I recently left a comment on MetroDad’s post on the Left Coast that was unintentionally ironic. To begin with, I was a bit pissed that he, like so many East Coast denizens, painted the entire left coast with a brush dipped in the color called “Los Angeles.” That’s like saying Miami and Bar Harbor are just like New York because they’re all on the east coast.
The other gripe I had, which I commented on, is his repetition of the refrain that a world full of people who say “Fuck you” rather than “Good morning” is a more enjoyable place to live. Bull.
That’s what New Yorkers tell themselves to rationalize living so close to so many people, which puts everyone in cramped quarters and increases their tendency to be assholes on a more regular basis than if they were living in humane conditions. However, I’m not saying that the self-deception is limited to a tiny island in the Hudson River.
Los Angelenos sit for hours on the freeways, which are too crowded for anyone to drive on anymore, even though they’re 16 lanes wide, because they’re so clogged with beautiful people in beautiful cars in a city with a climate that’s guaranteed to be warm by the greenhouse effect of all the smog those beautiful cars produce, which is also slowly killing all of those beautiful people. “But it’s such a beautiful place,” they say. “How could you live anywhere else?” Then they load another clip in their Glock and continue using the drivers stuck next to them as target practice.
So, of course, I responded by gently extending my middle finger back at MetroDad, stating that
Those are the realities if you live in NYC, but if you live somewhere else (in what we left-coasters refer to as “reality based reality”), there are different realities, like hikes in the woods rather than visits to the doctor for hypertension and bleeding ulcers, and even, god forbid, pleasant conversations with people we’ve just met. It’s almost enough to make the world a pleasant place to live.
Yeah, that’s a great way to show everyone how nice we left-coasters are.
Not like I think it will affect him. He’s a New Yorker, with skin as thick a rhino’s. However, I think that it’s only fair to recount the pleasant conversation that I had with the stranger who works at the corner coffee shop in Palo Alto when I was there for Mom’s burial and memorial service.
Although she knew at least as much about computers as I do, and was constantly emailing people and doing geneaology research online, Mom never did get broadband. So as we were putting plans together, doing research, and trying to stay in touch with work and friends back home, many of us hit a brick wall. How do we do these things without the web? This led Brother #2 and I to go DSLumming–his term, not mine. Being more diurnal, I was getting my online mainline from the corner cafe, while Brother #2, being nocturnal, was stuck going to Denny’s–now you know how he came up with “DSLumming.” (On the other hand, Google and YouTube tied their $1.6 billion dollar knot at a Denny’s.)
It had been years since I’d been to this place, however, and in addition to needing the WiFi hookup, I needed a power outlet, since my laptop’s battery is five years old, which means it’s good for about 10 minutes. So I had a few questions when I walked in.
This is how it went . . .
Man Behind the Counter: Hi. How’s it going?
Papa Bradstein: Good. How are you doing?
MBC: I’m really tired, and I’ve just had this really long day. I’m exhausted actually.
(Long pause while PB peers behind every table and chair for a power outlet.)
PB: What I really need is a power outlet. Without one, I can’t really stay.
MBC: (gesturing) There’s one here, by the bar, and one over there, at the corner table.
PB: OK, great. Can I get a small latte and a bran muffin?
MBC: I’m not really sure.
PB: These things are hard to tell.
MBC: Probability is a tricky business.
PB: There are a lot of variables to consider. But is this a question of probability or capacity?
MBC: Right, that’s another variable to consider. I’m just too tired to concentrate on all that.
PB: It’s a good thing that you’re not at work or anything, because that can be exhausting.
MBC: I know. And all day, people have just been asking me all these questions, talking to me, just going on and on. And I don’t really like people.
PB: It’s good that since you don’t like people, you don’t work anywhere that you have to deal with them very much, because you’re right, people can be so irritating.
MBC: And they always want all these definite answers: “Yes” or “No.”
PB: Things aren’t always so certain.
MBC: There are a lot of variables to consider.
PB: I heard that somewhere once.
MBC: You never know what could happen.
PB: The answers aren’t really that clear. Even if it seems like it’s definitely “Yes” or certainly “No,” that might change as soon as you answer.
MBC: But nobody ever wants you to say, “I don’t know.” So I always feel this pressure to give a definite answer.
PB: That’s probably why you don’t like people very much. There’s a lot of pressure.
(Woman enters behind counter, tying on apron.)
MBC: And it doesn’t help that I’ve just had this really long day, and I’m exhausted.
Woman Behind Counter: (to PB) Did you need something?
PB: What I really need is a power outlet.
MBC: I showed him where those are.
WBC: Did you want some coffee or something?
PB: Sure, can I get a small latte and a bran muffin?
WBC: (to MBC) What are you doing?
MBC: Me? I’m just playing along.
Epilogue: Twenty minutes later two older couples come in. They’re clearly regulars, and as they’re chatting up the MBC, one of the women says to him, “You’re always so nice. Where did you grow up? Because you know, all these kids who grew up in Palo Alto are so snotty.” The MBC replied, “I agree, they really are.” In spite of her husband’s protests–I think he could see where this was going–she pressed on, “But you’re so nice. Where did you grow up?” MBC replied, “In a small town, a really small town, you’ve probably never heard of it–Palo Alto.”
If you’re ever in my hometown and want to know where to get a free WiFi hookup, a tasty cuppa, and a pleasant conversation with a stranger at a place that effortlessly switches from Van Morrison to Einsturzende Neubauten, let me know.