Musical mayhem…

Bob strolls to the new coffee house not far from his home. The sun’s out, shadowed now and then by fluffy white clouds. He’s on his way to meet his old friend John and despite the weather he wears his faded raincoat – because, as he always  tells everyone in summer and winter,  you just never know with Auckland weather. But he has to concede that this morning, Auckland is behaving. What better way to spend a Spring morning in this late sunshine of his life meeting John again?

Once they’ve both settled down at their table and ordered their coffees Bob takes off his coat –  and finds a problem.

The Muzak he hears is irritatingly familiar though he can’t remember why. He calls over a willing waitress and asks if she could turn down the music. John takes a sideways look at his friend and the waitress seems baffled.

“You want it down Sir?” she asks, and he nods. The waitress in the new café obliges, feigning a smile which also says “weird”.

“What was that all about?” John asks. But Bob is listening intently again. “Can you hear it?” he asks.


“The music.”

“But she just turned it down Bob”. He knows his mate has been losing it recently – though by any standard, this latest fixation is out there.

“Damn music!” Bob insists, and calls the waitress over once more.  She listens, looks at John who shakes his head, signalling he’s not quite right in the head.

“The music” Bob tells her. “It’s still too loud”.  She pauses, still processing what she’s heard.

“No problem – I’ll stop it Sir” she says looking at John for confirmation. He nods and she goes to the keypad, pretending to end the music.

“Gets on my nerves” Tony mutters. John looks at him, worried, that he should be so agitated about something so small. He feels he should back him up though.

“Crap  music eh? Get it everywhere  you go these days” he says, though he had barely noticed the background music beforehand. He looks up from his latte and sees two or three waitresses gathering around the cash register, staring at them. Bob doesn’t see them – instead  he covers his face with his hands and whispers over and over ‘shit, shit, SHIT!’

“You okay Bob?”

No!” he murmurs sounding broken, shamed.

“What’s up now then?” asks John.

Listen – can’t you hear it?”

“Not the music thing again –“

“It’s the music, that bloody music!

“But she turned it off?”

“No, no. My phone. Di put it in my pocket. Says it’s a nice reminder for me  – well she would, wouldn’t she? Always wants to jolly me out of this or that. It’s supposed to  tell me to take my pills”.

At the till, the Asian waitresses have taken precautions in the form of two men from the kitchen. They fold their arms and glare at Bob and John though only John gets the message.

“Probably time for us to bugger off Bob. I’ll go settle up. And you… um… you wait outside eh? I won’t be a mo…”

“But I should  explain – “

“Explain what? That the music drove you mad, but then say it wasn’t the Muzak, just your phone. And it wasn’t really the phone it was that little jingle your wife installed that really drove you nuts?  Yeah. I bet that would  work mate. Look, why don’t you just take your pill now. I’ll pay up”.

John noticed as he approached the till that the men had disappeared and  the waitresses were all  smiles.

As he opened the door to leave, he heard the  Muzak resume,  with  an instrumental  version of  Yesterday…

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Paul Smith

Paul is a veteran journalist, non-fiction author and writing mentor. He has also served on boards ranging from TVNZ to UNESCO.