If you go into a coffee shop or cafe and there’s no spare tables but there are some vacant seats at a table someone else is already sitting at, what do you do? Do you

  1. Leave the cafe/shop
  2. Wait until a table becomes free
  3. Get your coffee and go and sit down in one of the vacant chairs

If you went for option 3, what would you do? Would you

  1. Ask the person(s) already at the table if the seat was free so you could use it
  2. Just sit down without speaking to those already sitting at the table

Well in the last few weeks I’ve experience both those options. The first, it was me who was sitting at a table with 3 free seats (it was the only free table when I had gone there), when a woman and what I assumed was her mother, came over and sat down at the table with me, piling their bags on the other vacant seat. When they sat down I looked up and the daughter said quite angrily to me, “You are sitting at a big table all by yourself!” I calmly responded to her that she hadn’t asked if I was waiting on anyone, but had assumed the 3 unused seats were free. I told her I was happy to share the table with others, but it would have been polite to ask if the seats were free rather than assuming they were. The daughter then swore and thumped her tray into the table. I was quite annoyed at her for that, but thankfully I had just about finished my coffee so didn’t need to sit with them for very long (their conversation included swearing almost every alternate word).

My second experience was where I had just bought a coffee and then realised there were no free tables. I spotted a lady sitting on her own at a table with 4 seats, so I went over and asked her if one of the seats was free so I could sit down. She said, “Thanks for asking, and of course you can sit down”. This lady then proceeded to chat away with me for the next 5 minutes before she finished her coffee and left the cafe. Just a few minutes after she left a man came over and asked if he could share at the table with me, and after I told him it was fine, he sat down.

Two completely different experiences, but I certainly know which was the more pleasant one! A little bit of politeness and manners goes a long way. My parents always taught me to have manners and be polite, and based on my experiences in the last few weeks, those who were polite and had manners were definitely the best.

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