I Confronted a Rude Stranger in a Starbucks, & (Surprise!) It Did Not Go Well

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I'm of the belief that there's a special place in hell (you know, if I believed in hell) for people who listen to electronic devices aloud in communal spaces. If you're watching a YouTube video or playing Candy Crush or calling your mom or listening to Iggy Azalea in a place where there are other people - especially people who are working quietly, as in a coffee shop - then you should be wearing headphones. Period.

Of course, not everyone is on board with this concept; if they were, I wouldn't be complaining about it. Because I spend a great deal of time working in otherwise-quiet public spaces, I've encountered many a situation in which someone who is not on board with this concept aurally offends me on a deeply annoying level.

Today, I encountered the worst offender yet.

The Starbucks on P Street in Dupont Circle is hidden & quiet, one of my favorite work spaces in D.C. Its upstairs level has lots of one- & two-person seating arrangements, making it perfect for workday camp-outs with no "I've been here too long!" guilt. My friend Emily & I had been there for a few hours when the whole upstairs level flooded with a robotic voice & a barrage of bad elevator music; someone, somewhere was taking a phone call on speaker, & he'd been put on a loooooong hold.

Everyone around us looked appalled. The architecture of the building meant that the noise, which originated from a corner of the first floor, echoed up over a balcony & throughout the second floor, clearly disrupting every single one of the dozen of us up there. It was one of those moments when strangers came together in sympathetic annoyance, muttering, "Can you believe this?!" as "Your call is important to us" repeated at 30-second intervals.

Finally, I'd had enough. I walked downstairs to ask the offending call-maker to kindly cease public use of the speaker function.

What I found was a guy who didn't look crazy or rude or otherwise threatening. He was wearing a nice suit, & a freshly pressed purple dress shirt. He was bespectacled & balding, probably in his late 50s or early 60s, & he had the sort of accent I associate with Manhattan Jews. In other words, he both looked & sounded like he could be the father of any one of my friends. His speakerphone didn't seem loud from that corner, yet it was booming throughout the second floor. I figured he had no idea, & that if asked, he'd be happy to be a decent citizen of the world.

"Excuse me," I began. "Would you mind taking your phone off of speaker? I know it seems quiet from down here, but it's echoing up over the balcony, & it's actually really loud from the second floor."

He stared at me. I wondered if maybe he didn't speak English. I continued anyway: "There are a lot of us working quietly up there, & it's just... it's actually really loud." I thought I was being polite, but as his face contorted in anger, I began to second-guess my tone.

"Are you kidding me?" he boomed, morphing into a wild-eyed, Patrick-Bateman-with-an-axe type. "Are you serious right now? You know this is a public place, right? You know that?" I nodded, bristling with nerves & indignation, & reiterated that the second floor was full of people on laptops & that the noise was much louder from where we sat. "This is so rude," he insisted. "I can't believe this." It occurred to me that everyone upstairs could hear the conversation.

When I countered that it was actually sort of rude to blast hold music throughout an otherwise quiet public space where people were working in silence, he spluttered & stuttered. "You know, that's pretty rude!" he erupted. "This is a public place! You can't make other people be quiet! You can't dictate what I do!"

I was visibly flustered but tried to stand my ground. "Well, it's a coffee shop, so a lot of people are working here," I told him. "But look, I didn't come down here to be rude. I just thought you probably didn't realize how loud it was up there & that you might turn it off if you did."

"I'll turn it off," he snapped, as though he was doing me a huge favor by not being an asshole, "but this is really unbelievable. I mean, I've never gotten a request like this in my life."

"I wasn't trying to be rude," I repeated as I walked away. "Do whatever you want." My hands were shaking, & I could hear my heartbeat in my skull. The baristas I passed on my way back upstairs looked concerned, mouths agape, & when as I crossed the room to reach my table, a few strangers gave me smiles of... approval? Shock? Disdain? Impression? I was shaking too hard to be sure.

Shortly after the confrontation, my new friend stormed out of the Starbucks, hopefully never to be seen again. All was quiet on the home front for a good... 20 minutes. Then, as I wrote this post, someone else turned their phone on speaker - hip-hop music, this time, assaulting our ears on floor two yet again.

The struggle is so goddamn real, you guys. If I can't trust the rest of the world to wear headphones, I'm going to need to invest in a better pair of my own. Or just some straight-up earplugs.

The Time I Was a Fancy Hobo in Chicago

Monday, June 23, 2014

I'm not a particularly fancy person. Most of my clothes are from Target, & I still eat ramen for dinner sometimes. I swear a lot & frequent dive bars. I don't know makes for a fancy person, necessarily, but I think most of those things disqualify me.

In May, I went to the fanciest event I've yet been to: the black tie wedding of Tom & Anna, two friends who I met at Bloggers in Sin City last spring, which took place in downtown Chicago. Many, many texts were exchanged in advance of the event, as my friends & I decided what to wear, when to arrive, where to stay, & other such vital details. For my part, I tried on no fewer than 60 gowns in an attempt to dress myself in a properly fancy manner, scouring every Macy's in the Greater Metropolitan Area for the perfect formal frock. I purchased six gowns online, all of which I returned when I decided to go with my top choice, the navy gown you see here, finally located at the Macy's at Tyson's Corner. Whew.

The weekend of the big event, four of us went last-minute shopping for sparkly heels & appropriate clutches, & we got our hair & makeup done by professionals who know hair & makeup better than we do. And when the time came for us to celebrate with Tom & Anna as they said "I do," we all felt - & looked, if I may say so myself - like pretty, pretty princesses. The wedding was a fabulously good time, the newlyweds were the happiest, & I have never felt so fancy in my whole life.

And then.

My plan was to stay in Chicago for a few extra days to explore the city & catch up with friends who live there. Unfortunately, I was slated to spend each of the next three nights at a different apartment, which meant lugging my suitcase through the streets of the Windy City - not exactly a tourist's dream. In a moment of brilliance, I decided to ship my suitcase back to D.C. before me; I'd set aside a few things to use during the next few days, & my heavy suitcase would be waiting for me D.C. when I arrived home! The kind folks at FedEx were delightfully helpful in making it happen, & I was quite pleased with myself for coming up with the idea.

While it was a smart plan in theory, the reality went less smoothly.

I put some clothes & toiletries & an extra pair of shoes into a Men's Warehouse bag - a paper bag, you guys - which, laden with all my things, turned out to be heavier than I'd bargained for. And though I didn't have to tote a rolling suitcase around the city with me, I still had to take the paper bag everywhere - you know, like a goddamn hobo. Needless to say, I didn't end up doing much sightseeing, after all. I shopped on the Miracle Mile, spent hours in a busy Starbucks writing & people-watching, sat in a park watching the season finale of Grey's Anatomy on my iPad. I did bar trivia with Jess, went out to dinner with Ethan, caught up with Kevin - & I brought my paper bag with me to each of them, carrying all my worldly belongings (OK, that's dramatic) everywhere I went.

Flying without luggage was a delight, as was returning home to find my suitcase waiting for me inside my apartment. But, um, maybe I'll plan ahead next time & bring a backpack with me - or better yet, a bindle.

I think the cigarettes really make the shot, don't you?

Social Experiment: Wearing a Feminist Statement Tee in Public

Saturday, June 14, 2014

"Kate! I'm wearing a shirt tomorrow that you're going to love," my friend Jenn told me. She knows me well, it seems, as her prediction was confirmed when she showed up at brunch the next day sporting a men's tank that read, "A WOMAN'S PLACE IS IN THE HOUSE AND THE SENATE." The next time I opened my computer, I bought the shirt for myself.*

The first time I wore it was on my day trip to Cleveland two weeks ago. As my friend Lindsey & I walked the streets of the Cleve, I noticed other peoples' eyes on me, trying to read my wordy tee as I strolled by. Though I knew I'd be making a bit of a statement in the shirt, I hadn't realized how uncomfortable I would feel with the attention.

I became fascinated, though, by other people's reactions to the sentiment emblazoned across my chest. Those passing quickly by seemed, at first, to be shocked. As their eyes widened & their brows furrowed, I could see them thinking, "A woman's place is in the house? Oh, this bitch!" & then, as they continued to read, a look of relief. Mid-way through the shirt, I look like the anti-feminist - & then, at the end, I just look like a raging feminist.

But in the cosmopolitan & forward-thinking land of the Midwest, though, raging feminism isn't always an endearing or valued trait. I watched as some of the folks finished reading my shirt & threw me a look of annoyance or disgust - not necessarily at the idea of that women can be lawmakers but, I assume, at the idea of needing to broadcast my support of it. "I'll feel better wearing this shirt in D.C.," I told myself.

Today is my first day wearing it in the District, though, & it feels just as weird - in a totally different way. At Trader Joe's, an enthusiastic man in a neon pink tee high-fived me: "Oh, you know that's the truth!" he shouted as he slapped my hand in the produce aisle. At BakeHouse, an adorable neighborhood coffee shop, a hipster barista looked at me with equal parts disdain & amusement & asked, "So do you, like, work on the Hill?" Suddenly, I felt like I was trying too hard to be DC-quirky, damn it.

I guess that when it comes to wearing liberal statement tees, a girl can't really win. But speaking of winning, did you know that there are a record number of women in the Senate right now? A woman's place, indeed. So I think I'll keep wearing the shirt - at least until I get one that says "A woman's place is in the White House." Hillary, girl, I'm waiting for you.

*You can buy this tank & similarly sassy clothing items from Wicked Clothes, if you're so inclined. Free shipping!

Who Says You Can't Go Home?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

I spent 11 days in Ohio. Like, a week & a half. ELEVEN WHOLE DAYS. It was... a lot. Before I left, I thought, "There's no way I can handle 11 days away. That's an eternity." And in some ways, it was, because 11 days is a really long time. It's a long time to live out of a suitcase, a long time to live at my mom's house, a long time to be away from my apartment & all of my belongings, a long time to be "on" for visits with friends & family.

But it was perfect.

The impetus for the trip was to attend the wedding of one of my favorite couples, Sean & Kristen. During their outdoor nuptials & day-long reception at an adorable, picturesque Ohio farmstead, I caught up with many of my favorite individuals & tried not to sweat to death. We joked that everyone had at least two exes in attendance, & yet somehow, everyone got along smashingly because that's how small-town friendships work. I was honored to be present to celebrate this couple & their love for one another, & I always appreciate an open bar populated by so many people I like.

Speaking of people I like, I also spent a lot of time hanging out with my mama & petting her tiny, excitable dogs, who look like twins.


As always, I ate at all my favorite places - sometimes healthy but oftentimes not, because vacation & also because oops. I went to four of those favorite places two times apiece, with a bunch of others peppered in to spice it up. Rockne's! Melt! Happy Dog! Clogged arteries & dying happy! Instagramming photos of my food!

And for better or worse, I basically never said no to dessert, including tiny donuts, Graeter's Buckeye Blitz ice cream, a pistachio macaron, & crème brûlée cheesecake. And yes, I'm planning to eschew cabs & public transportation for awhile in favor of walking everywhere for the next... forever. Just as soon as it stops raining.

But it wasn't all food & booze, I swear. I also took in all the sites I love & saw some new ones, too, in the three Big C's - Cleveland, Columbus, Cuyahoga Falls. And while I know my hometown isn't exactly "big," Cincinnati sucks & home is where the heart is, et cetera.

My friend Lindsey even took me to Cleveland for a day, where we started with a visit to Sweet Lorain, a massive vintage superstore. Every three steps or so, I shouted some excitable phrase, like, "Oh my God, look at this!" & snapped a photo of something colorful &/or absurd. Not recommended for people who are easily distracted by shiny objects.


Speaking of shiny objects, we were easily distracted by nearly everything we found at a massive toy store called Big Fun, including meat tattoos & animal masks & wax lips & finger puppets & a drawer full of Pogs straight outta the '90s.

Of course, I saw lots of other favorite people, too, & made all of them take photos with me for the sake of vanity & posterity.


I got back to D.C. exhausted & exhilarated & a little bit sad to leave the Buckeye State behind. And yes, I wrote this post almost solely to show off all my wonderful photos, so I apologize for the total lack of interesting substance. This was the longest trip I'd taken to Ohio since 2011, & I spent each one of those 11 days feeling fortunate to come from such a wonderful place still filled with such wonderful people who always show me a, well, wonderful time. 

I've always mentally adapted the lyrics to that old Hawthorne Heights song, & this visit only reinforced it: I can make it on my own, but part of my heart will probably always be in Ohio.
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