Enter one mother and child, who opt to sit under the "have YOU been checked for Chlamydia?" and stare at the poster of a beaten child, this being marginally better than the alternative.
Opposite, one beautiful little girl introducing herself and her mother (and the window, and the flowers, and the magazines and the empty water cooler) in fluent Makaton. And under the window, a mother with another child.
The signer and her mother are called in, leaving the other mother and myself alone with two children. My beautiful, perfect, lovely child is sitting quietly in her wheelchair, having reversed it expertly into a gap in the row of seats so she is beside me. The other child is doing headstands on the chairs, kicking the walls with grubby shoes, sliding piles of magazines onto the floor, and staring.
Eventually he stares enough that his mother makes introductions, followed by the comment "Loads of disabled children here today, not usually like that." We escape to the loo, and return to find their place taken by another mother and son. Same school uniform, same ability to kick the walls whilst simultaneously performing a headstand on the chair and sending piles of magazines to a slippery death on the floor.
And my beautiful, perfect, lovely child executes a three point turn in the doorway, and glides to a stop beside me before unbuckling for a cuddle.
I lean over, pick her up, and it begins.
"What's wrong with her then?"
Biting down the urge to reply "Nothing, what's wrong with your son?" I instead go for "Her legs don't work." and turn away, to blow kisses down the back of my Little Princess' neck.
This response is however clearly insufficient, and my "Please go away now" vibes are clearly not working. Instead:
"Yes I can see that, but what's wrong with her? What's wrong with her legs? What's wrong with her?"
Sigh. "She has Spina Bifida
"Did you know?"
"Did you know, when you was pregnant, did you know she was going to have it?"
"She's adopted. So yes, I knew, and I'm very pleased to have her, and it worked out well for both of us didn't it?"
"Couldn't you have your own then?"
I avoid answering this one, and turn away again, hoping we have ended the conversation. But no:
"So, does she know?"
"Does she know what?"
"That she's adopted, does she know?"
She's sitting in my lap. She's six years old. I've just told you there's nothing wrong with her understanding. If she didn't before, she certainly does now!
"Yes, she knows."
"Oh, cos I think that's best isn't it? My mate, she's adopted twenty, and she always told them all." And my heart melts towards the woman who adopted twenty, and who apparently lives very locally, and I wonder who she is. And I try to see whatever it is this woman who has adopted twenty (because after all, if she has adopted twenty children she must be a pretty good judge of character by now) sees in this woman her friend. And whilst I'd like to say that I then see the whole conversation and this
But I do wonder, because although that short conversation actually contained most of my pet peeves in the space of around five minutes, the majority of strangers who feel the need to strike up conversation manage one or two of them. And they can't all mean to be that insulting, tactless, thoughtless and nosy, can they?
And then, thankfully, it was our turn to go in.