Tuesday, November 16, 2004
At Long Last the Promised Tale
'Twas the day after the election, the day after our election party at which we watched the map enshade and I drank too much beer. We had gone to bed with vague hopes of another switchback, a hairpin turnaround, or at the very least the promise of weeks of uncertainty, only to wake and find the battle hopelessly lost, the general preparing to concede.
The weather wasn't great on Wednesday, November 3. Even if it had been a bright and sunny day, the atmosphere at the Cafe would have been just as bleak, if not moreso. One of the things I enjoy about this here snoot 'bloggy 'blog is the ability it affords me to imagine that people who don't already know me stop by and read it. So all you people reading who already know me (i.e., all of you) just read patiently or skip to the next paragraph. Y'see, the Cafe where I work (nights and weekends) is a decidedly Blue State affair. The three owners are a Jewish biker, a lesbian biker and a gay public health professional. Located in Logan Circle, it has a sizable gay clientele. A significant portion of the staff is likewise gay. The rest of the staff and clientele are more than okay with this, or they'd likely get their coffee elsewhere. Other frequenters are a hash of punks, freaks, clerks at local stores, bike messengers, political activists and assorted locals.
With this knowledge, it should come as little surprise that our pre-election vehemently anti-Bush decorations earned us not one complaint. Compare this to the bitching, whining, assorted moanings, general bellyaching and even a(n ongoing) boycott campaign we faced when we moved the smoking section to the back room. So the air was one of denial or depression. When one customer asked me if we were as depressed as she was, I just didn't even feel up to the offered commiseration. "I'd rather not even talk about it."
One regular made up a sign. A slip of paper with the acronym:
We taped this up to the plastic pumpkin with the long-lingering Halloween leftovers in it.
Just as a sidenote, the sign made me laugh. Because I was bitter and angry and glad not to be alone in it. But I disagree with 75% of it.
Brainless? Sure, the man makes Dan Quayle look like a valedictorian (wait, did I already use that joke on this 'blog? oh shit, I did... gotta come up with some new material!) but... wait, what am I disagreeing with it for again? Due to the fact that he's probably not as dumb as he seems, that misunderestimating the man is what got the American left into its current predicament, not to mention that it's part of his folksy act, which brings us to:
Hick? The funniest damn thing about Dubya is the way a private school boy from Maine with a rich daddy is saddled with a borderline pathological belief that he's a ginyuwine Texas cowboy. It's precisely this fiction that allows a man whom money and family connections got into Yale and out of Vietnam to position himself as a champion of working class values, where those values don't include fiscal solvency. The sooner Bush's opponents stop buying into the act the better we can oppose him.
Useless? to whom? Certainly he's useless to most of the people who elected him, not to mention most of the people who voted against him, not to mention most of the rest of the entire world. But to the people who back him? His pals in the House of Saud and Halliburton? Enron? The oil lobby? He's shown himself to be of great use to just the right people. In the words of Rick Valentin: "The leader represents the one percent who pay his rent."
Smug. There we have it: the absolute certainty, the maddeningly omnipresent smirk, the language lacking any hint of any evidence of nuanced thought. This is what packs the punch. Where Clinton riled the right with "slick," Bush repels us with "smug."
But that's all aside the point, except possibly as scene setting. It was shortly past 10 when the guy came in, maybe a quarter past. We close at 11 on weeknights, so we were well along the way toward getting things cleaned and prepped. He had a bad suit and a bad haircut, looked to be in his late twenties or early thirties, though I'm not a good judge of age and the suit may have added a few years (especially given the casual atmosphere).
He told me that he had something he wanted to say. He was very clear on this, that he just had something he wanted to say. He seemed to be trying to screw up his courage in order to say it, saying that he just had something to say. Then he said it.
He comes here for coffee. "I like this place. It's cute, that it's named after the dog and all" (indicating the picture on the wall of the original owner's dog, after whom the Cafe is named) "but I work at the White House and I just wanted to say that it's not about intelligence or economic background..." at this point he was talking very quickly and I lost track of most of it... but I think he may have been objecting to the pumpkin sign.
See, despite having given it two weeks the whole thing is still a jumbled mess. I was just so completely shocked and mystified by the man's indignance that we would dare to express our opinion.
"Do you have to be a Kerry supporter to work here?" he demanded of me.
"Well no, but pretty much we all are."
"Well, I just think that's sad." What, sad that we didn't feel compelled to scour DC and find one of the 7% of us who actually voted for Bush, and among them find at least one person who both wants to work at a coffee shop and doesn't mind having an out lesbian for a boss?
"I grew up in Massachusetts and John Kerry..."
"I moved here from Somerville," I responded as calmly as I could, "and I think John Kerry's an asshole."
"Then why all the anti-Bush signs?"
"'Cause I think Bush is about 200 times worse."
He was like a human illustration of the old Mr. Boffo catchphrase: People Unclear on the Concept.
By this point, entirely unnoticed by the gentleman in question as he was and had been facing the counter, the half-dozen or so customers in attendance had all turned to watch him and were doing so utterly slackjawed. One of them even got up to take a closer look, as if uncertain he were real. Or possibly she was contemplating kicking his ass. This was just in time for the climax, when he told us that he lived in Georgetown, on the same block as John Edwards, and had "out of respect" not put up any lawn signs or anything.
"But tonight I'm going home and I'm going to put this," pulling out a Bush/Cheney sticker, "up in my window."
And then it all made sense. It was all an attempt to gloat! The whole time he came off like a whiny little bitch, so I'd assumed he was trying to lodge an incoherent complaint, but the whole thing was his attempt at rubbing our noses in it!
After we closed I went over to the Red Room to meet a few coworkers who had gone to drink down their sorrows and try to find some sense in the world. I think I said it to them best: "This guy was trying to play it all off as patience or tact, all 'I've been keeping it to myself, coming here the last six months not saying anything...' OK, waiting until your guy wins to come out and support him, that's not tact. It's called fucking lack of testicular fortitude! Complete lack of balls! It's like waiting until after game seven to dig your Red Sox cap out of the back of the closet."
By way of epilogue:
One of the customers, possibly the one who had seemed ready to kick the guy, supposedly wrote up the entire event and posted it to Craigslist. I can't find it, because the search feature on Craigslist is ass. It seems a reporter read it, and stopped by to interview me. She was freelance, though, so I don't know if anybody's going to pick up the story.
And that's why I put off writing this for so long-- I knew I couldn't do the story any justice. Haaaaa well...
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