The sign isn’t there today. However, the coffee, the tea, the sugar, the fresh milk, the cups and the urn of boiling water are. They all sit neatly on a trolley. It’s the same most Saturdays. But the sign isn’t there today.
Slowly a group gathers near to the trolley. Coincidence really. Some stand, some sit. They are waiting. A meeting or an event perhaps. Parents and teenagers. Role models and learners.
Slowly you can see people start to notice the trolley. Lips are licked. Dry gulps swallowed. It’s almost inevitable.
The first foray is a closer look. What is there? Could a drink be made? Is there a sign saying fuck off, don’t touch?
There’s no sign, today. Everything is there. Further delaying the inevitable gratification of a simple hot tea or coffee now seems impossible. The group splits and the thirsty gather.
The tub of coins seems not have been noticed.
The first cups of tea and coffee are made but still more wait, queuing now.
A warm & friendly voice arrives and explains…
“I’m sorry. These are actually refreshments that we buy and provide to the parents of the disabled children playing wheelchair basketball next door. We’re a small charity so we just ask parents for a small donation towards costs, say 50p. You’re very welcome to help yourselves, we’d just ask you to make a contribution too. Thank you.”
Heads nod, replies of “of course” and “thank you” are given. Big smiles are given. And then…
The group dissipates and moves back to their space and their seats. Nobody wants a coffee or a tea now apparently. No money is forthcoming. The trolley is not of interest now. The coffees taken before the arrival of the warm & friendly voice are quickly disposed of.
Nobody says anything now but there’s no sense of shame or embarrassment. Something else perhaps. Group behaviour definitely.
The group has somehow and without speaking modelled their own expected behaviour… and their apparent values for all to see.
The group moves on. The trolley sits there patiently waiting. The sign still isn’t there of course. Yet the signs of the group still seem to linger for the curious observer.