I am a big fan of service stations.
I'll frequently nip down to my local BP and sit in the window with a coffee watching the people of the world go by.
That's when Covid rules allow and the space isn't all taped off and full of boxes of soft drinks and other goodies of course.
I reckon service stations offer an opportunity to observe people at their best, and worst. Sometimes they are funny. Sometimes they are just rude and impatient. But they are always interesting.
Like the couple I ran into the other day.
Let me explain.
I'd taken the opportunity to whip down the line to see two of the grandies and, because I'm rapidly closing in on celebrating the 38th anniversary of my 21st and they do everything at 1000km/h, I'm a bit pooped on the way home to be honest.
So, I do the sensible thing and pull in to the next servo along the route, grab a coffee and chill on the picnic table across from the petrol pumps immersing myself in the sights and sounds of the forecourt.
And that's when I met them. It would actually be fairer to say I heard them before I saw them.
A couple about the same age as the goddess I cohabit with, absolutely going to town as their motorhome ambled to a stop 10 yards from me.
I didn't get the gist of the argument, though I surmised it had been carrying on for many a kilometre. Certainly long enough to shake loose any noise-inhibiting insulation from within the cab of the motorhome. If it were an advertised feature of that particular model I'd be asking for my money back. It doesn't work.
There I am minding my own business and the motorhome stops. The bloke gets out, slams the door behind him and storms off down the street.
A few minutes later the side door of the motorhome opens and the woman wearily steps down. It's fairly obvious she's been shedding a tear or two. She looks exhausted.
Instantly, I'm overcome by a huge wave of empathy. I mean who among us hasn't had a ding-dong battle with our loved one at some time in their life?
I feel the need to say something.
"Are you okay?" I inquire trying to strike the right tone between being helpful and nosey.
She is, she smiles, apologising for the ruckus and professing to embarrassment as she wanders over.
I tell her we've all been there and jokingly suggest she get a nice coffee and take a few minutes to breathe. And so she does.
When she returns she enlightens me, unprompted I should point out, as to the origin of the argument.
Out of respect for them I won't go into specifics but, in short, they'd been stuck together in a cramped motorhome for two weeks, were tired, irritable and things had been said.
Now I have to say I was rather impressed with my performance at this point. For someone who could talk for New Zealand if it were an Olympic sport, I didn't mutter a word.
What I did do was listen, intently, and make sympathetic "hmmm" sounds every now and then. In fact, so good was I at this particular facet I'm sure I could be the captain of the NZ Hmmm team. Roll on the next Olympics!
But I digress.
After a while my new friend seemed to have got it all off her chest and was now at that turning point where she no longer wanted to murder her partner and leave his body parts strewn across the highways of New Zealand. I'm sure you know what I mean.
Apparently, he's "good when he's good" – surely the oddest phrase ever – and she conceded she may have overreacted a bit.
"Why don't you buy him an icecream?," I said out of nowhere, trying to be helpful, but then wondering what on earth had made me say that. I mean how would that resolve their obvious problems?
As I understand it, major diplomatic incidents are not resolved sitting at the United Nations with both sides sharing a tub of hokey pokey while they consider their options are they?
Luckily, the look of surprise (or was that confusion?) melted from her face quickly and she beamed. "Great idea!", before heading back into the servo on a mission.
No sooner had the door closed, he came shuffling back.
He must have seen us talking beforehand because he came right up to the table.
"I suppose she's told you?" he asked.
Again I played a straight bat.
"Just little bits," I said looking for that fine line again. "Sounds like you've had a bit of a rough few days."
He agreed it hadn't been great and started to give his side of the story.
"Hmmm" I said. Again.
A few minutes later she re-emerged with two icecreams – one for him and one for her - and like a scene from one of those soppy, Disney romantic comedies Mrs P craves, their troubles seemingly melted away and they made up.
There was a hug, some laughter and a whole lot of deep breathing as they enjoyed their icecreams.
Ten minutes later they were back in their motorhome and gone.
I sat there at the picnic table reviewing my successful foray into relationship counselling.
Easy. If this writing gig doesn't work out I think I might give it a go full time.
If what had just happened was anything to go by, all I'd need to set up would be a picnic table and a sympathetic ear.
Maybe an icecream from time to time would help too.