Tag Archives: New York City

Smiling During The Times

23 Apr

Just so we’re all on the same page, I am calling this current period of our communal lives “The Times.” There were “The Before Times,” there will be “The After Times” but The After Times won’t be the same as The Before Times because of what we are living through right now. The Times. With me? Great.


I know that there is this idea that people in New York City don’t make eye contact, that we don’t smile at each other. But that is simply not true. That might partially be the story of those of us who, over the years, have tired of the throngs of tourists making the city so crowded that we cannot enjoy some of the amazing things it has to offer. Try walking, running, cycling or driving across the Brooklyn Bridge at any time that isn’t a pandemic and you’ll see what I mean. But more than that it is the story told by the many visitors to this city who have, over their lifetimes, been told countless stories about the coldness that will greet them when they visit here. The people who have not realized that New York City is one of the safest big cities in the country. Those who somehow don’t understand that there is a symbiotic relationship between a city and the people who live within it. People visit New York because the city is amazing. The city is amazing because the people who live here have made it so.

In The Before Times, I would walk around the city and make eye contact with people and then I would smile at them. Not a smile that would invite conversation, mind you. I didn’t have time for that because I was for sure running 5 minutes late for something. But a small smile that said,

Hey, I see you.

In a crowded place sometimes we struggle to be seen.

But now it is The Times. And during The Times people are wearing all manner of face coverings. Surgical masks, N95s, scarves, bandanas, homemade things, those creepy ones that I think maybe are gas masks – Eric says respirators – but either way they make people look like they are either underwater explorers or serial killers. I hate the masks. I hate all of them. I hate wearing them and I hate seeing them. Don’t get me wrong, I understand why they are needed and I wear one because it is the only option if you give a shit about anyone other than yourself, but I still don’t like them. They make it hard to breath, they make it look like we are at war (which I suppose we are) and, perhaps most troubling for me, they make it hard to smile at people.

Today, for example, Eric and I took Goose for a walk and got the things we need for the next few days at the store. Eric did the shopping and I stood outside on the sidewalk with Goose, mask firmly in place. For those of you who are making all the wrong choices and have never met Goose, here is her Instagram page. You’re welcome. Point being, Goose is very cute. People LOVE Goose. Usually, in The Before Times they would smile at her when they walked by and then I’d smile at them and then Goose would wag her tail and everyone would be happy. But now they walk by and I look at them and try to figure out if they are smiling and in the meantime I smile behind my mask and then maybe they are trying to figure out if I am smiling and maybe they also are smiling behind their mask and so there we are, blankly staring at each other, smiles completely obscured, not knowing what the fuck to do. We just make a lot of really intense and confused eye contact. So I wonder, Should we all just print out pictures of ourselves smiling in The Before Times, laminate them, wear them around our necks and then hold them up in front of ourselves at the time when we normally would be smiling? And maybe actually are smiling but no one can tell? Do we force everyone to watch America’s Next Top Model and spend their time standing in front of a mirror practicing their smize? Do we use the Defense Production Act to force companies to create see-through masks so that we can be safe out in public and also be able to communicate nonverbally? Do we walk by people and just say “I am smiling at you right now?” I don’t know. I am truly at a loss.

Yesterday, I went for a drive in my car. I was the only person in the car so I wasn’t wearing my mask. When I stopped at stop signs and people crossed in front of me, I would smile at them and they would know. And even though they were wearing masks, I believe they were smiling at me because they could see my smile and read my nonverbal message of

Hey! I see you!

Honestly, I felt so free just being able to interact with the world in a way I was accustomed. I was able to speak the language of facial expressions that involved more than my overly expressive eyebrows for which I currently am more grateful for than ever before. And it was weird because never in my life, in all the time I have spent thinking about the privilege I have, did it ever occur to me that smiling is a privilege. That smiling at someone, and being smiled at in return, is a gift to be treasured. I have caught myself a few times, while wearing the mask, not smiling when normally I would. I have caught myself wondering what the point is. But there is a point. Because there will be The After Times. And even though The After Times will be so different than The Before Times, at least we will be able to smile at one another on the street and in the store.  I am really looking forward to that. Because for all the things I feel sad about, I feel most sad when I smile at someone and they don’t know. I feel sad for the smiles I haven’t knowingly exchanged. The ones I haven’t received and returned in kind. Or the ones I just didn’t know I was given because I couldn’t read what was happening underneath the mask. I deeply feel the loss of those random moments of brightness. I miss strangers. But more than that, I miss their smiles. I can’t wait to see them again.


If you are enjoying my writing, and since a lot of the cafes are currently closed, consider buying me a coffee on ko-fi! It only costs $3 (or a multiple of 3 if you’re feeling frisky!) and would make my house-bound, under-socialized heart sing. To those of you who caffeinated me, I send you so much gratitude. And I send gratitude to all of you who took the time to read this piece and helped me hold some of these thoughts. 

Who Will We Be When this is All Over?

25 Mar

The other day during a press conference, New York Mayor Andrew Cuomo said, “if you want to go for a run, God bless you.” So, I went. I ran in the middle of the empty streets and, when cars turned up, I headed to the sidewalks and gave others a wide berth. I dashed back and forth from one side of the road to the other in an attempt to have the sidewalk to myself, to give the appropriate and responsible social distance. I felt a certain amount of guilt through the entire process, wondering whether the people in the occasional passing cars were looking at me thinking I was selfish, careless, putting others at risk. I got nervous when rounding corners, afraid of being face to face with another person, trepidatious in a way I haven’t been since walking home through the French Quarter of New Orleans late at night, my restaurant-issued suspenders dangling down my legs. There were a lot of robberies in the Quarter at the time, not so much of local workers as tourists, but still, you had to have your wits about you. I have felt safe in New York City for a very long time now, this dense city where I feel most comfortable around throngs of people. Now though, I feel safest alone, when keeping a reasonable distance from everyone else.

It’s strange, to walk along empty streets, surrounded only by shuttered businesses and empty-looking apartments. Stranger still to pull close to a building when another person approaches, giving them plenty of space to pass, making eye-contact in a sad, weary way. We all have a common enemy but we don’t know who among us carries that enemy inside, who among us leaves it behind on door knobs and grocery store shelves. We are fighting an invisible executioner, one who lies dormant in some while it ravages others. We are left asking these huge questions: who do we know that we will not see again? How will we let people know we love them? When will we be able to mourn those deaths? Will we ever be the same?

There is something about going through a collective trauma, it seems. A population, a place, is never quite the same after. New York City – no, the world – post September 11th was a wildly different place. New oversight, new expressions of racism, new fears, a new mayor who shuffled in businesses and legislative changes that altered the face of the city forever. New Orleans was vastly different post-Katrina. A city was drowned, and terrorized and those in charge largely looked the other way or celebrated the effects wrought by the changed population. So many people who had made their homes there, who had lived there for generations, fled and never returned – whether they hoped to or not. And many of those who did return came back to destroyed houses, changed neighborhoods, and a bureaucratic nightmare.

So I am left to wonder: what will become of us after we “flatten the curve,” after we make it through the heat of the summer months and assess the losses? The lost friends, family members, favorite businesses, people who left to ride it out elsewhere and decided against coming back? What replaces all of that? How do we move past this experience?

Trauma changes you, we all know that. It alters the fabric of your being. New York, despite what people say, is a friendly place. Blunt perhaps, but friendly. A smile and nod on the street is almost always returned in kind. Streets are neighborhoods, people working at local businesses are friends, sometimes even akin to family. We love hard and we love deeply because, when you’re surrounded by so many strangers day in and day out, finding a familiar face in the crowd feels like magic. The longer you live here, and the more people you meet, the more magic you experience. And let me tell you: it never gets old.

So again, who will we be? After months of staying home, crossing streets, taking precaution after precaution, fearing the enemy that might dwell within, and whether it will be your undoing, will we go back to normal? Will we crowd bars and restaurants, congregate in parks, walk close to strangers on the street and exchange a handshake, a high five or a hug with people we know? Or will this fear embed itself inside of us and turn the friendly, helpful, community-oriented New Yorkers that we know we are into the rude, avoidant New Yorkers people have always claimed us to be?

I don’t have any answers, of course. None of us know how long this will last, what sort of wreckage will remain when we emerge from the safety of our homes on the other side. But I really hope that, after this is all over, I don’t cross the street to avoid someone heading my way, that I proceed without fear to my local bar and grocery store, that I am not afraid to leave my home. I hope we learn from this, that we love harder, that we lean on one another and we proceed with our crowded, overwhelming, busy existence, staking out a place in the grass on a sunny day to enjoy a moment of solitude in the company of thousands of people we haven’t yet met.

If you are enjoying my writing, and since a lot of the cafes are currently closed, consider buying me a coffee on ko-fi! It only costs $3 (or a multiple of 3 if you’re feeling frisky!) and would make my house-bound, under-socialized heart sing.

New Orleans Diary: Week 12

21 Feb

Goal: I have totally fallen off the goal. The idea was to write weekly, which I have largely been doing save for the week of SCROTUS’ inauguration when I decided to take the week off. Then I decided to move my posts to Monday because I work on Friday so it made it hard. But now here it is Tuesday. But whatever it’s cool. At least I am writing it at some point, right? Right.

Haircuts: So as it turns out, getting my hair cut is just as dangerous here as it is in New York. People always want to hack my fucking hair off. Every time. I tell them I want a trim and VOILA all of a sudden I have gotten a foot cut off my hair. This is how it happens.

Stylist: Wow, you have such beautiful long hair!
Me: Thanks. I just need a trim though I think the ends are dead.
Stylist: Yeah, probably like the bottom three inches need to go. But wow, it is so long and healthy!
Me: Thanks. So yeah, just if you could maybe cut like 4-5 inches off? I still want long hair. I like my hair long.
Stylist: Of course. So let me see. So you want it like, here? (Demonstrates exactly what I asked for.)
Me: Yeah that would be perfect.
Stylist: Okay great. So to be clear: you want it long enough that it covers your bust, is that right?
Me: Yeah, that’s as short as I would go. But maybe I’d like it even a few inches longer than that.
Stylist: Okay great

HACK HACK HACK HACK HACK

Stylist: So, what do you think? It’s just how you wanted it!
Me: Um…it’s like 3 inches below my shoulders.
Stylist: Doesn’t it look great?
Me: It’s not long.
Stylist: Well, I curled it so it looks a little shorter than it actually is. Once you wash it and the curl comes out it will be exactly where you want it to be!
Me: (Stretches a lock of hair as straight as it can go. It is about 3/4 an inch longer without the curl.) Yeah, it’s short. Thanks a lot.

And this is what always confuses me. This certain stylist that I have come into contact with multiple times always goes on and on and one about how long and beautiful and thick my hair is and how great it is that I can grow my hair and it can still be so thick and healthy and then HACK they cut it all off. Like, why? Why did you say that it was so beautiful if you were going to then kill it with your scissors? Why waste your breath? Why not be like

Listen, bitch, I know better than you because I am a hair cutter and you are a lowly hair grower so imma cut this shit all off.

And then I would at least have the opportunity to run. Don’t stand there and talk all about your love life and your hair stylist experience and subsequently do exactly the thing I asked you not to do like 15 million times. Imagine if I did something like this at work.

Me: What can I get for you?
Customer: A gin and tonic please.
Me: Any specific kind of gin?
Customer: Just the well is fine.
Me: Great! So just to be clear, you want our well gin here right in front of me and then some tonic water from the soda gun?
Customer: That’s right. Yes.

MIX MIX SHAKE STIR MIX ADD MIX

Me: Here it is! Just what you wanted! A Ramos Gin Fizz with Hendricks! That will be $15 please.

That would never happen first of all because it would be rude and presumptive of me to make a drink someone expressly didn’t want because I thought I knew better and secondly because Ramos Gin Fizz’s are super annoying to make and whenever anyone orders one from me I always sneaky pass it along to one of my coworkers and make them do it. But you get the point. My hair is short and it looks sporty and stupid and I hate it. So if you need me sometime over the next 6-12 months, leave me a message. I will be busy trying to grow my hair back.

The world is so small!: I have been working at this one restaurant in New Orleans for all of a month. That is not very long. But in the month that I have been there I have seen 5 different people that I knew from New York! Granted two of them were in couples so it was only 3 instances of seeing people but still! That’s crazy! Yesterday I saw my friend Jason and his wife Colleen. I was so surprised to see them because I was just popping in for my check but there they were sitting at the bar having drinks I snacks.  I think maybe I was weird because I was so surprised. Sorry, Jason! Sorry Colleen!

It’s just that it really catches you off guard when you are wearing a silly uniform behind a bar in a city where you don’t know very many people and all of a sudden someone you knew from what feels like a different life walks in and you’re all like

Woah.

Super trippy. Because there are a lot of bars and restaurants in New Orleans. A LOT. But people keep walking into mine. And now one actually knows where I work so it’s just super extra weird but also awesome. Is this a sign that I should go back to New York? Maybe? Maybe New York is like

Hey! Hey! Remember me? You lived here for your entire adult life? I am going to just send a few people that you like down there to just randomly walk into your place of employment so you can remember just how much you like it here, kay? Kay.

Well played NYC. You so sneaky.

Men: UGH. (I actually almost feel as though I could just finish the section right there but I will elaborate.) Yesterday was one of those days where maybe I should have just not left the house. Okay okay, that’s not entirely true. Last Wednesday was a day when I should have just not left the house. That was The Day of the Horrible Haircut, The Day that I Lost One of My Favorite Earrings and also The Day my WhatsApp Got Hacked and I Had a Panic Attack. All in all last Wednesday was not my best day. Yesterday was fine until I had to walk to work to pick up my check because something totally weird happened with it and it didn’t get direct deposited. I am not going to go into all that but suffice it to say it was annoying and confusing and I am pretty sure that I am being harassed by an ill-intentioned spirit or internet person. ANYWAY, moving along. Yesterday my walk to work was going just fine until I passed by this dude on a bike and he looks at me and goes

Let me get a taste. Excuse me, I said let me get a taste of you.

Like as if I hadn’t heard him the first time. As if I hadn’t intentionally ignored him (while resisting the urge to vomit). Nope, he assumed I just hadn’t heard him and that if he said it again a little louder and included the oh-so-polite “excuse me” as a precursor I would be like

SURE THING! Let me just drop my pants right now. Get your tongue ready, boy! This shit tastes gooooooood.

Ew gross I can’t believe I even just typed that. Excuse me while I shower.

Fifteen minutes later…

I’m back now. In real life I didn’t actually say that gross thing I just typed up there that I will not type again or even reread. No siree. Instead I chose the more tactful route and yelled

The fuck is wrong with you, you disgusting piece of shit. Get the fuck outta here. Get a taste? I’ll give you a fucking taste of something you piece of garbage. How about this? I hope your fucking dick falls off. How does that taste?

I looked around to see if anyone had witnessed the interaction but no one seemed to notice one way or the other. Of course there were some people walking around in storm trooper outfits on the other end of the block so maybe they were distracted? Anyway I kept walking. And the very next dude I saw, the very next goddamn one, was wearing a shirt that said “Bitch Give Me Head” and he was holding some stupid goldfish tank full of liquor and walking down the street with a lady. A LADY! I’ll tell you what, if I met to hang out with some dude, friend or otherwise, and he was wearing a shirt that said “Bitch Give Me Head” I would throw paint on him and kick him in the nuts. Or maybe I would kick him in the nuts first and then throw the paint because I wouldn’t want to get paint on my clothes. I am not about to ruin my outfit because some asshole thinks he’s funny. And truth be told since I don’t normally walk around with paint I would have to come up with some other solution. Maybe I would take his goldfish bowl of booze and pour it over his stupid head and then make him wear one of those ridiculous novelty shirts that says “I POOPED” on it for the rest of his time in New Orleans. Bitch give me head. Please. I also hope his dick falls off.

Conclusion: I don’t know, I think that’s about it for now. I wish I had more New Orleans specific things to report on but I had to miss the Krewe of Barkus because that entitled coworker I bitched about last week was a no call/no show and got himself fired so we all had to pick up the slack. I had to pick up the part of the slack that conflicted with seeing a bunch of dogs wearing costumes. But! This week should be fun. Muses is happening on Thursday and my friend Tiffini is coming to visit and is staying with me. Also, Victoria is here not staying with me and so is Austin and his family! Fun times ahead. Stay tuned!

New Orleans Diary: Week Six

6 Jan

Goal: You know the deal. Write a weekly post that hopefully has some meaningful content only to realize week week that I am only writing about my mostly meaningless observations. Catch up on the earlier diaries here if you are so inclined! Week One, Week Two, Week Three, Week Four, Week Five.

Saga of the Lost Pants: If you remember from last week, I lost my pants. Well, 2/3 of my pants, anyway. I came to the rock solid conclusion that the bug that had previously been tormenting me had likely made away with them but that theory had yet to be proven. The other theory was that I had in fact left my pants in Houston, Texas over Christmas when I was there seeing my friend Carrie and my Texas Family. In order to either prove, or disprove, this second more reasonable theory, Carrie offered to text her mom to see if I  had left my pants at her house. She checked and, alas! I had not! Clearly my initial response was

I knew it! The bug took them!

But then I looked in my closet and realized that they were folded up on a shelf in there underneath some curtains and a scarf. Perhaps, you might be saying to yourself, I should have investigated the closet before making Carrie’s mom search through her house and also before accusing an innocent insect of theft. And you might be right.

In other news I am wearing my pants right now.

Hipster Bikes: So this is not just a New Orleans post because I also saw these same bikes in New York only far less often. They are those stupid high off the ground bikes. Those really tall ones. You know the ones:

hipsterest-bike

Anyway I see these bikes a lot and it’s like, why?! Why would you ride that stupid thing? First of all, you look like an asshole. Second of all, how do you get on and off? Third of all, it is really far down to the ground when you inevitably fall. And fourth, see the first point. They are just so….annoyingly, laughingly hipster. I just sometimes want to tell people that something ceases to be unique and cool and interesting when all your friends are also doing it but I guess that is a waste of breath. So instead I will just continue to do what I have been doing up until this point: shaking my head with complete and utter disdain.

Food Handler’s License: I am now the proud owner of a New York State Food Handler’s License as well as a Louisiana Alcohol Vendor Permit. (Hold the applause.) Obtaining my vendor’s permit here was, shall we say, eye opening. I know a lot of you readers are from New York and also probably had to go through all the stupid steps to get your food handler’s license. But for those of you who haven’t, here is a brief overview.

You have two choices, you can either take the class in-person or take it online. To take it in-person costs $114 and requires you to attend 15 hours of classes. Online is free. Either way you have to travel all the way up to a filthy building on 125th Street or something in order to take the test itself. Here’s the thing about taking the classes online, at least when I did it. There were a bunch of different sections and each section had a whole lot of information and at the end of the section there was a quiz. You couldn’t go on to the next section unless you successfully passed the quiz by answering all 5 (if I remember correctly) questions right. You also couldn’t go on to the next section if you hadn’t been working on the previous section for something like 2 hours. So if you answered something wrong on the quiz? You had to have the browser open for another 2 hours and then take the quiz again. And if you answered all the question right but hadn’t had the browser open the full 2 hours? Well then you waited. It was one of the most boring, most tedious, most unnecessary processes ever.

In New Orleans, it is totally different. I signed up for my class on Wednesday morning and was sitting in the upstairs area of Saints and Sinners at 3pm. The class costs $25. It takes 2 hours. And then you take the test which is comprised of 20 multiple choice questions, the answers for which have literally been fed to you in the moments preceding. I walked out of the class at 5:15 with my temporary permit, a permit that is valid for the next 4 years. Easy peasy.

So, in summation: New York makes everything so much more time consuming and annoying than is necessary. Also, the Office of Health and Human Services where I had to take the exam was so incredibly disgusting and was infested with cockroaches. And the guy taking the test next to me kept picking his nose and eating what he found. I know that isn’t New York’s fault (the nose picking) but still it was rather unpleasant. New Orleans, on the other hand, was a breeze. I didn’t see any bugs (Hallelujah!) and no one picked anything out of any of the orifices in their body.

Rain: It rains a lot here. It is raining right now, in fact. And it has also rained a lot of the other days since I have been here. But at least it is not snowing. I think this week I will buy one of those nifty bright yellow raincoats that I was embarrassed to wear when I was a kid but now want really badly. Also some galoshes.

Conclusion: So that is it. Week Six is in the books. I have a feeling there will be BIG news next week and hopefully that will not involve my car flooding which is a real concern, a concern that keeps me up at night.

Swastikas at The New School

13 Nov

How much do you guys know about The New School University, formerly The New School for Social Research? I know a few of my readers (oh hey, GPIA!) know this little tidbit but for the rest of you, I just want to fill you in on a little history. It’ll tie in. I swear. The New School was founded in 1919 by a bunch of progressive educators unhappy with the direction academia was going in the United States. In 1933, it was set up as a University in Exile; a graduate division that was set up as an academic haven for scholars who had been fired from jobs in fascist Italy or were fleeing from Nazi Germany. The University in Exile had later incarnations and some of the notable scholars associated with it include Hanna Arendt, Erich Fromm and Max Wertheimer among others.

So let me just, real quick again, say something which is actually probably more for me than for any of my readers because this shit has been violently banging against my head all night. The New School for Social Research, my alma mater, with the motto “To the Living Spirit,” acted as a University in Exile during one of the darkest times in this world’s history for academics fleeing certain death. For academics fired by Stalin and fleeing Hitler. And last night someone drew a series of swastikas in one of the dorms. There were four large swastikas scrawled on four separate dorm room doors. Each of the rooms housed at least one Jewish student.

Open anti-semitism in New York fucking City at a school that has acted as a safe haven for scholars fleeing totalitarian and fascist governments at home.

And so I guess I have to say this because, I don’t know, I feel confused that some people maybe are missing the point.

This election is different.

This isn’t that someone won that we didn’t like. I mean, listen, I will be the first to say I would have been massively disappointed if Jeb Bush or John Kasich won. And I would have cried if it had been Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz, but especially the latter. But this is not just about someone who isn’t “our gal” winning. This is that the forces of hatred have been awoken and they have been thrust into the middle of our cities and our towns. The hate is coming from the darkest depths of the internet and appearing on the dorm room doors of young, Jewish students at a progressive university in a progressive city. The hate is coming from our peers. It is everywhere, all around us, and it is fucking scary.

So for those people who keep telling everyone to stop protesting? I mean, sure, you are welcome to your own opinion and of course and I respect that. But I think you should read this article by Teju Cole. It was in the New York Times Magazine this past weekend and it is everything. It basically lays out, in words so beautiful I could never manage to formulate them on my own, let alone get them to flow from my brain and onto a piece of paper, how easy it is to normalize and excuse what is going on all around us. It says what so many of us have been trying to say. It says that this election is different. And so again, while I respect your beliefs that the protests are getting in the way and setting us back I have to disagree with you, and strongly. This is a democracy in action. And it has to happen this way, it has to continue. For most people it isn’t about contesting the election, it isn’t about being sore losers and not accepting a result or anything like that. It is about communicating that we simply cannot stand by and watch as our government, our country, our goddamn home is coopted by hate and fear. We simply cannot let this stand. We must refuse. Because the alternative is simply too hard to imagine. When we stop fighting, when we stop protesting, when we stop organizing and writing and talking that is the moment when we let the fear and the hatred take hold of us, that is the moment that we throw our hands up and say, “well, the people have spoken.”

No.

So I don’t know about you but I am not about to let that happen. I have spent a lifetime being active in my social circles and in my small space on the internet but more or less complacent the rest of the time. But enough is enough. If we needed this to awaken us all, then we needed it. But we sure as hell better take this as an opportunity to fight for change and for equality and for the end of hatred and abuse, otherwise we are no better than the rest of them. So, yeah, protest. Keep protesting. Protest for the next four years, no matter what form that protest takes. I am finding mine.

Swastikas at the fucking New School. This shit has got to stop.

New York, Have You Become Respectful?

12 Oct

There was a time, not that long ago, when I would get harassed on the streets on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times a day. I got hissed at, winked at, snapped at, clapped at; I had people tell me I was beautiful, demand that I smile, whisper in my ear, ask me out to dinner or to marry them; I had men follow me down streets and try to come with me on my run; I got touched and I got grabbed; one man tried to push his way into my apartment. In all the hundreds of times that this happened, I never once felt flattered or happy, I never once left the interaction feeling more attractive. Sometimes when I complained about it, people – men, to be more specific – would tell me I should take it as a compliment, that when it stopped happening I would miss it. I assured them that I would not.

Over the past few years I have noticed that the amount that I get harassed has been slowly creeping downward. It hasn’t stopped entirely but it is way less common than it used to be. Maybe the city has changed or maybe I have become less attractive or desirable now that I am safely into my thirties. Maybe it’s some combination of the two. The reality of the situation is that I don’t give a shit what it is that is causing this significant downturn. All I can tell you is that I fucking love it. Let me tell you a quick story.

This morning I went to a spin class with my friend CJ. Afterwards, red faced and sweaty, I headed out into the bustle of Downtown Brooklyn to run a few errands. I was wearing the modern-day workout uniform of 3/4 length stretchy pants and a tank top, with a small sweatshirt and a vest thrown over to keep me warm. And you know what? No one gave a shit. No one asked me where I was going or if they could come with me. No one honked at me or yelled at me from the window of their car. No one whispered a hushed “god bless” into my ear as I hustled through my tasks. And it wasn’t until all my  errands were completed and I hopped on the train that I realized it. And do you know what? I smiled. I fucking smiled.

I smiled and I realized to myself that there was never a moment, there has never been a moment, where the downtick in harassment has somehow made me feel bad about myself. I don’t need that to feel attractive or worthwhile. Being harassed wasn’t something that added value to me or my day, it detracted from it. It made me feel cheap and dehumanized and as if because I am a woman I only matter in how I look, and how my looks make other people (read: men) feel. And do you know what else made me feel cheap and dehumanized? Having people tell me I would miss it when it went away. Because that meant that they believed that somewhere in me, somewhere I wasn’t willing to acknowledge existed, I was somehow flattered by the passing lewd comments. And even as I told them I wouldn’t miss it, there were times when I worried that maybe the norm of the hyper-sexualization of women had snuck in there a little and that maybe I did thrive off it, just a little bit. That even though I hated it, it still made me feel desirable. But do you want to know something? I feel more desirable, more empowered, more human and complex and amazing in the absence of it. Because it took a lot of work to build myself back up after being verbally objectified day after day. And now that I don’t have to put that work in as often, now that I don’t have to be defensive and angry and sometimes have outbursts at a passing car or man in the middle of a busy avenue at 3 in the afternoon, I start every single day a little bit ahead. And I have more mental energy to put into the things that matter to me. Like this blog, and my friends, and trying to figure out what the fuck is happening in our country right now.

So, thank you New York City for either getting more respectful or simply not wanting to fuck me. Keep it up – it’s been amazing.

Ramajestic, The Trilogy

18 Sep

Disclaimer: This is sort of a long story with three separate parts. Chapters, if you will. But they all culminate in the awkward events of the other afternoon so stay tuned. There is a prize for your patience at the end.

Chapter 1 – Look at this Steak

It was a beautiful spring day and I was, as I often times am, at work serving food and drinks to people who are usually pretty nice. The place I work during the week is pretty big, with a long bar, lots of tables and some outside seating. During lunch time, when I am alone, I provide bar and table service to the indoor tables but tell the outdoor people they need to order in at the bar. It is just too much ground to cover and if I get busy AT ALL I physically cannot get to everyone. Usually people are pretty chill about it but sometimes, some very annoying times, people get pissed about it and give me all kinds of attitude and then move inside because they cannot understand why I won’t walk outside and provide table service, but at the same time they can’t get their heads around the idea of walking into the bar and placing their order and then returning to their tables where their food will be delivered. If you saw my bar you would see that the route from the bar to the outside tables is way farther than from the outside tables to the bar because I have to walk all the way around the extremely long bar where as they just have to approach the closest point. It’s like 15 steps once versus a 150 steps 25 times. I digress.

This group was one of those groups who got irritated that I wouldn’t do table service and so came in and proceeded to sit tucked away in the most inaccessible corner in the entire bar. Whatever. They then took about 25 minutes to order during which time I kept approaching their table to ask them if they were ready. They never were. I politely told them that when they were ready with their order to just let me know and I would be right over. Two minutes later I heard the extremely impatient

Excuse me MISS

as if I hadn’t been over there like a gazillion times already. Whatever again. I went and took their order, part of which was a portion of steak nachos. The gentleman at the table, named Ramajestic, no really that is his name, handed me his card to pay the bill. When I came back over to hand him his check and see how the food was he spit his steak into his napkin, shoved it towards me and said,

My steak is chewy.

I mean, what do you even do with that? He didn’t want a new order of steak nachos. He just wanted me to see his somewhat masticated beef. I just stared  at him, his ABC steak in a napkin in his outstretched hand, and decided I would just leave them to their own devices. They already paid (and didn’t tip, mind you) and I had reached my quota of chewed up food for the quarter so I decided I would just do a pass by to grab dirty dishes but otherwise just sort of go about my day and focus on the people who weren’t participating in some gross version of show-and-tell. But no. They weren’t done. They wanted more drinks. And so they ordered a round and Ramajestic, for his part, got a Long Island Ice Tea. Oh, happy day! He then, upon taking a sip, decided to tell me about all 4 ingredients that go into a Long Island — never mind that there are 5 liquors in the drink alone not to mention the mixer and also ignoring the fact that at my other job I make no less than 15 Long Islands every single Friday and Saturday so I am pretty sure I know what I am doing. And he was rude about it, also. Thought he was some sort of Long Island Ice Tea connoisseur, the saddest most pathetic sort of connoisseur out there. He paid again. Didn’t tip. I just gave up on them as a group. Eventually they, who I now refer to as The Ramajestics, left. Never to be seen again. Or so I thought….

Dun dun DUUUUUUUUUUN.

Chapter 2 – Are you that Bitch Behind the Bar?!

Fast forward about a month. It was a Thursday, I was working, nothing was really happening except that I was having one of the weirdest shifts on record. It was 4 o’clock in the afternoon and the following two things had already happened:

  1. A woman had come in with a cardboard box, put the box on the bar and ordered a shot of Maker’s Mark which she drank with a very audible, put-upon sounding sigh. She kept looking meaningfully at the box. She left me no choice, I had to inquire.
    Apparently, there was a mouse in the box that she had to take home  and feed to her boyfriend’s snake even though her boyfriend was going to be home at like 7pm that night and I am pretty sure snakes can go like weeks without eating. (I learned that on the Discovery Channel.) And it was a live mouse, mind you. Not one of those frozen ones. It was a live mouse in a box on a bar where people were, at that very moment, eating their lunch. I gave her, and the box, some room.
  2. I had to call 911 because some woman had passed out from heat stroke on the bench outside the bar caddy-corner to mine and her friends, who were walking around in circles purposefully, were doing nothing to help her. I am pretty certain they were on drugs.

So you can forgive me if during all of this I didn’t notice that there were people sitting at the tables outside. Maybe you can but the people couldn’t. I guess at some point while I was worriedly watching an unconscious woman being loaded onto a stretcher they had sat outside and expected prompt service. My bad. They walked inside.

Oh hey, guys. What can I do for you?

I noticed it was none other than 3 members of The Ramajestics. The Man himself was not present. One of the other ones responded

We’re outside waiting for you to serve us.

 

Sigh. I told her that I didn’t see her and if in the future she could just do me a favor and let me know that she is outside it would be helpful. She got mad. There was yelling. One of my customers got involved and made it so much worse (pro tip: never get involved you always only make it worse) so I went downstairs and hid. I could hear her yelling from down there. They left. I came back upstairs and checked with some other, trusted customers who didn’t get involved whether I was crazy or whether she was super rude and they said, no, she was super rude. Phew. I look mad sometimes when I’m not so I worry that maybe my blank and somewhat pissed-off seeming facial expression escalates things. Even still I felt weird about things. I don’t really like conflict. About 15 minutes later in walked this really annoying guy who lives (I use that word loosely) in the neighborhood. Apparently he is this woman’s “uncle.” (He used air quotes so I have no idea what the fuck he meant. Was he her “uncle” because he knew her since she was small and it became a term of endearment or was it something far more nefarious?) Anyway he proceeded to tell me how to do my job. I told him where he could shove his advice. He left. The phone rang

Hello, name of bar.

Are you that fucking bitch behind the bar?

I hung up. It rang again.

Name of bar.

Listen bitch!

I unplugged the phone, but not before I looked at the caller ID. Ramajestic.

Chapter 3 – Team Ramajestic

It was this past Thursday afternoon. I was by myself and therefore there was no outside table service. In walked an older woman, a younger woman and a child. They asked if they could sit outside and I told them that yes, they could, but they would have to order from me at the bar. They said okay and then took the farthest away inside table. Okie dokie! I went over and took their order. They were nice! About 5 minutes later a man and his elderly mother arrived outside the bar and took their seats at an outside table. I was en route to tell them the same thing I had told the others – that there was no outside service and they would have to order in at the bar – when I realized that the mother was in a wheelchair. Listen, I’m a stickler but I like to think I’m a stickler with a heart. I took their order hoping that the people sitting inside, the people whom I had just told their was no outdoor service, noticed the wheelchair and understood why I made the exception. Maybe they noticed, maybe they didn’t, but they didn’t seem to mind either way. At that moment they were joined by a 4th person and I realized – gasp! – it was one of The Ramajestics! And she had been present for both the steak incident and the mouse day yelling incident! Damnit. Minutes passed. She gave me basically every single version of stink eye she could muster. Another table arrived outside. Once again, wheelchair.

Okay so let me just say as an aside that I have never had a customer in a wheelchair in the 2 years that I have worked there. And I never would have even taken note of that if it weren’t for the fact that my only two wheelchair customers ever arrived, and sat outside, on a day when the very people who I warred with about outside seating were sitting in my bar. And then, right when I was standing on the sidewalk taking an order at a table outside in walked Ramajestic and the girl who yelled at me who I think maybe is his girlfriend. It was like the universe was like

Hey, Rebekah, fuck you. You suck. I am… TEAM RAMAJESTIC.

I couldn’t have scripted it better. Also I’m fairly certain that one of The Ramjestics video-ed me taking the outside order on her cellphone. I fully expect it to end up on Yelp.

The End.

Or is it…..