Losing My Seat in London

England – June 2019

It’s our last day in London and we’ve come to Kingston for my wife and her mother to hit the sales and for me to find a coffee shop for a few hours. Before this, we head to John Lewis, as they have a laptop and watch I’d like to look at before ordering them online upon our return. I’d seen them there a few weeks earlier but didn’t inspect them as carefully as I’d now like to. We set a time to meet and I head toward electronics.

I strike out as they now have neither the laptop nor watch I am interested, so after aimlessly wandering for a bit (and with about fifteen minutes before out meeting time), I head to the downstairs Waitrose as it’s cool and my favorite supermarket in the UK. My exploration quickly done, I notice a bench at the end of the registers and sit to check my email.

A few minutes before I am scheduled to meet my wife and mother-in-law, I hear a voice behind me say “I don’t suppose you are going to be leaving any time soon?” It takes a second to realize that the question is being addressed to me. I turn to see a very old woman behind me who continues, “I’d very much like to sit there and I have a coffee.” I’m not sure what the coffee has to do with anything, but you learn when traveling to never dispute a grandma.

I’m reminded of the time I was queuing in Beijing to get through security to enter Tiananmen Square when I was sandwiched between two grandmas in front of me who weren’t going to budge and two behind me who were simultaneously pushing me and using me to rest on. Or another time a grandma noticed my bottle of soda was half finished, so she stood beside me waiting for me to finish so she could have my bottle to recycle. At least that’s what I surmised as neither of us spoke the other’s language.

In this instance, before I can even respond or move, she’s started to work her way into my spot. There is a woman passing by whom, seeing my semi-confusion, notes that the seat next to me is vacant, but that’s clearly not the spot she wants. The woman and I exchange a quick glance and she shrugs, wordlessly indicating, “What can you do?” In this case, and any case involving a grandma, absolutely nothing besides smile and get out of the way.

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