Following the hydrotherapy, I had some time on my hands before my physio session. As it turns out, this is exactly what happened as I haplessly crutched around the hospital in search of caffeine. I’ve been sleep-deprived in the past few weeks, so I needed coffee.
It was my first solo journey, and I’d not bargained on what an absolute mission it would be. The nearby cafe to the therapies department didn’t exist, and I kept following signs which led me into hushed clinics, before promptly pointing back to the direction I had come. It wasn’t far, but it was exhausting. A young chap with a discoloured cast around his ankle hopped past me, and my inability to keep up with him dented my pride.
The other cafes were now closed. My exertion in the pool, lack of lunch, and the freshly painted corridor made me woozy. I paused, flexing my sore wrists, before heading slowly to the main restaurant and Costa on the first floor. Both patients and staff alike cut me up, and I kept looking over my shoulder so I could move out of the way of the passing beds and supply trollies. The lift doors closed before I could board, and my furrowed brow wasn’t enough to stir any passengers to hit ‘doors open’ for me.
Eventually, I made it to the restaurant. It had taken a frustrating forty five minutes, but the challenges didn’t stop there. My backpack was full, and I had no spare hands to carry anything. The barista didn’t instinctively offer to help, which I thought was strange given we were in a hospital and she must see lots of people like me on crutches. Or perhaps that’s why. I placed my order and asked if she wouldn’t mind bringing it to the table for me. I chose the nearest one to make it easier. She brought my hazelnut soy latte and sandwich over, and returned to standing behind the counter with her back to the approaching customers.
I wriggled free of my coat and backpack, and as I slid into my chair I sipped my reward. Only it tasted odd, like Dettol and soggy cardboard combined. I thought perhaps it was the lid, so I took it off and tried again. The foam on top with the dark swirl of syrup tasted stale. I persevered, determined to enjoy my prize, but the coffee underneath didn’t taste any better. I swilled my mouth with water, and got on with eating the sandwich.
When the barista ventured out to clear a nearby table, I apologised for making a fuss, but my coffee didn’t taste right. I’ve had it before, I explained, as I could see that she thought I was a soy novice who’d regretted my decision. Does soya milk go off? After politely describing how awful it tasted, she said she’d speak to her supervisor. I wondered if I could opt for a safe cappucino instead for my troubles, but it was too late. She was already bringing over a replacement. Of course, it was the same as the first horrible cup, but now I had to drink it out of principle. Sometimes, being British has its downsides.