When it comes to lunch there are quite a few options available here in South Croydon. There is Zizi (best pizza’s in Croydon), there is the posh burger bar (expensive but their fries seem to be handcrafted piece by piece), there is KFC (not me), there is the kebab shop (where it took me ages to find out that there are in fact 2 (twin?) brothers working there. I was wondering all the time why his hair looked so very different every time I was there), and there is the sandwich shop.
The sandwich shop is one of the places I come often because they have a lot of different things. Pasta with meatballs, jacket potatoe with chili con carne, tomato soup, mush room soup, bagels, you name it. Their food is good, and they are fast. But there has been one thing I have been wondering about since I started coming there about 7 months ago: the guy running the place never ever smiles. 7 months and not a single time have I seen anything that could look like an attempt to smile. Not to me in particular, just in general.
How weird. I have thought that a lot. Does he hate his job? Does he hate being in the UK? Did he forget how to smile? Isn’t there anything left to smile about in his life? I thought all that, that’s what you get when you are observing people all the time. And I thought it today just before I stepped into his shop.
I was later than normal. I had a smile on my face, I had just been to the bakery to get a survive-the-afternoon-cake, enough reason to smile for me that was. I stepped inside his shop, ordered and thought : why does this guy never ever smile. He is not rude, he is polite because he has to be, but he never says a word more than necessary nor does he smile. Believe me. Never.
I waited for my tomato soup, it was quiet. I was looking around me looking for a newspaper. And then …
“How are you today?”
Huh? I looked at him in disbelief, I actually turned around to see who was standing behind me. There was no one else in the shop. He-was-talking-to-me.
And not only that, that really looked like a …
“Oh, ehrm, I am, I am good. I am, and you?”
“Good, quite busy. Are you busy? Do you work around here?”
“Ehrm, yeah I work around the corner in one of the offices.”
Blimey he definitely smiled now, I couldn’t believe it, could he read my mind?
“Where are you from ?”
“Oh, ehrm, Holland” I said. “And you?”
He came from Morocco. We talked, yes we actually talked, about Holland, he had been there. One of his colleagues joined the conversation, he had been in Holland too, close to the city where I was born. It was, well, it was nice. And it was weird too!
What it was that made him decide to drop his defenses today I still don’t know.
This time I shouted “See you !” when I stepped out of his shop. He was still smiling, so was his colleague. And so was I.
Unexpected tiny human miracles like this make my day.