Weekend Dramatis Personae

My co-worker at “Introspect Tea and Coffee” studied psychology at UDC and he explains to me that well-adjusted people do not get angry, especially at other people. They worry about themselves and they realize that when other people attempt to cause drama, such as honking their horn at you or shouting fire in a crowded theater, it’s not about you, so why get upset? Why worry about other people’s problems at all? Worry about yourself. Do what you can to become a better person.

So when the Coffee KGB (my boss) glower at me from three inches away, just relax and go with the flow. It’s not you, it’s him. Coffee KGB used to waterboard people at “the embassy” so the post-Cold War transition to coffee entrepreneur has probably been difficult for him.


But mostly, this way of looking at things is just no fun.

So I’m going to discuss some of the characters who I ran into this week and kept me up at night all week.

Coffee Customer Number One


Yuppie man comes into the store and complains about what he believes is a “service tax” on 12 oz of coffee beans, and that he will not pay more than $18 for the package ($19.50 with the tax).

He claims that since no “service” was done for him, that he does not need to pay for the tax. Can it be inferred from this that he works at the CATO institute or thereabouts? I feel like his agenda is ideological.

Mr. K-Street is wrong for a number of reasons. First of all, WE, the employees of “Introspect”, did not do a service for him, but someone roasted those beans.

Also, if he wanted a service, he just had to ask. We have a back kitchen, we have a bathroom. Would I have done anything for him? No. But I can’t speak for my co-worker. And Mr. K-Street doesn’t know until he asks. Sometimes you need to take chances.

Instead he took a chance on our generosity. And he won. My co-worker gave him the beans. Unfortunately our coffee shop needs the money. Mr. K-Street threatened to go to Starbucks.

But my psychology friend does point out “this man is the kind of person who likes to talk a little obnoxious and relishes in confrontational interactions.”

If he ever comes back into “Introspect” it will be difficult not to smack him. Get thee to a Starbucks asshole.

Coffee Customer Number Two is even worse! A pint-sized coffee snob, Mrs. K-Street, orders a club sandwich. After toasting the ciabatta, I discover that Coffee KGB, has forgotten to restock the meats from the morning, as he is wont to do. I take out a meager half-slice of turkey and put it onto the lettuce and mayonnaise.

“This is all we have right now,” I explain to the woman. “Would you like me to go back and slice some more turkey for you? It will take a couple of minutes. If not-”

But I don’t get that far, because she immediately demands we void her order and that she is late for a meeting and has no time for lazy, poor customer service and then

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twenty minutes later she is still standing there waiting for us to void her order, because although she was late for her meeting she had plenty of time to harass and berate us, asking us how long we’d been working there, or if we’d ever had a job before, or if we thought our treatment of her was acceptable, etc. We had to call Coffee KGB to give us the security code to void the transaction.

A funny thing I realized: if I had said nothing, given her a crappy sandwich, she’d never have known until it was too late and she was at her meeting and we wouldn’t have had to deal with any shenanigans.

But no. Ms. K-Street also wins. She gets her money back, I am enraged and my hands are tense which means I’m now going to be clumsy on the espresso machine.

Rich. Entitled. Nasty.

These are the qualities which make for excellent literary characters, either as anti-heroes whose reformation we will follow closely, or villains whose nastiness will plague poor baristas, or figures of fun who are unaware of their unintentional folly.

So Mr. and Ms. K-Street, I thank you for appearing, however briefly, in my life. You have moved me. You have changed me. 

Happy Jewish New Year!

Coffee Customers Three and Four sat next to me at “The Coupe” this Sunday, my favorite haunt for when I need to leave the house, get some work done, take a piss in a bathroom that is cleaned daily. Watch some baseball (side-note: screw the Royals and their bogus underdog narrative. Mediocre teams don’t deserve to go deep into the playoffs. The best teams should be playing in the World Series).

And I don’t know if they bought any coffee. One of them got a milkshake. That’s not important.

Unlike the first two, these fine folks were neither rude nor unpleasant, although a bit aloof. They have already made impressive contributions to society. And yet their presence still filled me with anxiety and regret.

Number three was a woman and all I was doing was staring at lab reports and shuffling tarot cards, so during an opportune moment I noticed her big fatty volume which I thought was an encyclopedia turned out to be an annotated compendium of everything ever written by HP Lovecraft (who I have never read and, well, I won’t say never, because I have a large volume of my own back in Albany, and some of his imagery seems to be culturally relevant).

I asked her what she thought of HP Lovecraft (again who I’ve never read) and she responded that although she’s never read him, she had to draft a review of the new book for The Washington Post. 

“Oh,” I say, thinking this is the start to a fascinating conversation. “So you’re a journalist?” (me too, once upon a time, maybe again someday, anything but Environmental Risk Assessment)

Well, actually, she responds, she’s an assistant editor for The New Republic.

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I have no response to this.

Person four sits in between us and apparently they are good friends. He pulls out a mac and begins to download a spreadsheet and starts talking about the Senate race in Alaska.

“Are you a journalist as well?” I ask.

Um, sort of, he says awkwardly. He turns out to be one of the head analysts for the NY Times‘ post-Nate-Silver website.

And the conversation is mostly over.

Behind all of us, there is a baseball game, another reminder of a passive interest of mine which is, at the moment, tangential to my increasingly confused “vocation” as a student of science.

One thing we all seem to agree on: DC is a horrible place of broken dreams lackluster city. I’m increasingly starting to believe that DC is a place of architectural competence and lovely parks, and would really be a much nicer place if it were filled with different people.

At least anywhere in NW. I have never been east of the Anacostia but I hear only good things.

What is the story here? Maybe I just have a bad attitude. I live in Columbia Heights and attend a diner which is also frequented by talented writers who may or may not be internet famous! But instead such an encounter makes me feel like I’ve been wasting a lot of time.

I could have been doing so much harder drugs all these years. But now, unfortunately, I probably have passed the point in my life where I can mix amphetamines and psychoactive drugs and part non-stop without sleep for a week. It’s possible at, given my mediocre health, cocaine would give me a heart attack.


If I wanted to I could probably still get arrested for punching a cop and not wearing pants, but again, in these tough economic times I’d have to pay fines with student loans instead of my parents’ credit card.

Life is a marathon, not a race…unless you believe that climate change coupled with rising fuel prices and a Republican Congress will lead to a drastically reduced quality of life within the next decade.

I have friends in Canada. Maybe I can go there. That’s where the narwhals are.

I just want to see some narwhals before the night is over. That’s too much to ask for under the current circumstances.