‘I think that we’re social animals’ said female student to her bohemian colleague next to me ‘…and we’re designed to form complex groups. It’s our defining characteristic.’
Male student looked like he disagreed.
‘No.’ he said, ‘Our prime imperative is to pass on our DNA and to proliferate. It’s what we’re made to do!’
She paused for a moment draining the last of her latte.
‘How do you explain firemen and nurses then? People willing to lay down their lives for others?’
Male student fell silent for a while, looking into his cup and thinking. This clearly presented an obstacle to his argument.
‘Do you want another coffee?’ He said, changing the subject.
Female student sensed blood in the water and began to circle her stricken prey.
‘Don’t get me wrong.’ She said ‘I don’t deny human complexity. We’re all flawed in some respect, but I believe humanity is fundamentally good. For every bad person there are a thousand willing to work to make society better. Teachers, social workers, ambulance drivers, coast guards, charity workers, the list goes on and on. There’s much more to it than just continuation of a species.’
He intently studied his empty cup.
‘Actually – we need bananas. ‘ she said, deferring his inevitable defeat. ‘We better get some on the way home.’
Silently notching up a win female student stood up, and followed by male student plodded off hand in hand in search of victory bananas, placing their tray of crockery helpfully on the counter of the coffee shop as they passed.
As they left I mused on their conversation.
I’d just come from the bank, after arguing with officialdom about whether my Virgin Media statement constituted a utility bill, and whether or not it would provide part of the complex keys needed to unlock my mother’s financial affairs.
After huffily conceding that a telephone was a utility whether it came bundled with the internet and television or not she photocopied my driving license and the folded paper with a big Virgin logo on it.
‘Do you need my birth certificate?’ I asked, unfolding it from behind the bulletproof glass. ‘I brought it just in case.’
‘It’s irrelevant.’ She replied, tapping on her keyboard.
‘OK – thanks.’ I said, folding it back up. ‘Is there a reference for our conversation?’ I asked.
‘No – just use the one you’ve already quoted.’
I turned to leave, and as my back was facing her she said ‘I’m sorry for your loss.’
‘Thanks.’ I said without turning or slowing.
As i sat in the coffee shop next door stirring my tepid Earl Grey watching male and female student leave I considered male student’s point, and concluded that the bank clerk must be his one in a thousand.
On the bright side someone would be getting a tremendous evening when she returned from work and knuckled down to the business of passing on her DNA.
I just hope when it gets mixed with that of her jubilant partner it turns out a little more like the other 999 working to make the world a better place.