I stop at a petrol station cafe for a late lunch.
It’s the newest, shiniest cafe I have ever been in. As I cross the tiled expanse between the door and the counter, I glance guiltily at the trail of muddy footprints left in my wake. Although, counterintuitively, it does seem to extract some smiles from the girl in charge of mopping the once pristine floor.
The cafe serves a splendid smorgasbord of meat and carb dishes, and I order a bit of everything. In a seemingly unnecessary gesture, the attendant makes me wait while she briefly heats the food in the microwave oven. But if this has any effect, it is the opposite of the one desired, for when I sample the food at my table I’m surprised to discover that it’s stone cold.
Gazing longingly at the misunderstood microwave, I fantasise of someone coming over to ask me how my meal is. But the cleaning lady maintains a safe orbit, and so, fearing another muddy trek, and not knowing the Russian for can you please reheat this, anyway, I hungrily get on with the grim task of consuming my disappointing meal.
But there is camaraderie in suffering, and as a young boy returns his meal with seemingly similar intentions, I feel somewhat vindicated.