Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Is it another flurry of posts? It could well be. My cyclical writing pattern has entered, it would seem, a manic swing.

We briefly had a fill-in hire at the Cafe. Friend of the manager's girlfriend, possibly an ex... an ex of someone, at least... never did figure that all out. But what matters: she was the biggest flirt I've ever seen employed there. We were all in awe. She took pity on my poor no-game-having self and gave me a few pointers.

These pointers were only of use when I was working with her, for some reason. I told her she was my magic feather, and then had to explain the plot of Dumbo. Who doesn't know what a Magic Feather is?

But I finally managed an actual conversation with the aforementioned IQ buster. It turns out she works at a record store in DuPont Circle... and suddenly it all makes sense-- she's Record Store Girl! Even though I've never seen her behind the counter, she still has Record Store Girl powers. But then something else became clear:

Record Store Girl

Coffee Shop Guy

I have a chance here!

I'll stop being silly now, I promise. Read about bicycles.
with appearances by cars and buses
special guest star: subways

The riding of the bike is a skill I never quite acquired. In my early youth I had the requisite training-wheel bedecked two-wheeler, which I would ride around our driveway. Sad to say, our driveway had only a small even stretch before it sloped upward at a violent pitch that made getting out during winter a real hit-or-miss affair, especially in my mom's rear-wheel-drive-ed Volvo Station Wagon (at first a blue one, then the silver one I would later inherit when mom upgraded to an Audi 80), a pitch which laughed in derisive peals at my pitiful one-speed.

Taking off the training wheels never quite happened. For reasons that I can't quite remember, but which probably had much to do with my unfortunate youthful tendency towards being very stubborn and even more easily frustrated, I eventually decided that riding a bicycle was a skill I simply had neither the need nor the desire to learn.

Years later during a family vacation to Sea Island, Georgia the whole family rented bicycles. I was older and ever so slightly less moody and so made an attempt. I quickly mastered the trick of turning into a fall and was wobbling my way quite successfully down the road, when a wobble turned the front wheel right into one of the many posts which for some reason lined the side. I scraped the hell outta my knee and bike riding fell behind physical recovery.

And so we skip highschool and college, during which times my acquisition of the abovementioned Volvo, followed by my further inheritance of my dad's old Audi 90 Quattro, occupied the vehicular portion of my attention. Finally we come to my years outside Boston (as hardly anybody lives in Boston itself). Newly out of a brief relationship with an Environmental Science major, I was big on the idea of using public transit whenever possible. This lead to such things as taking the 557 bus to work, which took me through Waltham and made a commute that in my car clocked in at 15 minutes (including traffic) into one that took a full hour. (My move to Somerville, then, from where car and mass transit both took about an hour, was a wise one on many fronts.)

I believe it was the T closing at 12:45AM and so many shows at the Middle East going to 1AM, leading to long walks home, that inspired me at long last to continue my years-delayed bike schoolin'. I took a beginner's cycling class through the Cambridge Center for Adult Education (where I also took guitar lessons and even gave Assertiveness Training a shot). I got to a point where I felt comfortable enough on a bike that I at least wanted to buy my own so I could continue riding the bike path on weekends until I felt ready for street riding.

The teacher (from the small world folder: towards the end of the classes, which were held in Somerville, I discovered that he had also attended Renbrook School) offered a service wherein he would help out any students interested in purchasing a bike-- go with them to the store, give advice on what to look for, etc. So we arranged a time to meet at a place he generally trusted, and I took the bus over after work. I got there five minutes early or so, and so went to the neighboring sandwich place to grab some food. Then I waited on the bus bench outside of the store and waited for him to show.

Ten minutes after he was supposed to be there I went inside to look for him. And learned from the employees that the bike shop was a massive complex which continued around the corner. I went into the other area and looked around, but saw no sign. I assume he waited for me for ten minutes and then gave up and left. But I never emailed him or contacted him again, on the possibility that he had blown me off. I presume that he did the same. Communications breakdowns are fun!

So here I am now in DC, three years later. I've decided to buy a bike. I decided this shortly after I moved here, when I realized that the Metro is all but useless. I've done my research, narrowed my choices down, and now comes the part I've been dreading: The test rides.

Today, my day off, I slept too late to test ride all three. I did get to try out the Marin Larkspur, a lovely little bike, aluminum framed and endowed with very nice Shimano components (selling point: by far the best components of the three). I did not get run over by cars or other cyclists, nor did I run over any joggers (though neither one by much) but I sure as shorn did look like an incompetent idiot in front of a bunch of people (especially the jogger, but what the hell was he doing jogging on the left side of the path, right bee-line unswervingly toward me!? I swear he was aiming for me!). My only complaint about the Marin is that the geometry wasn't quite as upright as I would have liked, though it might have been the seat adjustment. I'll have to see how the other two (Specialized Crossroads, Giant Cypress) compare.
Wow, there was a bit of a repeated fragment in that last entry. Blogger being weird, I suppose. Duly expunged.

What? No, that was not on purpose. Oh for pity's... take your postmodern formal experimentation talk and shove it up Coover's BobBlog, K?

Tuesday, September 09, 2003
Finished my Vonnegut book, started on Lieber's "Swords Against Deviltry" so I'd have something compact for the bus...

Rode the bus out to Georgetown once again. Got there much later than I'd planned to, and suddenly about to pass out. I wandered to all the locations of known Georgetown coffee shops and discovered that they were ALL closed but Starbucks! Even the little hole in the wall place that was four feet wide and barely had room for an espresso machine... that place ruled!

But I got to ride a Marin Larkspur, and it was pretty nice. Didn't have time to try out the Giant Cypress or the Specialized Crossroads, so I have nothing to compare it to... plus I hadn't ridden in like three years, and even three years ago I was pretty much a beginner. So I was humiliating myself in public trying it out... spent more time remembering how to ride than getting a feel for the bike itself.

I think maybe I should rent a bike for an afternoon, take it somewhere secluded, and get used to riding again before I do any more test-rides. Might be the prudent thing to do...
Monday, September 08, 2003
Once again we were training a new hire tonight. It's that time of year-- school starts and people are moving on, so we need a new batch comin' in.

But the real fun was the crazy woman. I was helping two people, getting a croissant out of the fridge for them and about to start on a sandwich when this woman pops her head over the counter (completely out of turn) and demands to know the password. At first I'm perplexed, but finally she manages to explain that she wants the password for the computer.

"Well, you get a username and password when you sign up for the internet service. Or you can get temporary access..." I explain the fee system for her, while my coworker rescues me by starting on the sandwich. The woman can't decide which card she wants, keeps going back and forth.

I get out the lockbox with the cards and all the cash. She hands me a ten dollar bill, but there's no change in the box so I have to pop the till and get out a five and five ones. I give her 7 and a $3 card and she insists that she asked for a $12 card.

"Well, you only gave me ten dollars..."

And thus begins the insisting that she gave me a twenty. I pop the till again and check the ten slot... no twenties there. I reiterate my certainty that she gave me a ten and she demands to talk to a manager. So finally I have to call the manager at home. She's just woken up, it seems, and sounds like a bullfrog-- at first I thought I had the wrong number. I talk to her, she tells me to tell the woman what I already have (that we simply can't count the till to see if it's ten over until the books have been balanced the next morning).

So the woman demands to speak to her herself, which she does with such rudeness that the manager hangs up on her. I give the woman the owner's name, and she insists on getting "the other two."

"There's just the one," I tell her, realizing that the woman is not merely belligerent but clearly quite insane. She writes a brief description of her account of the events and demands that I initial it, which I refuse to do because her version of events is fiction and I will not put my initials anywhere near it. Finally she leaves.

I'm no good at confrontation, but lucky for me I can be a downright stubborn SOB when I want to. A lot of "I'm sorry ma'am"s and "No, I can't do that" and repetition of assertions... but man when she finally left I was shaking. Not because I was pissed, just from the adrenaline rush.

The manager called back later to say she believes my version of events. "That woman was obviously crazy." Man I hope the till doesn't come out ten over...
Saturday, September 06, 2003
Last night was bizarre.

First off yesterday afternoon I went out to Georgetown and picked up some comics, then I went around the area bike stores comparing prices. I've gotten a pretty good idea where the deals are, so I just need to go back sometime next week and do some test rides... which is the part that makes me nervous. I haven't ridden a bike in two or three years. It's silly, but I'm afraid of embarrassing myself in front of a salesperson...

On the bus ride home I read more of Vonnegut's "Deadeye Dick," and the black humor reached the saturation point at which I started laughing out loud at every mordant pronouncement. While I was reading some guy distracted me by yelling at the woman behind him for talking too loudly on her celphone. I hadn't heard a word of her conversation.

But yes, last night.

I went down to the Black Cat to see Q and not U and when I got there the line was the farthest back I've ever seen it. For those for whom it means anything, it was back past the Source theater. Being as we were in line for a very long time, I ended up striking up a conversation with the guys in line behind me. So when a Cat employee came by and told us all the show was all sold out, they said they were going to meet some people in Adams-Morgan and asked if I wanted to come along. Forgetting that it was a Friday night (d'oh!) I said sure.

The first bar we went to was The Angry Inch, which has a sign saying "Est. 1969" so I guess the name has nothing to do with Hedwig after all. Anyway, the people we were supposed to meet weren't there, the place was too crowded and elbow-y, the music was bad and too loud, the crowd was entirely not my kind of people... basically I hadn't felt so out of place since the time my boss dragged me to a gay bar (cue Electric Six riff).

So phone calls were made, bars were hopped, and we ended up just the three of us at a largely empty bar (I later discovered that it was empty because everybody was downstairs for karaoke, which we had to hear everytime we went to the bathroom).

Eventually the one guy's girlfriend showed up with a friend of hers from out of town. They were both quite drunk, as evidenced at first by the girlfriend slapping me on the ass.

Then the friend, a short brunette, somewhat cute, said to me, "If I asked you to make out with me, what would you say?" I thought about it for a few seconds and truthfully responded that I really had no idea how I'd react. So she thought about it for a while, at which point the other guy, who had been flirting with her a minute before this question, loudly declared the lack of any justice in the universe.

So then she came back and asked the question she had earlier asked about, and I thought for a few more seconds before answering, "Hey, why not?"

Now as a point of clarification, this is neither the kind of thing that usually happens to me nor the kind of thing I usually do. As evidence of this I offer up the fact that she was only the sixth girl I've kissed in nearly 28 years on this planet. This established, let's move on.

After this she got a bit embarrassed and retreated to talk with her friend. But a few minutes later she was back. "Wanna make out again?" (have I mentioned she was a bit drunk?)

So after we got through with that she asked me how I knew everybody. I told her the story and she suddenly got really embarrassed and quickly excused herself. She didn't speak another word to me the rest of the evening. Which I found very amusing-- making out with some guy she had met 15 minutes ago was fine if it's somebody who's known her friend's boyfriend for a while, but if they've only known each other a few hours, then it becomes a problem. Once again the absurdity of it all made me laugh on the (rather long) walk home.

On the way home I stopped in at the 24/Seven to get some felafel and found a bit of a scene developing. There was some guy with a takeout box yelling at the guy who usually works the counter at night. He and another employee and two or three customers were trying to escort the man out, and he kept saying he would leave (while not leaving) but that he would come back for the young employee and bring friends. Just having walked in, I joined the phalanx of customers between the drunkard and the target of his bile. To the side a woman nonchalantly pulled out her celphone and called the police. As the scene unfolded she calmly described what was happening.

The man eventually left, but he kept pacing outside the store and balefully peering in the front window for several minutes. The woman went up to the counter and explained that she had called the police and started saying how unacceptable she had found the whole scene. She seemed to think that the establishment was somehow to blame for the man's drunken belligerence.

Then I got my felafel and went home. The End.

Powered by Blogger