The waitress had set down a teapot, a jug of milk, some flapjacks in a bag, a sort of ceramic paint palate that I think was the plate, and a bowl.
I thanked her and she went back inside.
I looked at the rectangular slab with the hole in it and thought that it might be right with cheese on it perhaps, but decided to eat the biscuits straight from the packet the waitress had brought them in rather than use the palate plate. It reminded me of an office party years ago when the caterer had arranged for the snacks to be served on mirrored tiles and everyone made a point of mentioning what a ‘fancy’ and ‘interesting’ (pretentious?) idea that was.
Then I checked out the bowl, swivelling it round in case there was a handle that I’d missed that would make it an extra large cup. There wasn’t a handle so I wondered if possibly the bowl was for putting the used teabag in or something.
Certain that the waitress would be back any minute with a mug, I played around with my phone.
She didn’t return and the penny dropped that I was supposed to drink out of the bowl.
I don’t know what stopped me from going in and asking for a takeaway cup with a lid as I’d certainly have felt less self-conscious using that type of non-handled beaker for a drink.
Whilst inside, I could conduct a straw poll to see if anyone else felt a bit silly eating off a ceramic oblong and drinking from a bowl and if they did, then I could - in a non-threatening way - feed the info back to the management and suggest that it’s okay for them to use ordinary plates, cups and mugs; no one will hate them for it.
Aware that my tea would soon turn from hot to warm to undrinkable and that I could still retrieve some value from my five pounds fifty including service if I hurried up, I chose to let go of my inhibition, grasped the bowl with my fingers and drank back some tea as confidently as if I took it like that all the time.
A few more gulps like this and the pot was drained. I then stuffed the remaining flapjacks in my bag for later, paid and left and the thought came to me - maybe the bowl had been meant for the teabag after all.