Words Of Wisdom

Are Gran’s age-old sayings applicable to something as modern as online dating? I was about to find out

You can tell a lot about a man by the way he treats waiters – or so my gran says.

Gran is full of little wisdoms like this and trots them out at regular intervals.

“Ash before oak and you’re in for a soak… Ne’er cast a clout till May is out.”

A lot of them tend to be about the weather, but then Gran has always been an outdoor person so I guess that would make sense for her to collect them.

The waiter one, I’m not so sure about.

Right now, Gran and I are sitting on a bench in Sandford Park which is just up the road from her house. It’s a rather lovely October day.

The sky is a deep blue and there are dozens of leaves, red, yellow and gold, scattered across the grass like autumn confetti.

We’ve been talking about Callum. He’s a guy I’ve just met through online dating.

I’m using the word “met” loosely. So far we’ve only messaged and talked on the phone, but we clicked straight away and we’ve just arranged a date for Saturday in a coffee bar in town. Hence the comment about waiters.

Gran smiles at me. She’s wearing jeans and a red duck down jacket – quite a smart one, actually.

I had jacket envy when she first got it.

Her dark hair is bobbed and she nods firmly.

“Yes, you’ll be able to tell what he’s like by the way he treats your waiter,” she says again. “So a café is a good choice for a first date.”

“How will I tell?”

“Does he talk down to him? Is he polite or arrogant? Does he tip well?”

“What if it’s a waitress?” I tease. “Will I still be able to tell?”

“Of course.” She narrows her eyes. “Does he flirt with her? Does he patronise her? Does he get impatient if she asks him to repeat an order?”

I nod thoughtfully. I think she might actually be on to something.

And it’s much more interesting talking to Gran than Mum, who just said I should meet Callum in a very public place and be sure to tell her how long I’ll be.

Not that this isn’t valid too, but I like Gran’s approach better. Straight down to the nitty gritty.

“What else should I be looking for? Style of shoes? Brand of phone? Standard of personal hygiene?”

She doesn’t bite. Although she does raise her eyebrows on ‘personal hygiene’.

“You don’t need my advice on any of that, Amy. I’m sure you can work it out.”

She’s right, of course. I’m twenty-seven, not seventeen.

I slide along the bench and give her a hug.

“Thanks, Gran. I wish you could come. You could sit two tables away, listen in and tell me if he seems genuine or not.”

“Appealing as that sounds, I think I’ll give it a miss.” Her eyes crinkle up in amusement. “You’ll be fine. Trust your gut.”

She pauses, and then she says what I know is on both our minds. “Not all men are like Simon, you know.”

Simon was my ex, a sales manager for a barista company. We split up when I discovered I was not his only girlfriend.

I was one of three and he’d told all of us we were exclusive. No wonder he’d always looked tired!

That had been six months ago. I’d liked Simon a lot. I’d started to dream we might have something special. So much for that!

Funnily enough, he’d not been that great with waiters either. So Gran’s homespun wisdom rings true.

“Let me know how it goes,” Gran says, when we finally say goodbye.

I promise I will.

So now it’s 11.06 on Saturday and I’ve just arrived at Coffee One.

I’m six minutes late so as not to appear too keen, but it looks as though Callum might be even later.

There are no lone men at tables except for the one with a white beard by the window, and I’m pretty sure that’s not him.

Hmmm, now I’m conflicted. Do I go out and come back in a few minutes? Or should I just grab a table and wait?

Maybe he’s been held up.

I check my phone. No messages but there’s not much signal in here.

I decide to stay.

Ten minutes later when I’ve had my caramel latte served up – by a very nice waiter, in case you’re interested – there’s still no sign of Callum and no message, I head back outside and find a patch of precinct where there’s a better signal.

Nope – nothing.

I suppose there’s a chance that something’s happened to prevent him getting here.

My mind flicks through possibilities. Late trains, accidents, terrorist attacks. I do tend to have an overactive imagination.

I suppose there’s a faint chance he may have had an accident on his way to the train station.

He lives in the next town – twenty miles away. None of that is very likely. If his train was late he could have messaged me.

Maybe he lost his phone.

I consider swinging by Gran’s on my way home and telling her what happened – she runs a garden centre on the outskirts of town.

But it’s too humiliating. Maybe I’ll give Callum the chance to get in touch with me first.

He does in fact get in touch, two hours later. I find an apologetic text on my phone.

I’ve just discovered there are two Coffee Ones. I think I may have been in the wrong one earlier. Sorry.

I pause before replying.

He’s right. There are two Coffee Ones, but we did actually say the one closest to the train station because that was handy for him – and there’s only one train station.

The other Coffee One is miles away and besides, if that’s true, why did he wait until lunchtime to tell me?

Also why did he text and not phone?

In the end I just send a non-committal I see. To which he doesn’t reply.

Maybe I should give him the benefit of the doubt,” I suggest to Gran when I see her next.

“I think you already have, haven’t you? Maybe wait and see what happens next?”

I know she’s right. Particularly when nothing happens next. I don’t hear from Callum again.

When I eventually go to check his profile on the dating site, it’s been taken down.

That’s a shock.

I’ve heard of getting ghosted, but it doesn’t usually happen before you even have your first date.

I leave online dating alone for a while after that and concentrate on my university course, which I love.

I’m doing a business degree.

I’m a late starter because I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left school.

I was anxious to get out into the real world and earn some money, so I flat shared with a friend and got an admin job in a tiny office.

It was a dead-end job, to be honest – the only good thing about it was meeting Simon there, and you already know how that turned out.

Gran had suggested the business degree.

“It will give you options, she said, “and you’ve got a good head on your shoulders.”

My parents had agreed with her and offered me my old room back at home while I studied. For which I’m eternally grateful.

My course is great but most of the students are younger than me, straight out of school or college, hence my foray into online dating.

I never do hear any more from Callum.

“Losing someone who clearly doesn’t value you is a gain, not a loss,” is Gran’s take on what happened.

“There are plenty more fish in the sea, my darling.”

Still, it’s another couple of months before I try it again.

This time I start “chatting” to a guy called Jamie who’s also doing a business degree. He’s not at the same uni, but he’s a late starter too. So we have lots in common.

The one thing we don’t have in common is that he didn’t get a job when he left school; he went back packing round Europe with his girlfriend.

He thought she was the love of his life, but it ended badly when she left him for a waiter in Madrid.

Jamie tells me about all this in detail when we are sitting in Coffee One.

He has a lot to say about his experiences, none of it good, which I guess isn’t that surprising.

But after the first fifteen minutes of ranting I do find myself wondering why he doesn’t seem to have moved on. After all, this was several years ago now.

I guess it’s not entirely surprising that Jamie’s attitude to waiters has been tainted either.

He’s pretty scathing to the chap in Coffee One.

It’s the same nice guy that served me last time I was in here waiting for the date that never showed.

By the time we’ve finished our second coffee I’m beginning to wish Jamie had never showed either.

I make my excuses and push over the cash for my share. The last thing I remember about that date is Jamie shouting after me that the money I’ve left is ten pence short.

Sounds like another narrow escape,” Gran says, giving me a hug. “Maybe it’s just not the right timing, love.”

Then when she sees my face.

“Or maybe it’ll be third time lucky.”

Third time lucky turns out to be not a date at all. I go to Coffee One with a group of people from my course. They’re all younger than me but they’re nice and we have a laugh. I decide I will forget about romance and focus on friendship.

Although it is still very interesting seeing how people treat waiters. I find myself watching them interact with ours.

It’s the usual nice waiter; he must work there every Saturday.

Most of my new friends, I’m pleased to say, are great.

There’s a lot of banter and laughter.

In a lull, the waiter stops to talk to us. He tells us his name is Thomas. Turns out he’s a student too.

Thomas recognises me from my previous visits and he’s just as nice as I’ve always suspected he was.

I’m the last to leave because Thomas and I get chatting.

We have a joke about online dating. He tells me he’s tried it too.

“I don’t get much time to meet people because I’m supporting myself through medical school, so I’m either at the hospital or here.” He glances over his shoulder. “My uncle’s the manager. He gives me as many shifts as he can.”

He has a soft voice and kind brown eyes and I love the way he listens with his whole body, smiling and nodding.

I tell him about my business degree.

“I do a bit of waitressing too,” I confide. “At the café in my gran’s garden centre. It’s a great way to earn money.”

“And to see what people are like.” He pauses and adds, “You can tell a lot about people by how they treat a waiter.”

We both smile. I can’t wait to tell Gran.

“Maybe when we’re not working or studying, we could hook up for a coffee,” Thomas says softly. “If that’s not too presumptuous?”

He blinks and goes slightly pink and I like him even more.

“That sounds brilliant. I’d love to.”

Gran is going to be made up when I tell her about Thomas.

Her latest words of wisdom were, “The best romances happen when you’re not even looking.”

I think she was right about that too.

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