Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Observations from a half-day in civilization

Left the deer, groundhogs, rabbits, fox(es) and raccoon(s) behind for urban errands. Lucky WWPD readers, today's observations about human society are not based on stuff I've read in the Style section. With that in mind...

-Coffee-bar tip as self-inflicted vice tax? Today, after the moment of wavering, I tipped a quarter for a chocolate croissant and iced coffee, at a bus-your-own-table, plastic-cup establishment. Probably the worst possible approach if my goal were to be liked by the barista - a tip that size, which I think seems appropriate if not excessive for a place where staff does get at least minimum wage, where I wasn't planning to park myself for more than five minutes, and where nothing special was prepared/foamed, is nevertheless low by restaurant standards, yet is something, thus announcing that I have heard of and at least partially accepted that this is a tip situation. But tipping in this situation has a certain benefit, which is to remind me that I'm consuming a luxury item/service. I felt a teensy bit guilty about this, and then did not go and get an afternoon coffee-and-croissant as well.

-But not so guilty that I didn't go to Sephora in search of a shampoo designed for my hair texture (recommended by Hanna Rosin on the Double X Gabfest - don't judge), which they didn't have, and concealer, which they did. I never know which shade to go with for this (either the palest or the one labeled as second-palest, that's equally pale but less pink), but for the usual germophobic reasons don't want to smudge the "sample" product around my eyes. Which means I always have to ask someone at the store for help if I want to try a new brand. Which I did, and the saleswoman in question took one look at me and told me, with great conviction, to go with the "1," the palest shade. "You're... white," she told me, before suddenly looking embarrassed, as it was clear what she'd meant was "pale," not the racial category. (She, for the record, was probably not white but not dark-skinned, either. Given that I can't even tell who else is my own ethnicity, which for all I know she was, who knows.) I reassured her that it's fine, I know I'm white and that I'm pale; thanked her for her advice; and bought the make-pale-person-less-tired-looking goo in question.

-So I finally get why people find public, confined-spaces cell phone use annoying. I'd always taken one of two approaches: that of the eavesdropper (reality television without even logging onto Hulu!) or that of just ignoring it and getting work done. But today I ended up not finding room in the quiet car and sitting beside one of these people who get on a train and basically call people until they find someone without much going on 9:45am. The moment one call ends, they look at their phone, wondering who'll be next, oblivious to the fact that the train is packed and otherwise pretty quiet. I seriously (OK, not seriously) wanted to ask this woman, when there was a pause in this, whether maybe she had some other friends she could call. She eventually took out what I thought would be a Kindle. At last! But no - it was some kind of video game, and while she (unusual for NJ Transit) kept the device on mute, she was incredibly vocal when the frog or whatever didn't get a point or whatever. 'Aw shucks!,' or something like that.

And then it hit me why I'd had this change of heart re: this generally-considered-offensive behavior: it's because I'm now used to a car. When all you know is public transportation, you learn to be amused by its annoyances. Which probably explains why commuter trains - taken by car-havers - are much more stressful environments than subways, which tend to be more crowded and disgusting. It's a train full of people who feel entitled to a car-like experience.


Jeff said...

you've gotten your license?

Phoebe said...

Not yet. But my husband's had his for some time, and a permit allows me to drive with proper supervision. Believe me, if/when the license ever happens, WWPD's readers will hear about it.