The Fable of the Cafe

by Adam Acidophilus

A young student — down on his luck, quite penniless and keen to experience life — took a job in a busy little cafe opposite a railway station.

On his first morning he served and poured, took orders, gave change and wiped tables as though born into the business and destined to make a great success of it.

Presently, the proprietor took him to one side. “You’re new at this game, son, aren’t you?” he enquired of his naive if over-qualified protégé.

“Yes?” said the student. “Why? Have I done something wrong?”

“Everything,” sighed the proprietor. “You’re doing everything wrong …

“For a start, you’re undercharging ’em. This is a business you know. Don’t offer change unless they ask for it. Half these people have got trains to catch, once they’ve paid, take your time getting to the till. With any luck they’ll have to hurry off, and we can keep it.

“Isn’t that a rather sharp practice?” asked the student. “Isn’t that rather unfair on the customers?”

“Fuck ’em,” said the proprietor. “Now listen, if they want to take their coffee with ’em — don’t give ’em fresh, give ’em yesterday’s — it’s in the jug round the back. Sling in some cold, bash it in the microwave, stick the top on the plastic cup. They’ll never know! Fuck ’em!

“Same with the sandwiches, give ’em the uglies, they’re in the back, next to the bin. Put ’em in a little paper bag — they won’t notice!

“If they sit outside, bung up the bill 20% for outside. This is a business you know. If they sit in here, bung on 20% for in here. Get ’em to sit down, and bung on another 20% for table service — ”

“But what if they stand by the counter?” quipped the student.

“Fuck ’em!” said the proprietor. “Give ’em a plate of biscuits and tell ’em to help ’emselves. They’re 50p each — you never said they were free — and by the way, so are the sugar lumps.

“Don’t wipe the tables. Don’t say ’ello. Don’t grin and make conversation like an idiot. We don’t want ’em sitting in here all day — we’re trying to make a profit!”

At which point a foreign tourist entered the cafe asking for directions to the station — and left five minutes later with a stale bun, a bottle of tap water, and a magazine that was three years out of date.

“That was rather uncalled for,” remarked the student.

“Fuck him!” the proprietor philosophised. “Fifty quid is fifty quid! There’s nothing wrong with making money. This is a business you know. Wise up, box clever, you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”

“I doubt that it is legal — ” the student replied, a little haughtily perhaps — “to pay your staff to break the law … ”

The proprietor seethed. “Who said anything about paying my staff?”

Moral: How about fucking the proprietors for a change?

© Adam Acidophilus 2014