Yesterday, at lunch time, instead of strolling around London eating my food and taking in the sights, I venture into the Student Common Room. I don’t know the last time I’ve been in it. The only reason I’m here now is because the forceful wind is blowing me about everywhere outside and spitting into my face with spite.
The room is full to brimming of excited young bodies. There’s nowhere to sit, really, unless you want to lever yourself in somewhere. Someone just in front of me has had a look around and just jetted, obstructing my entrance. I’m slightly more persistent. I find a place near the door – sometimes the most obvious place is the one that is especially overlooked. To my left, a guy is sitting hunched over a coffee table, tapping away at his laptop. Probably a law student. To my left sit a little group of students at work over a group project. Two guys and a girl. A nice, brunette girl sitting with a nice brunette boy. The other guy is scrawny, unhealthy looking, with a funny, damp-looking, blonde haircut and wisps of overly silky facial hair. He’s sitting directly opposite the girl. They’re all talking pretty loud, but everyone else seems to enjoy shouting at this age too. I remind myself that they’re all much younger than me and they think they have to shout to make themselves heard.
I take off my coat and wrap it carefully, putting it beside me, and then I pull out the packet of Tesco’s salmon sushi I just bought. I take out a plastic fork I pilfered along with a bunch from M & S and start to eat it, pouring a small fish-shaped bottle of soy sauce about occasionally. Directly opposite me, a very blurred (I’m not wearing my glasses) beautiful young blonde woman has changed seats to come, for whatever reason, into my line of vision. I’m wondering if she thinks I’m staring at her (which I sort of am, but not really, as I can’t see anything but the outline). The scrawny guy sitting next to me (although some way off, fortunately) lets out a revolting belch.
My eyebrows arch up in anger. I shoot him a look of dislike. He doesn’t notice. He’s looking at the brunette girl in front of him. How disgusting. In front of a woman, too. I try to calm myself down. It doesn’t matter. He hasn’t spoiled my lunch. Just ignore it. He’s young. He doesn’t know any better. Maybe all those kids are the same. It’s not like anyone’s saying anything. His friends just go on talking, like nothing had happened.
I finish the sushi, which was good but not enough to be filling, take a swig of bottled water, then start methodically muching away at a packet of mini pork pies, which I stealthily pull out of the Tesco carrier bag so that noone can see the yellow reduced sticker. I watch the blonde girl walk out of the common room. I finish off my lunch then look about for some chewing gum in my bag. I get up to go and start putting my coat on. The little bastard sitting next to me belches again.
My eyebrows arch up in anger. I shoot him a look of dislike. He doesn’t notice. I think to myself, just leave it. It really doesn’t matter. Suddenly, I hear the girl say, very loudly, very angrily Never do that again. There is a pause. She goes on. It is disgusting. The guy makes some kind of feeble attempt to justify himself. No, says the girl. There’s people here trying to do their work and eat and you’re putting them all off. Learn how to control yourself. The guy sits in silence.
Finally, I think, as I leave. There is at least some etiquette in the Student Common Room.