This week my boss asked me to perform a social experiment on the streets of Washington DC.
I stood on the corner of K and 19th and asked passerby if they would be interested in free coffee.
The verdict? Most people in Washington are clearly late for a funeral. They are grumpy, rude, anxious and miserable, but also clearly in a hurry. Their heads are down, buds in their ears, everyone is wearing a suit or an ankle-length skirt, nobody looks happy to be here.
People’s reaction to someone trying to talk to them on the street says a lot about our society. We have been clearly conditioned not only to expect solicitations of sex, drugs, or scam offers from sneaky Jews, but also to anticipate a certain amount of aggression from these erstwhile attackers. It is dangerous to make eye contact with someone else on the sidewalk; people tried very hard not to notice me, but when it became obvious that I didn’t have a gun and that we were both aware of each other to the point that they couldn’t walk past without being obviously rude, they finally looked at me and reacted appropriately.
Polite people smiled, took a coffee card, or said no thank you. Impolite people continued to ignore me, say nothing, or worst of all, snatched the card away without saying “thank you”, like I was a monkey statue.
Often people asked me if there was a “catch”; were we hawking limited drinks? Did they have to come in right away? Was it a buy-one-get-one-free deal?
Why would someone be offering free coffee? Is it because their coffee is bad? Or are all the people at Introspect Tea and Coffee perverts? There must be a sad or ominous reason why they are giving away something they should be charging money for. Only crazy, twisted assholes make poor use of the capitalist marketplace.
I don’t know if this is opening a can of worms, but the two demographics who were consistently pleasant to me and thankful for the free coffee card were: old black men and attractive young women (of any race). What does that mean? Does this mean I should keep my beard?
My boss was surprised that I was so successful at handing out the coupons. Apparently other co-workers had been timid or uncomfortable with such a job.
I had no problem with getting out of the tiny kitchen. Out of the bosses shadow and out among “the people” was a fine place to be. And I have no problem with people treating me like shit; it’s just what people do. Not me specifically, that is; people don’t treat me like shit because I’m special, they treat everyone like shit because nobody is special enough to be treated like not-shit.
Which is not to say I’m okay with people ignoring me or being rude. I’m a judger and a hater. But you can’t change random pedestrians, even if you have a coupon. It’s not my responsibility to reform people. We should all lead by example, not by aphoristic instruction (which, hypocritically, is exactly what I am doing right now with this blog post).
What am I trying to say exactly? I guess I am left with a question:
What the fuck is wrong with people in Washington DC?
Why do they ignore me on the street? At the bars? On the metro? On tinder? Why do people look both constipated and self-righteous when patrolling downtown?
Sometimes I feel like (Northwest) Washington DC was composed from taking the douchiest young professionals of New York and transplanting them 400 miles south.
Another way of saying this is like Washington DC is like New York but without the artists, singers, gays, and vibrant minority groups. Maybe that’s not fair: DC has its fair share of Ethiopians and El Salvadorians, which seems random. I actually don’t know anything about DC demographics, except that the city is still very segregated and votes Democratic.
It’s really the artist thing that gets to me. I feel the DC community is mostly lacking in any kind of legit arts scene or collection of fun freaks who do shit(besides hard drugs, there’s plenty of that here). Maybe I just know the wrong people.
Maybe it’s not DC at all. Maybe it’s me. Or maybe it’s everyone, everywhere. It could be worse. I’ve been to Biloxi, Mississippi. I’d much rather be here.
Are the people of DC actually this miserable, or are they just pretending?
Is DC the greatest art scene of all? Theater of the unpleasant on a grand city-scale stage? Are people secretly nice but just pretending to be yuppie garbage because that’s what they think the audience paid for?
To be continued. For now, enjoy my latest work, “Cow’s heart: with aorta” by Dakota McKee: