Life in the spectrum: 00 A first holiday post-lockdown

A hearty buffet breakfast is something I really enjoy about being on holiday but unfortunately it is when interaction with other guests is the most intense and disappointing

Strange to think that, only 30 very strange months ago, wearing a mask in public would have caused concern and probably attracted police attention.


My first such encounter was at an international airport where Asian travellers were unashamedly sporting masks much to the amusement or consternation of all others.


According to popular information and belief, the coronavirus outbreak had actually originated in China but had since rapidly reproduced and mutated to globally catastrophic health and economic affect.


It is only thanks to a combination of legislation and incredibly effective vaccine development and rollout that we are able now to enjoy a new normality of recreational travel where masks are only required for waiters and everyone on board aircraft.


Even hand sanitiser has now become an optional inconvenience but I took advantage of that facility and precaution whilst we waited acknowledgement at the breakfast room door of our hotel.


After some two years of overwhelming medical demand and regional shutdowns, raging unemployment and business failures and major education and economic interruptions, at last this Portuguese hotel had reinstated their breakfast buffet.


As per original buffet custom, we were escorted to a table where masked waiters soon offered drinks and we were free to visit the comprehensive fayre on offer for self-service.


Few places are better for people watching than a breakfast restaurant and this one offered plenty for consideration. One man barefoot, several with horrendous sock, shoe or sandal combinations, a wide variety of curious shorts, one man in a singlet and one a potential stand-in for Hagrid of Hogwarts but for his overall scruffy-to-dirty appearance.


At a buffet, people tend to move erratically in all directions, just like the bump-and-go toys of my childhood.  I know that, and I compensate, but life would be so much easier if they could recognise that everyone else has equal rights of movement and not just assume that their magisterial passage would auto-clear.


I prefer my coffee black and strong – no jokes please.  So rather than accept the table service I choose to charge my cup at the rather large bean-to-cup blender sited at the waiters’ station between juices and shelves laden with empty teapots.


At one such visit, and whilst waiting for my chosen coffee blend to deliver, I was ‘joined’ by a woman who, clearly lacking good eyesight or social grace but desperate for tea, placed herself into the minimal gap between me and the counter and without the slightest pause or acknowledgement proceeded to reach across me for a teapot.


While I don’t deny her right to breakfast tea, nor indeed the necessary teapot, I vehemently object to her flagrant and arrogant invasion of my personal space but I say nothing in reasonable anticipation that she’ll remove herself and the back of her head so few inches from my face.  Not this woman!  She stands her – actually MY – ground and conducts a short conversation with an adjacent member of staff leaving me trying to choose between shouting in her all-too-close ear or just shoving her aside.

To my utter disappointment, I hesitated and deliberated just moments too long.  Just long enough in fact for her to have delegated her tea procurement to the eager waiter and for her to ignorantly exit the scene of her crime.


Sometimes I think I must actually be invisible.  A previous attempt at the 20 metre walk to the buffet serving area had been rudely interrupted by an old man who almost jumped into my immediate path and then shuffled along at a snail’s pace with me as his very unwilling shadow.


They have guns in America!  Seemingly everyone has guns from pre-school onwards.  Therefore I conclude that Americans are much more careful about invading and dominating other people’s personal space or there are just many more gun “accidents” than we ever get to hear about.


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