What did Greta Garbo actually say?

What did Greta Garbo actually say?  I want to be left alone.  The “left” makes a big semantic difference.

What prompted me to think of that quotation?  This Huffington Post article did.

I sometimes go to my local cafe.  I nickname it “Das Wartezimmer” (“the Waiting Room”).  Why?  Let me tell you.  [Rant mode on]

The local cafe is full of people sitting in their cliques round each table.

Fair enough so far.

But once you’ve drunk up your cup of coffee, is it not time to either order another one or to vacate your table so other paying customers can enjoy a coffee/tea/brunch etc in peace and quiet?  After all, you have been sitting there, hogging that table for over an hour.

Last week, and not for the first time, I called into the Wartezimmer at 16:50L after work.  Not a single spare table for me to sit on my own.  Each table has one empty cup of coffee, surrounded by three or for people standing guard over each cup.  By the time I had left at 18:20L, having:

  • Eaten two cheese and ham rolls and a piece of apple pie
  • Drunk two large cups of coffee
  • Written a week’s worth of diary notes (for I was in catch-up mode)
  • Scanned through the latest edition of Private Eye.

For us Brits, to have a table to oneself if sacrosanct.  Never mind “me” time.  We Brits also need “me space.”  No need to wish me, a stranger, Guten Appetit/Guten Hunger/Mahlzeit.  Just leave me alonePunkt.

I am reasonably empathetic.  But as per the Huffington Past article, even though I am not eye candy, I just want my space.  Yet every time I writing my diary or reading my book or magazine, I get one of my enforced neighbours trying to help me out of my loneliness.

Man standing guard over empty coffee cup:

Is that book interesting?

Ginge in Germany:

Yes.  I’m halfway through it.

(I’d be three-quarters through it, matey, if you’d just kindly go and hold court elsewhere, preferably in another city.)


I saw you a few minutes ago writing in a book.  Is that your diary?

G in G:

It is.

(I’m tempted to say, “No.  I’m doing another forgery of Hitler’s diaries, to see if I can fool the historians again.”  But I decide that passive-aggressive tutting, curt replies and absence of eye contact should be sufficient hint that I have come here to eat, drink, be merry, read and write in peace.)


Are you left-handed?

G in G:

I am.

(What I wanted to say: “You should know.  You’ve been watching me for the past 20 minutes, writing my diary, using my left hand.”)

All I can think is, thank goodness I did that interrogator’s course nearly two decades ago.

Come on, I dare you, ask me more questions.  I’m so itching to give you the ICATQ treatment.

I think MSGOECC finally got the message.  He finally stands up, pays for his coffee and wishes me, “Schönen Tag noch,” and heads out to… wherever.

Have an aloof day, won’t you!


2 thoughts on “What did Greta Garbo actually say?

  1. I am quite happy going to places on my own, and am regularly approached (always by men) when sitting down reading. A friend of mine taught me the “STOP! DO NOT APPROACH” hand sign (just the stop sign with your hand without looking up as they approach you. Initially it seemed really rude when I first saw it, then I realised it’s a necessity in today’s world. If I’m sat on my own reading, it’s because I come from a house with 7 people in and I wanted to go somewhere quieter to have some of that famous British “Me Time”.

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