Monday, June 29, 2009

On New York Transport and the Forgotten Faction...

Perhaps the natural hierarchy dominating the means of transport around New York City has degraded slowly since the Industrial Revolution. A fierce battle has erupted between the two powerful factions of those using automobiles and those using bicycles. I here include profiles of your average automobilist and your archetypal bicyclist.
THE AUTOMOBILIST - or car-driver - is typically overweight to the point where his nose upturned and veins the color of heart attacks pop out on his face. He is wont to wear monocles, top hats or driving-caps, long flowing scarves of many colors or simply white, and generally takes any opportunity to smoke a cigar. His gargantuan girth is almost always held in by houndstoothed waistcoats of tanned panda skin with fasteners of blue whale ivory. Favorite foods include truffles, foie gras, fresh ortolan, and any provisions stolen from orphans.
THE BICYCLIST is generally from the mountains of [INSERT MOUNTAINOUS STATE HERE, though most likely in New England or the Pacific Northwest]. He subsists entirely on granola, sun-baked hemp, and manna bestowed by his various tree-gods. He wears only organic flannel or ironically sloganed, earth-friendly t-shirts that smell of aged, musty cabbage boiled in pig-sweat. He most likely hates the country he was born in, but cannot leave for fear of losing the trust-fund of a beloved great aunt.
The sheer number of cars and the way they have changed the general understanding of transportation may dictate that automobiles may be the more powerful faction. Indeed, the facts that cars are a great deal heavier (i.e., have a great deal more inertia) and are capable of approaching speeds that a bicycle could not even dream to achieve, that is provided bicycles do in fact dream, seem to suggest that cars have come to OWN THE ROAD.
Bicyclists seem to agree with this assessment. In a stunning development, they have taken to using a slogan designed to remind the pig-headed aristocratic fat-cat automobile drivers to share the road: "SHARE THE ROAD." One may even see this slogan on municipally funded street signs for which taxpayers - including TAX-PAYING CAR-DRIVERS - must pay.
Bicyclists accuse drivers of hogging the road. Drivers accuse bicyclists of not obeying traffic laws and being in the way. The fight has escalated to the point where a commercial was released on television about bicycle safety and automobilist awareness!
Indeed, in all the hot air blowing between the two aforementioned factions, the lonely pedestrian seems to be forgotten. Cars take up entire city intersections and honk incessantly as if imploring physics to rethink its laws so that the cars in front of the source of the honking will vanish in thin air. Bicyclists ignore signal lights and crosswalks with little regard for the pedestrians who are attempting to take advantage of the little blue walking person on the yellow square attached to the pole ahead of them. In the battle between bikers' rights and automobilists' superiority complex, the pedestrian is left to fend for itself - a neutral just trying to go about its business, but inevitably caught up in the tide of war.
I mention this because of my intent to FOUND A NEW POLITICAL SOCIETY! No, it is not New York Pedestrians Againts Motorists (NYPAM). Nor is it The Society for the Re-Education of Hippie Dippy Bicyclists Who Think That Two Wheels is Better Than Both Four Wheels and Two Legs (SR-EHDBWTH2WBTB4WTL). Nay! It is the Friends of the Concept of Invincible Pedestrians (FCIP). FCIP will troll through various magical understandings of ancient societies and glean from the best of these metaphysical schools the choicest spells for the preservation of persons trying to walk across the street. I have already encountered a Spell Which Causes Automobiles to Innocently Pass Through Human Flesh Without Harm engraved in hieroglyphics upon the walls of the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Combined with a Mesopotamian Spell of Obliviousness in Pedestrians, and a Maori Charm of Invisibility, I am quite sure that New York pedestrians will be able to pass as ghosts through even the most war-torn intersections in New York City while nonchallantly chatting about the weather with their neighbor as if nothing were happening. Classes begin whenever the hell I feel like it at the cost of several hundred thousand dollars. I am, after all, brilliant to have come up with this.
Before I leave, I would like to point out that it seems that my (currently) 6 readers haven't spread the word about Line Etiquette, as a man told me to hold on while attending to his phone conversation and a woman mumbled through a mouthful of food that she wanted a coffee while searching her pocket-book for change that she didn't actually have. I'm terribly upset with you all... if you're still reading at this point.
Until my society prevails...
I am ever faithfully...
Your Humble Barista

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

In Which I Set to Improve the Society of Lines...

Believe it or not, I've found that one of the things Americans find most difficult to do it properly wait in a line. The concept of a waiting in line serves as a paramount example of the success of civilized society. Every part of the line adheres to a social contract. Everyone agrees that the person ahead of them deserves to be served first because they arrived at an earlier time. In a healthily functioning society, free from runs on the bank caused by an ancient investor stealing tuppence from a little boy, lines maximize efficiency and cut down on confusion.
Perhaps society is not so healthy, for I see blatant abuses of the privilege of waiting in line nearly every day. Being a talented register cashier at THE DEATH STAR (the aforementioned coffee shop not far from one of the oldest skyscrapers in Manhattan), I represent the ultimate goal of the line - the person to whom you give your order and your cash in return for fattening goodies and caffeinated beverages that you pretend to be addicted to in order to elicit various responses from your painfully hip co-workers. I here outline some of the vilest offense against good taste, blatant violations of the social contract.
KNOW YOUR ORDER: When you stand in line, you are standing in line for a reason. When visiting THE DEATH STAR, you want expertly steamed milk and bacon-fat coated donuts. As such, take time while you are in line to KNOW YOUR ORDER. Promptly giving me your order ensures that the line moves which in turn ameliorates the healthy flow of society.
HAVE YOUR METHOD OF PAYMENT READY: Here I wish this were a video blog such that I could humorously demonstrate some of the more incredulous transactions I have experienced. Instead, I will list phrases that oughtn't be uttered when you arrive at my smiling, unshaven, sleepy face.
  1. "Lemme see if I have 86¢... in PENNIES."
  2. "Can you break a hundred for this, my $1.90 coffee?"
  3. "I think there's enough money on my gift card."
  4. "Do you accept traveler's checks?"
  5. "Can I owe you [INSERT AMOUNT OF MONEY HERE]?"
  6. "Do you accept checks?"
  7. "I know one of this multitude of credit cards hasn't been maxed out yet."
DO NOT CUT THE LINE: This is in bad form and is considered rude in many circles, including all countries east and west of the Prime Meridian. I include this hint here because of one instance that I must relate to you. Not long ago, a transvestite and his boyfriend (who had just been released from prison) caused a major problem in my store by waiting in front of the register while an entire line of hungry, caffeine-starved customers patiently waited in THE LINE. The transvestite, who was very rude, demanded that I abandon my post dealing with THE LINE to refill his personal mug with hot coffee. I explained how a line worked, and how if he wanted service, that he would have to wait in line until it was his turn to be served. At this, his boyfriend (the one recently released from prison), started directly at me, pointed at me, and accused me of being "A BITCH... you can tell just by looking at him he's a little BITCH!" He was ejected from the store, only to burst in a few minutes later with this: "ANY TIME YOU WANNA GO, BITCH, JUST FIND ME! IT'S GONNA BE BLOODY BLOODY!" At the time, this infuriated me, but now I can only laugh.
"DO NOT USE CELLULAR COMMUNICATIONS DEVICES IN THE LINE": Line time is waiting time. You are there to wait. Here are some of the things you may wish to do in a line that are socially acceptable practices that are not addictive, and do not cause you to stare zombie-like at a tiny screen while cognizant persons still part of the healthily functioning waking world are attempting to take your order:
  1. Read part of a book, magazine, newspaper, &c.
  3. NOTHING - it's a line after all, goshdarnit.
I reserve the right to entirely ignore you when you ignore me. Sure, my company tells me that I need to be welcoming and hospitable, but show some reciprocity! There is nothing that makes my blood boil so quickly (at sea level, see alternate instructions for high altitudes) as a person who approaches the register on a cell phone. You see them fidgeting with their Blackberries reading emails. They scroll through long text conversations on their iPhones. They APOLOGIZE to the PERSON ON THE OTHER END OF THE LINE, when I kindly ask them how I may help them, whereas I get a whispered order whilst the customer's hand covers the receiver so as not to interrupt their conversation. Just don't do it. DO NOT USE CELL PHONES IN LINE!
Using these guiding principles, I'm sure that we can all live in a happier and healthier society, free from obnoxious cell phone abusers and time wasters.
Until next time...
I am very truly...
Your Humble Barista

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

In Which A New Chapter Begins...

Having reached the tender age of 25 some months ago with little in the way of fanfare, I have decided to graduate myself from the angst-clad shackles of Dead Journal and enter the entirely more sophisticated and acceptable realm that is BLOGGER. Considering that I simply typed BLOGGER.COM into my URL bar and it practically set up an account by itself, I consider this switch predestined.
So what of my life now? Certainly there have been many great changes. I have moved from the borough of Manhattan, so-named for the misogynistic cap-wearers that purchased it from Indians who didn't even own the land in return for tiny glass trinkets and small-pox, to the mythical Kingdom of Brooklyn, a small land at the westernmost terminus of Long Island where persons exchange oyster shells for currency and appreciation for baseball is mandatory. Here I live in a small but comfortable apartment in a neighborhood not far from the Brooklyn Museum, a grandiose palace filled with facsimiles of great paintings and originals of modern atrocities against good taste. Such is the nature of this neighborhood that signs intended to curb loitering must be written in English, Spanish, and broken French. Currently living with me is my talented and beautiful girlfriend, Maria, who spends winters teaching autistic children in the New York Department of Education and summers praying for beach days. Among our most prized possessions are a cast iron skillet that we have meticulously seasoned with our above-average culinary skills, a scarf knitted by Maria in the style of the fourth regeneration of Doctor Who, and a rocking chair that once belonged to my great-grandfather.
I myself still slave away behind a very expensive espresso machine in coffee shop belonging to one of the largest corporations on this, our Spaceship Earth. Shamefully donning my green apron in a shop not too distant from one of the oldest skyscrapers in New York City, I strive to finish my Baccalaureate Degree of History and Social Studies Education from Stony Brook University. As I will be student teaching in New York City's public school system this upcoming fall to finally complete said degree, I trust that this web log will become ever so much more interesting in the not-too-distant future. Until such time, I shall spend as much time as possible complaining about my coffee shop, which I will heretofore refer by the randomly selected name, THE DEATH STAR, and extolling the wonders and virtues of my friends and loved ones. Occasionally I hope to write about an interesting dream I have, since I tend to have extraordinary night-visions that people occasionally find entertaining.
God-willing, readers will find my writings and musings entertaining, educational, and yes, perhaps, even a trifle outrageous, though never maliciously so. Should they have any questions or concerns, they ought to exercise their curious desires and contact me using the usual internet channels. Until then...
I am truly...
Your Humble Barista

NEXT TIME: The Etiquette of Waiting in Line