November 10th, 2013


Costa Memory

I've been trying to remember when the two-minute silence became so ubiquitous and socially mandatory: it certainly wasn't so in my childhood or youth. Today I drove to the shopping centre in town to buy a coat, and as I got out of the car (this would have been around 10.30) a voice echoed through the multi-storey car park informing everyone that a two-minute silence would be held at 11am, and please to respect it.

Now, I'm all about remembering (vide my last post), but I've always felt at best awkward and at worst mulishly resentful about being made to do it in some toe-shufflingly communal way, with one hand hovering over a packet of Rice Krispies. As it happens, I'd left the shopping centre by the time 11am came around, and was in the queue at Costa - but there too (as a hand-written notice on the till informed me) the two-minute silence was de rigueur. Eleven came, Mumford & Sons drained away from the shop speakers, the coffee machines fell silent. A few tables away a lone man talked obliviously to his companion for a little while ("Of course, that figure wasn't in the original set, but when they came to rerelease them it was included...") before being gently shhhhed. Someone else came into the cafe and remarked, "It's quiet in here!" - before a barista pointed out the note.

I, queuing for a skinny cappuccino, was part trying to take it seriously, part resentful, part embarrassed, part admiring of the earnestness of the Costa staff, part watching myself to make sure that I didn't despise them in some obscure way. By the time a cheery blast of the milk frother signalled that remembrance was over for another year, I was so freaked out that I was having a little fit of hysterical laughter. But silently, of course.