It’s a Sunday, and all of the Sarah Lawrence kids are camped out on the MacBook Airs their parents got them (literally, there are five laptops in the coffee shop, and all of them are Macs). There is not a single seat available in the place.
Then these two girls come in. One wearing old army fatigues with East German patches (cause, you know, Democracy is dead and all that shit), the other looking like an extra from Saved By the Bell – bright red glasses, over-sized bow in her hair, old canvas backpack that was all the rage in the millennium that was (you know, the kind with the draw strings that never stay closed and the flap that rests lazily over the top).
They order coffee; a quiche for one, a muffin for the other. They are preparing to hunker down. But there are still no seats available.
Two things quickly become apparent: One, that they don’t know how to react to this, the smallest morsel of adversity, and two, they want someone to pay attention to this, their overwhelming plight, to solve this impossible problem for them.
That’s why they start at one end of the counter, awkwardly work their way to the far end, and then back again, testing out each crevice of space, finding it unsuitable, then moving on. I smile, then laugh, as they awkwardly avoid the problem and instead search for a ham-handed solution, like setting their little plates precariously on the corner of the coffee bar, obstructing the natural feng shui of the place and just generally getting in everyone's way. Doesn’t work. They try the other end of the counter – again, not enough room. They take to eying people longer than needed, hoping to draw attention to their plight – to no avail. They become visibly more agitated as they struggle to make sense of the situation.
They are unable to cope with the problem at hand, but also put in little effort to solve it. They continue to pace up and down the length of the coffee house, waiting for a seat to open up. None do. This goes on for a solid five or six minutes.
Now, let me digress for a moment – I have no problem giving up a seat for someone – I do it all the time. On this occasion I’m not in the mood to get up – I’ve got a good rhythm to my own work, and don’t feel like stopping just so they can have a place to sit and waste time on their iPhones. For another, I was so taken in by the hilarity of their inability to cope with the most basic amount of adversity that I felt it would be unfruitful to solve all of their problems for them. Most importantly though, I know what they’re doing - it was that obvious - and I refused to play into it. See, I know this lure – it’s classic Sarah Lawrence - trick someone into paying attention to you, and then feign discomfort/disinterest when they do.
After a few minutes, I put my theory to the test. I stop my work, close my laptop (a five –year old Dell with a newly refurbished hard drive), smile and askm “Would you ladies like to have a seat?” I motion toward the open seat at my table in an attempt to seem more accepting. There is plenty of space at the table for all of them - Jesse Spano, her East German friend, and her quiche. More importantly, it seems to solve this problem that they were so blatantly impotent to solve on their own. Win – win, right?
Instead, my suspicions are confirmed. Jesse Spano gives me a nasty look – as if to shirk the obvious pass I just made at her – and says something that I can’t hear because I didn’t really care enough to take my headphones out. She then finds a metal folding chair, sets it in the most awkward part of the shop – right next to the swinging door leading behind the counter (and right in front of my table). She then proceeds to sit there, awkwardly trying to fork that quiche balanced precariously on her leg. Her friend stands next to her, slowly shoveling her muffin into her mouth, piece by dainty little piece.
Every two or three minutes, their conversation goes silent and Jesse Spano looks over at me with a mysterious, quizzical look on her face. Of course I look up at her - stare at someone long enough and they will sense it and return the favor – and as we exchange glances her look changes to scorn because I’m the one eyeballing her!
To drive the point home, Jesse Spano looks at her Army buddy and asks if she’s comfortable.
What she said, loud enough for all to hear, was a snarky, “No, it’s great, I love eating over a trash can.”
Of course I could hear what she was really saying:
WOE IS ME WHO CAN FIND NO COMFORT IN THIS WORLD, SAVE THAT MISERABLE, LECHEROUS MAN WHO SHOWED ME AN OVER-ABUNDANCE OF ATTENTION AND WHO OBVIOUSLY HAS INTEREST ONLY IN MY BODY AND NOT MY BEAUTIFUL MIND…
Finally, an elderly couple stands up to leave and these two helpless fawns snatch their seats before the couple even had the chance to put their jackets on. As soon as they’ve landed, Jesse Spano opens that canvas backpack that is older than her and produces... a MacBook Air!
I laugh, thinking that this is where the charade has reached it's natural conclusion.
But a few minutes later, a woman comes into the coffee shop. She sees a friend sitting at a table up front, says hello, and decides she wants to join said friend. But alas - No chair! The same ghastly problem as before! How would this normal, world-hardened woman confront the same situation? Would she shirk confrontation and cower in the corner, unable to cope with the slightest morsel of adversity from the evil, evil world?Would she abandon her friend to suffer the horrors of the coffee shop alone?
She casually walks back to where I am sitting, asks if she can use the spare chair at my table. I smile and in my nicest voice, say, “Yeah, sure.” My smile broadens into a large grin.
Jesse Spano turns around from her perch to leer at me, the cause of all her first world problems.
The solution was just that simple…