"But how can you not?" said the girl behind the coffee machine.
She was wearing a t-shirt that read, NOWHERE LIKE NAMBUCCA and scowling at me as she burnt my coffee.
"Like honestly, how can you not watch it?"
The more pressing question, I thought, was: Did I ever think I'd be standing in a coffee shop in Nambucca Heads being bullied by a 15-year-old about my decision not to watch Game of Thrones?
"It's awesome; you're missing out! You know nothing, Jon Snow! Winter is coming!"
Just watch it
She repeated these catchphrases back at me hoping they'd get a reaction. As if I'd suddenly remember that I had, in fact, seen the entire show.
"I just never got into," I explained, the lines sounding rehearsed because they were, this back and forth had become familiar terrain.
"I missed the bandwagon at the start, and now it seems too much to catch up on. Plus the more people tell me to watch it, the less I want to."
She stared in disbelief, handed me my coffee and ended the interaction the same way every other GoT fan does.
"Just watch it." Nowhere like Nambucca indeed.
Winter waits for no man
Last Monday, the very same day I got sassed by the teen-barista, Game of Thrones returned for the first episode of its eighth and final (hooray) season.
The internet went into meltdown, the memes went into overdrive, and the world split into two camps – the Throners and the Loners. Belonging to the latter, I decided to escape, spending a few days in Nambucca Heads, a sleepy surf town outside of Coffs Harbor.
It has all the hallmarks of a place that's free of HBO-program hype. There is a single fish and chip shop, a roll-the-dice Chinese restaurant and an RSL where the beers are cheap and the pokies plentiful. Hardly the kind of spot you'd expect to be Throne-shamed.
And yet, in a small town where everyone still shares milk and borrows sugar, the crushing pressure to keep up with cult TV is alive and well.
Game of Thrones isn't the first cult program to polarise people, but it definitely breeds the most vicious and vocal fans. Tell someone you don't watch Game of Thrones, and you can see the revulsion flash across their face. Then it dissolves into a series of pointless, probing questions – but why, but it's so good, but have you tried it?
Now even not watching has become so passe that people see it as an elitist pop culture power play. Abstaining is just as painful as being someone who exclusively talks about watching GoT. Which leaves me...where? Nambucca Heads?
A night's watch
Tonight, the second episode of Game of Thrones final season goes to air, and my friends are throwing a viewing party. There are themed snacks and homemade costumes. If baby boomers ever wanted proof that millennials can be mobilised for a united cause, rock up to one of these Monday night shindigs.
While I don't watch the show, I still want to go, figuring it beats my alternate plans – sitting alone on the lounge, desperately trying to get a tweet featured on Q&A. Instead, I was told that I wouldn't have fun and shouldn't attend. It was phrased with my best interests at heart, but there's no disguising a continued non-invite.
At this point, it seems the collective power of the cult television show is doing more harm than good. When you can't even sit quietly in the same room as your friends, we have a problem. Worse still when you add love into the mix. We're living in a time where 'Netflix Cheating' is an actual thing.
(verb) /net•fliks CHēt•ing:
Netflixing a TV series with your spouse/friends/significant other, and watching episodes while the other party is out. This creates an awkward situation where you have to decide if the other party now has to watch episodes by themselves or skip ahead to catch up.
Luckily my fiancee believes Game of Thrones is 'basically incest and killing' so we don't have a problem, but I've been burnt before. I'd rather not go into the specifics but safe to say I've seen the last season of Suits twice now...in full.
So tonight, whether you're gearing up for GoT, or blissfully channel surfing, remember that we already live in an overly divisive world, let's not add TV preferences to the list.
Meanwhile, I look forward to the day when I can walk down the main street of Nambucca Heads and not be judged for my poor choice in TV. Perhaps Kit Harrington will stroll past me, he'll nod, I'll smile and think "Wow, Orlando Bloom is way shorter in real life."
After continually being told to "use his words" as a young boy, Thomas Mitchell took that advice on board and never looked back. Since then his words appeared all over the place, including in the Sydney Morning Herald, Time Out, The Huffington Post and GQ. Thomas spends his days observing the unique behaviour of the Australian male, while trying not to overstay his welcome at the local cafe.
Follow Thomas on Twitter.