Monday, September 19, 2011

The Man in the Purple Shirt

A police officer was busy writing down a statement from 3 women as I marched through the door. Each of the women gripped a white and green cup, one frequently took a sip. I glanced around the space, looking for blood, weapons, or a candlestick....nothing. Everything looked fairly normal, actually. 4 men in the corner were leaning into a laptop, which displayed several graphs. A student with ear buds was busy flipping through an anatomy book, while a young woman, highlighter in mouth, was busy shuffling through pages in a notebook.

"What did I miss?", I asked the barista that was ready to take my order.

"Some guys stole some one's iPhone. Right off the table. Right in front of everyone!", she explained, seemingly pleased that I inquired.

"Well, wow!", I said, and proceeded with my order for an overpriced latte.

Caffeine in hand, I began looking for a table to set up camp for my 2pm call. I found an open chair, nestled in front of the inactive fireplace, with access to 4 outlets. Incredible.

After my call, I quietly worked. That was until the man in the purple shirt sat next to me, in the other brown leather chair. I gave him the customary coffee shop glance. If you frequent coffee joints, even the national chains, you KNOW the glance I'm referring to. I was about to break my stare as the man's bottom started it's descent down to the chair. As he was mid squat, he pushed the cup he was holding up to his lips and slurped. The kind of slurp a child would make as they held a plastic bowl up to their face, enjoying the milk left from their Cocoa Puffs cereal...chocolate.

He slurped again.

And again.

He sat down.

Ah, he probably didn't want to spill his drink, so he was taking off the top first half inch prior to sitting down. Then I realized there was a lid on the cup. My next conclusion, being the most obvious, was OCD. I mean, right?

This was quickly confirmed when he spent 4 minutes 'centering' his cup on the stone ledge that sat before him. Moments later, he began to slurp. Hard, often, and nothing less of obnoxious.

Bodily noises have and will always creep me out. When people try to get something out of their teeth by reverse whistling-gross. When people crack their knuckles-please don't. When people have flem in their throat while they talk-CLEAR YOUR THROAT! I mean, right?

Slurping was no different. The man continued to habitually slurp for the next few minutes. I seriously considered moving to another location. That was until, he picked up his phone.

He leaned back into his chair, far exceeding "comfort", and arguably going into the "inappropriate" zone. His legs were spread too far open, in my opinion. He quickly brushed his hand through his hair, which was oily and receding, and proceeded to dial.

"Hey......I was thinking about you so I thought I would call you. I'm glad you picked up", he said.

He was speaking loud, I guess he wanted to intentionally interrupt those that sat around him so they would listen. He took 3 more quick slurps of coffee. He was intently listening to the person on his phone.

"I took a hot shower. A long, hot shower. Got dressed, and now I'm at the coffee shop. I'm sitting in a very comfortable leather chair, and I'm thinking about you".

He began moving his open legs quickly from side to side-swaying in his chair.

"So how is your condition", he asked, just as loud as he was speaking before. He stopped swaying his legs.

I read and answered a few emails, and very quietly took a sip of my pumpkin spiced latte with skim milk. 2 minutes later, the man in the purple shirt became even more weird.

"So, I've been thinking.....two people should have chemistry, right? Do you think we have it? (there was a long pause) great, do I. I was hoping you would say that. OF COURSE you're have an excellent vocabulary. Does your mother like me?"

He said this so quickly that I'm not so sure the person on the other end even had time to respond.

I put my cup up to my mouth, to cover a big smile that I could not hide. This was so funny to me. It wasn't like I was being the creepy one here. He was talking so loud, it was nearly impossible to not hear him.

" are what I would call a 'plain Jane'. Remember that top you wore yesterday? Let me ask you this, do you like the way you look when you are sun kissed? When you have a tan, do you look Greek? Do you look Middle Eastern?", he went to pick up his cup, but instead, rubbed his ankle and leaned back in the chair.

I wonder if they ever met? The way this man was speaking to the woman on the phone, suggested they had only exchanged pictures. Wouldn't he know what she looked like when her skin was tanned?

"Polish? I could see that. When is the last time your hair was natural and not colored? Really? Do you have a picture...if I looked at your roots, I would see a light brown or a medium brown? Don't take this the wrong way, I like the way you look, BUT maybe not this decade, but the next decade...hopefully women won't color their hair", he went on to say. He was looking down at his feet, rubbing his hands through his Beethoven hair. A greasy masterpiece, indeed.

"Okay, I will call you later. Bye". Giving very little warning, he ended his conversation with the woman on the other end.

I picked up my cup, and sadly realized that I was out of java. I looked around me, the 3 tables that were once occupied, were now completely vacant. A few napkins and a straw were scattered across one. Did the man in the purple shirt scare everyone away? I was the person that was closest to him-only one small black coffee table sat between his chair and mine. Was I the weirdo for not leaving, too?

The man in the purple shirt picked up his cup, slurped 3 times, and got up from the chair. He had a newspaper with him, which I did not realize when he first sat down. He rolled it up, placed it under his armpit, and walked out the door.

As I slowly started packing up my things, again noticing the empty tables around me, I immediately began to feel self conscious. Was I the weird person for not leaving, too? Clearly the man in the purple shirt's behavior was beyond odd and his bizarre telephone conversation apparently offended all of the strangers that sat around us. Everyone but me.....

I must be the weird one, then. I mean, right?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Excuse me-there is a hair in my food...

"May I have the Internet code, please?", I asked as I put my debit card back into my wallet. The girl behind the counter said, "Sure-here you go". She printed off a receipt and at the bottom was a series of letters and numbers. I was prepping for a conference call that was to start in 3 minutes. "Jenny will hook you up with some water for the tea", stated the girl behind the counter.

Okay-great, I thought. There was a large rack on the counter that displayed nearly two dozen metal canisters of tea. Orange blossom, honey-mint, Earl grey, and lemon-green tea to name a few. 2 minutes before my conference call...

The girl that was making drinks-a "barista"?, was busy crafting a coffee drink and chatting with the older man that was patiently waiting. Without any direction, and because the labels were facing me and easily accessible...well, I decided to take a tea pod out of the lemon-green tea canister.

When the barista was done making the man's coffee drink, she was about to go into the backroom when I asked, "Excuse me. Hi (and smiled), could I please get a cup of hot water for my tea?"

"Sure", she said. She grabbed a foam cup from the stack, and as she was filling it up with hot water turned her head to speak to me. "You know, you were not supposed to take your own tea. We have tongs for that. We don't like customers touching all of the bags-people get weird about that".

One minute before my conference call. "Oh-okay. I apologize. Yeah, I didn't like put my paws over ALL of the bags. I just shook the canister until a pod fell into my hand."

"well, here is your water". She placed the filled foam cup on the counter and walked into the back room. I dialed into my conference call and marched over to the table that housed the sugar, honey, napkins, and other coffee 'condiments'.

As I grabbed a handful of honey packets (I'm obsessed), I noticed a bunch of loose brown plastic coffee straws, totally unwrapped and exposed for anyone to grab, touch, or slobber on. I grabbed one from the top, like I was playing Jenga, but still touched the four or five straws that directly surrounded the chosen one. This could not be avoided.

I was not grossed out by this, but was a bit upset with the 18 year old that just chewed me out. So let me get this straight, people would be weirded out by someone dumping a tea pod from a canister into their hand, BUT have no issue with people (all day long), touching a plastic straw that WILL make it's way into your cup or mouth? Double standard-I mean, right?

I waited tables all through college at several different establishments ranging from smelly bars to upscale dining. I always thought it was REALLY funny when guests would say, "there is a spot on my spoon". It's a water spot-an inconsistency in the dish washer. Maybe a bit of residue from soap, maybe it didn't dry. Who the hell knows-it's not bodily fluid, poison, or anything else to freak out about. The same person that complains about a spot on their spoon ought to be more concerned about the fact that one of the line cooks has been coughing all day, or that the menus are touched all day, everyday, by dozens of people. You touch the menu and then help yourself to a piece of bread from the basket, which may or may not be clean, on your table.

Then you help yourself to some ketchup for your fries. Ketchup in a glass bottle that people have access to all day. People that may or may not place the tip of their knife into the jar, after they may or may not have licked the butter off moments before. Gross.....

I mean, right? People are so funny like that....

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

German Shepards and African Americans

German Shepards and African Americans. French Bulldogs and Asian Americans. Disclaimer: By no means am I comparing humans to dogs. Just hear me out...

German Shepards don't understand German (unless you train them in German). African Americans don't speak "African" languages unless they are taught. French Bulldogs do not sip lattes at outdoor cafes...I mean, right?

Breeds of dogs are given distinct names and labels based on their physical attributes and bloodline. The temperment of a Lab is going to be much different from that of a Poodle. The energy level of a Vizsla (my dog, by the way), is going to be SO much higher than that of a Pug. Regardless of where the dog is born or raised, the characteristics of each breed, for the most part, are going to stay relatively consistant.

When it comes to people, this concept goes against everything we are taught. We are all created "equal"-the same. No "race" has an advantage when it comes to intellectual capacity, for example. This is what we are taught and encouraged to believe, anyway. We label dogs because, well, they are dogs. Imagine if someone asked you, "what kind of dog do you have?". "Oh, I have a Beagle named Charlie". How often would you say, "I have a very nice yellow dog". Probably never, I mean right? You give your dog special food that caters to the specific needs of that breed. You identify with other dog lovers that own the same breed. "Oh! You are a Boxer person? I love Boxers!" Certain breeds of dogs are more prone to different illnesses, just like people. "African Americans" are more prone to heart diease. But, what if you are "white", born in Africa, and now live in the US. You are, by definition, an "African American", are you not? You WERE born in Africa, right? Does that mean you are at a higher risk of heart diesase? No. If you are black, regardless of your nationality, you ARE at higher risk.

I have several black friends and all of them were born in the United States. They are no more "African" than I am "French". Actually, I am probably more French than they are African because of where my Great Grandpa was born. (which was French Canada, which technically isn't really even French). I have several Asian friends, too. (wow-aren't I cultured?). Some are "Chinese", one is "Japanense", and another is "Vietnamese", yet most of them will just say, "Asian". Really? You are okay with that? If someone asks about my heritage, I'm not going to say "European"...there's like 100 countries in Europe (or something). I mean, right?

Look, people...if you want to continue down this road of CRAZY labels and being politically correct, and holding hands, and saving the world, etc. Cool-you have fun with that. Just note, the more we label ourselves...the more we TRY to be "individualistic", the less understanding we will have with one another. If you were born in Royal Oak, Michigan guess what? YOU ARE AMERICAN! Yes, even if you are black, purple, or green. You are AMERICAN! If you are white and born in Cambodia, guess what? YOU ARE CAMBODIAN! Isn't this a CRAZY concept?

Don't even start to tell how it's a "cultural" thing, because it's not. Asian American, like I mentioned above, can speak to MANY different countries and cultures. Japanese food is VERY different from Chinese. The language is different. The customs are different. It's a different country! So if it's not a cultural thing, is it a physical thing? If you are black, you are actually "African American". That's the PC term, right? So what if you are black and were born in France? Are you "African American French?" Are you "African French". No. You are simply French.

I am American. There, I said it. Sure I have TONS of family in Quebec, and like a thousand second cousins in Austria and Romania, but I learned how to ride my bike in my driveway in Troy. I was born at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak. I get ripped off when I'm in Europe. Dude, I'm American! (I said "Dude", dude). So what's with the labels? Is anyone else completely over treating people like data charts? When is the last time you filled out a job application? "Ethnicity: African American, Asian American, Pacific Islander, Hispanic, Native American, WHITE". I always wanted to ask someone in HR...excuse me, I don't see "my" label on here. Am I just, "white"?

Actually, yeah. Well, I'm usually a bit flushed. So, you could say I'm like medium? My Bobby Brown (not the rapper) concealer says I'm "Sand Natural". Sand? Okay, I like the beach. That's cool. I mean, right?

If someone asks for your nationality: if you were born in the US, you say "AMERICAN". If someone asks your ethnicity: you can call out your lineage. Your "breed". If someone asks what color you are, you say what color you are: black, brown, white, tan, pink, green (you may want to see a doctor), etc. I'm just over people looking at me weird when I say, "he was black", instead of "he was African American". I don't know that he is...he may have been born in Royal Oak, just like me. I know he's more than a color, though.

I mean, right?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

3 Days Left

There are many trends that I have fought hard to avoid in the past but eventually gave into, and in some cases, embraced. A few are listed below:

1. Uggs: The best thing to come from Down Under since Keith Urban. I made fun of them until I tried a pair on. I now have five styles. (In China, I slept in one pair for a whole week because my hotel was so cold).

2. Jeggings: For the record, I believe I was the first person in Michigan to own a pair. I bought them in Cambridge back in spring 2008...however, I didn't really wear them out until they became "cool".

3. DMB: I thought most people that listened to Dave Matthews were REALLY annoying (I went to high school with a lot of them). You know, the "Birmingham Hippies": drive BMW's, wear $200 jeans, but intentionally don't bathe or wash their hair in order to feel more connected with homeless people. Well, freshmen year of college changed all of that-I was exposed to The Lilywhite Sessions. Bonfires-drinking games-snowboarding...good times. I love DMB. There, I said it.

4. Skinny Jeans: Don't knock them until you try on a pair. I'm just sorry I waited so long. I didn't want to wear them when I was actually "skinny", and now...well...(sigh).

5. Fancy Coffee Drinks: This has been a recent thing for me. I could not STAND coffee until I had no choice while I was on the road. Literally a few hundred dollars later, I'm HOOKED on lattes. Hooked. Actually, I want one right now....I've been a user for only 2 months. Please tell me this gets easier. I mean, right?

Though I have given into a lot of trends in the past, there is one current technology that I absolutely refuse to use: electronic books. I was recently in Indy for NCAA Women's Final Four Basketball. There was a Borders Bookstore that was in it's last days of business (last 3 days, to be exact). For 3 days, I walked in front of the tall glass windows that exposed the empty shelves and displayed over-sized yellow posters that reminded readers, "3 Days Left!" I looked away, sad. I was witnessing the death of books-the experience of reading as we know it. Are we 'okay' with this?, I thought to myself.

By no means would I classify myself as an "avid" reader, but I still enjoy the "experience": thumbing through the pages, folding the front cover behind the back, reading the corny dedications, and the subtle smell of the ink and paper. Hell, I'll even take the paper cuts if it means not losing one of the most important objects in the history of civilization.

We will wake up one day and say, "Remember way back when, when books were on paper? When we didn't have to charge them over night in order to read them in the morning while eating breakfast? When we didn't have to "turn them off" during take off and landing on our flight from DTW to LGA? When we could put old books in a box and donate them to a local school or lend a book to a neighbor or friend? When bookshelves actually housed, well, books? When glares didn't matter, and neither did available storage space.

Nah-I think I will pass on all of that. You can find me at Caribou Coffee, sipping a sugar-free pumpkin spice latte with skim milk and light whip. I'll be chillin' in my Uggs, skinny jeans, and listening to DMB on my iPod...flipping through the pages of the latest issue of The Week.