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Tim Key: 'There's a magic about my waitress. Or is she just on to me?'


I've come to my local café for an hour or so in order to catch up on my emails, read the sports section of The Guardian and knock out my column for The Independent Magazine. But all that's had to be put on hold temporarily because I've just been charmed to pieces by the waitress.

Five foot four and chestnut-haired, she has just sashayed over to me, laid down my coffee, and said, in the most pleasant manner, "Enjoy your moment".

"Enjoy your moment."

I've never heard that before. With a trace of a Turkish accent, and accompanied with a smile so sweet I would have been forgiven for biting a chunk out of it. "Enjoy your moment." I'm jelly.

I'm watching her now, floating about the place, collecting cake plates and mugs and brushing past other columnists and builders. I'm beaming from ear to ear, too, turning over her phrase again and again in my head. "Enjoy your moment." I wonder whether she knows what she's done. I'm torn. Maybe her English is poor and that's the best she could cook up as she handed over the goods. But it didn't seem like that. There was a magic about her. I wouldn't put it past her to invent a phrase like that. She seemed almost to be winking as she said it. I think she's just not an "Enjoy your mocha" kind of a person. She likes to shake things up.

I've long been a fan of idiosyncratic droplets of English, issuing out of foreigners' mouths. I once lived above a convenience store run by a very positive Arabic man in Limehouse. Like this dolt, he used to spin me round with his mildly broken English. His bread and butter was to wave you away with the phrase "Have a nice time". At first glance, that doesn't seem at all bad. But it was definitely less solid than the more popular "Have a nice day" or "Have a nice evening". To be fair to the guy, it sometimes more or less made sense. If I was popping in to buy a four-pack of Grolsch and some Worcester Sauce-flavoured Wheat Crunchies, "Have a nice time" worked a treat. "Thank you," I would say. If it was 1am and I was picking up a bottle of washing-up liquid and some plasters, "Have a nice time" didn't work quite so well. "Thank you," I would say, but after more of a pause.

I peek over my mocha's rim. My waitress is making some pineapple juice for an old man now.

I worry I'm doing her a disservice. Maybe her grasp of English is perfect. Maybe "Enjoy your moment" is exactly what she wanted to express. Maybe I even imagined the Turkish lilt. Perhaps it's not a charming foreign accident, it's more a case of a native English girl being astute. "Enjoy your moment." Maybe she recognised me. That's it. She's come across my live work, she's seen bits of pieces of me on television and she reads my column. She feels I've topped out. It can't last. They're on to me. I should make hay while the sun shines. Now she's looking across at me as she squeezes chunks of fruit down towards the blades. "Enjoy your moment, son," she's thinking, "this time next year you'll be on the scrap heap".

Well I don't care. Either way I'm grateful to the girl. I like her phrase and I think I'll take it on. Phrases like "Have a nice day" are asking a bit much, if you think about it. "Enjoy your moment" is more manageable. And by and large, I have. I'm sat here with a moustache of mocha and I've bashed out my column, so I'm happy enough.

She floats over to the old man, places a doily on to his table and then plonks the pineapple juice on to that. She bends a knee and smiles at him. "Enjoy your moment." He succumbs, his eyes awash with joy. She drifts back to the counter. He taps his hearing aid, smiles wistfully, and clamps his lips round his straw.