We’ve all had those moments that we’ll never forget. No matter how hard you try you can never escape them. I don’t think I have told this story to more than 20 people since it happened; it was a situation that made me feel so pathetic that I wanted to crawl under a rock and never come back out.
I wish I could say that it was falling down some stairs in front of the woman of my dreams or splashing water on the front of my jeans in the bathroom whilst on a night out, but it was a little more aggressive than that.
I try to make this as comical as I can each time I tell it because it is funny. I strongly advise you to get comfy and give it your full attention. Here we go...
During my fat phase (you know the one where I was 22 stone and slowly killing myself by swallowing Pringles and smoking at least 20 a day) I worked in pub, then a fancy restaurant, then one day I was told that an ‘amazing opportunity’ was coming my way. It was a chance to be a team leader in a coffee shop in a train station, busy, better money and better for the CV…
The job was a nightmare; I was used to managing a bar with booze and pub grub, not used to making sandwiches and steaming milk for the trendy Londoner’s 'half caff - half decaf (non-GM) soy cappuccino with fair trade chocolate sprinkles on top.’
My stomach churned every time I had to go to work because I knew that each day was more traumatic than the next. Staff called in sick constantly - not because they were sick, but because they just hated the atmosphere.
Managers and directors would swan in during the breakfast rush and critique the set up of the shop. With a queue of up to 40 people you’d have to stop serving just to fix the displays of drinks or change something round to protect the quirky image of the company.
The one evening I was closing up shop, it was 10.30 and we closed at 11. It was a quiet night then suddenly we got hit with a queue of 20 people, some wanting coffees and some wanting their last bottle of beer for the night.
There was a guy loitering by the fridge of beers, we’ll call him 'beer guy' a counter separated us and I could see he was moving in for a grab and run. He picked up two beers as I finished serving a customer; instead of calling the next person in the queue I called over to the beer guy to say that he should pay with me. He was caught out. He quickly came over with two bottles. He’d jumped the queue, I knew I had broken the sacred bond of the English queue culture but I didn’t want to explain to my manager why we had lost 2 bottles of beer.
Whilst I processed his transition the queue became twitchy, so much so that a tall bearded man, we’ll call him 'the muffin man’ piped up. “Oh so you’re gonna serve him before me!” He was wasted, I knew because he was using his girl friend as a leaning post. I pretended not to hear him. He stepped out from the queue and came over, at this point the beer guy had put in his pin-code for his card... It was declined…
I now had the muffin man and the beer guy in front of me whilst I processed the transaction again.
The muffin man began hurling abuse at me, “Oi! Fat F##K! You’re gonna let someone jump the queue?” I asked him to be patient and that I would serve him next… The second card payment was declined. At this point the muffin man got even more aggressive and started to reach across the counter for me, I backed away...
At this point the beer guy grabbed the beers from the counter, along with his card and ran off. I was left to handle the muffin man alone.
He reached across again and realised he couldn’t reach me across the counter... He then grabbed all the muffins that he could from the display and started throwing them at me. It was the most bizarre experience of my working life.
One by one, like Neo from the Matrix, I dodged them. He soon ran out of ammunition, and his girlfriend was trying to pull him back, but his abuse kept coming; “You fat f##cking failure! Working in a coffee shop at 50 years old. What a loser you are!” (I was 25 years old at the time.)
My staff were getting angry, one of my baristas was ready for a fight. I was seeing red, but I wanted to keep things calm as a little crowd was forming. I calmly asked the drunk to move over to the side and I would come around to speak to him. He took that as an invitation for a fight. I just wanted to get him away from the crowd and of course... The muffins. #savethefood
The abuse he hurled at me with his whiskey breath made it hard to communicate calmly, I kept my hands behind my back the whole time and leant towards him. I was inviting the first punch because I would then unleash my many years of kung fu training. No, not really… He called me a “fat failure again” I called him a “drunk arsehole,” this was name calling at it’s finest. He told me we worked for the BBC and I was a "big fat 50 year old loser.” I tried to laugh and poked fun at his lanky demeanour. I may have mentioned something about him and Jimmy Saville, which provoked a push. I was getting closer to the punch. I called him stupid and he went to punch me, his girlfriend got in the way again to stop anything from escalating.
I tried to stay calm, whilst mildly verbally provoking him; on the inside I torn between keeping my job, and going ape on his ass.
Eventually the police showed up and they ushered him away. They grabbed me by the arm and shoved me in a different direction. Shouting at me to stop, I was still standing with my arms behind my back. The police told me that I was out of line and that I should have just ignored him, I explained everything and they didn’t care, they just escorted the muffin man down the stairs and to his train. I on the other hand got a told off for provoking violence in the station.
I waited for the police to leave and then I took my apron off and marched off in the direction of the muffin man. I was out for blood. Turns out I'm rubbish at spotting people in a crowd, so the villain got away. I told my manager about the whole thing the next day and all she cared about with the wastage of the stock. In fact no one except the staff that night really grasped what had happened. I saw it as a defining moment in my life at that time, it defined my low self esteem.
Was the guy an arrogant arse? Yes… Did I deserve such treatment? No…
Muffin throwing aside I was tremendously hurt, not because someone didn’t like me, but because I was viewed as a 50 year old fat failure by a guy that had never even met me. Sure, he was drunk, but I don’t subscribe to the whole, “I was drunk so I didn’t mean it” story. When you are drunk your filters and barriers are taken down. You say what you think at the time. "In vino veritas..."
I guess what I am getting to on this fine Monday morning is that we are all going to face our share of muffin men in our lives. I hate thinking back to that day because I felt so worthless. However, it is that worthless feeling that now fuels me, it is what drives me to be better.
This is just one story in a long list of stories, funny ones too, that have shaped my life and created resilience in my mind. Whenever I feel like I want to give up during a workout, or tough situations arise I go deep in my mind and I say; I WILL NOT BE DEFEATED BY THE MUFFIN MAN!
Try it some time, give yourself the chance to use your past as fuel for the future that you want. If you are true to yourself you’ll realise that their words can’t hold you back, it is ultimately your mindset determines your progress!
I don't know where the muffin man is today, maybe he is at the bottom of a bottle somewhere, maybe he was arrested for assault with a chocolate chip pancake. Where ever he is, in a way he did me a favour, at least that's the way I'm going to look at it.
Have a great week!
STAY STRONG and KEEP MOVING!
Brendan is the owner and head trainer at Raw Motion Fitness.