March 14: do I look like I want chocolate?

I was in the café in Peter Jones department store queueing for a coffee and I heard the woman in front of me ordering her cappuccino, extra strong, she insisted. But I mean really strong, she said. They agreed she would have two shots of coffee in her cappuccino. Then the woman behind the counter said, would you like chocolate on that? The customer, who was probably about sixty, a smallish woman with maybe some Lebanese or middle eastern heritage somewhere, said: do I look like I want chocolate on that? This was not said aggressively, more as though to start a playful conversation, but the woman who was serving her did not answer. The customer repeated her question, as though it was a good quip that had gone unnoticed. She said it again: do I look like I want chocolate? Again the serving woman chose not to respond. The customer went to a seat with her double shot coffee. I tried to understand the exchange. At first I thought the chocolate thing was because she was dark of skin and the serving woman did not want to be a drawn on such a contentious topic. Then, as I looked at the customer across the café, I thought that she wasn’t particularly dark. Maybe it was that her desire to have a double shot coffee was a macho signal and, following the same line, she had wanted to publicly poo-poo the idea of having a sprinkle of chocolate on the top of some frothy milk. I wrestled with the correct interpretation of the exchange for the ten minutes it took me to drink my black americano (pretty macho I reckon). Then I went down to use the toilets on the first floor.

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