Got Mail or some other Meg Ryan movie (iPod, grande latte, wintry knitwear, laptop, hair carefully trained into an unkempt look, cynical stubble), I set to work trying to connect my laptop to the wireless network in the outlet. This meant trying to work the Wi-Fi in my laptop. It turns out that I am not very good at working the Wi-Fi in my laptop.

Getting slightly bored with this charade, I gazed out through the open door into the shopping mall area outside. ‘Wow’, I thought, as a stunning woman walked past the door and on around somewhere else. I went back to the screen, and continued in vain on the Wi-Fi. A few minutes later, I gazed up again and Stunning Woman was walking in. We made eye contact and smiled at each other, but I shyly looked back to my laptop.

I need to let slip some more autobiography here. I used to work in an office very near to this Starbucks, and still knew some of the people I used to work with. So, still struggling to work the Wi-Fi, I was relieved when the IT manager from my old department walked in. Thinking that I could enlist his help with this internet problem, I turned around to see where he was in the queue. As I did so, I saw that Stunning Woman had sat at the table behind me. We caught each other’s eye again, and smiled again. I went to ask my IT manager for help, and came and sat back down. I couldn’t concentrate, I had such a strong feeling about Stunning Woman. So I decided that I would say something, and I decided that it had to be something fantastic that I would say, because people must say things to her all the time. So I turned around, to say something fantastic, and I looked at her, and I took a deep breath, and I spoke to her.

“My Wi-Fi’s not working.”


That was what I said, and I’m not proud of it. It’s not the best line that anyone’s ever used to break the ice with someone that they had just met. OK, so it’s the worst line that anyone’s ever used to break the ice with someone that they had just met. But, somehow, it broke the ice, and Stunning Woman spoke back to me. We had a 15 minute conversation, and exchanged contact details (well, in truth, she gave me her CV), but I had to leave. I was in the middle of the most important moment of my life up to that point, having just realized that I had found my soulmate, and I was afraid that I might say the wrong thing. “If I leave now,” I thought, “I can contact her with dignity. If I stay, I may end up putting my foot in my mouth.” So I left the Starbucks, giving one last smile as I looked back and saw her watching me walk out. Outside, and out of sight, I finally understood the phrase ‘take my breath away’, as I gasped to breathe, knowing that I had just met my future wife. I now know that as soon as I had left Starbucks, Stunning Woman had also called her Mum and best friend to tell them that she had just met the man she was going to marry. Two days later, we met up. During the course of our meeting we told each other how significant our feeling had been when we met. Our relationship has deepened every day since that moment. After 5 months of being together, we got engaged, having asked each other spontaneously at exactly the same time. I had already bought the ring 3 weeks earlier. After 6 months of spending every day and every night together that it was possible to spend together, I moved my things out of my flat and in with her. It sounds quick, but if anything it felt like it had moved slowly, even though it flew by.

Unlike some other such stories, this one has a happy ending. We got married in my old college in Cambridge in spring last year and are living happier and happier days. Many of my single friends have taken to hanging out in Starbucks in the vain hope of a repeat, but the introducing of Bertrand to the Future Mrs Boer-Waugh has remained a one-off.

There is a moral to this tale. At the time that this happened, I was having problems with my (very recent) split from an ill-tempered woman and the last thing that I was seeking was another woman. But sometimes things happen outside of our control, and as Pangloss would say, everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds. This can happen even when everything seems shit in this shittest of all possible worlds, and even when you are hopelessly out of your depth and making a shit job of the situation. Desperately pursuing happiness is not necessarily the most efficient way to find it - walk through open doors rather than pushing on closed ones. And when you find something special, it is worth cherishing from the start. Be happy - you deserve it.

1 comment:

Vindico said...

Thank God the Wi-Fi wasn't working! Nice story though.