Tuesday, March 29, 2011

on the social contract

Please read the following scenario and choose your response carefully.

You get a hot drink at Starbucks. All of the tables are taken, so you ask if there is anyone sitting in a seat between a guy on a phone and a woman taking up three consecutive chairs and a footstool with various bits of work. There isn't. You sit down, pull out your laptop and hot pink earbuds, and start working. You take a sip, and as pieces of the roof of your mouth disintegrate with the pain of a thousand fiery suns, you shudder and manage to get a drip of Americano on the seat to your right, where the woman has placed a bunch of her crap. You get up, get a napkin, and politely wipe up the spill, then put your drink discreetly on the corner of the closest footstool, which holds the woman's drink, a pile of trash, and what appears to be sheets of seaweed, for some strange reason.

She says, "You know, you could use that table," gesturing to the footstool to your left, where the guy on the phone has his FEET.

You say, "You mean where that guy has his FEET?"

She frowns and counters, "Yeah, well, this one wobbles. See?"

She shakes her footstool, spilling a big blurp of your drink.

You give her your bitchiest smile, the one that intimates you might know how to break her arm, and whip your drink to the other footstool. "There," you say.

"I wasn't tryin' to be all whatever," she says, insuring that she WAS actually trying to be all whatever.

What do you do?

a) Say, "Yes, actually, it's pretty obvious you WERE trying to be all whatever, because our social contract says that I have to accommodate you, because you seem to think you have the right to three public chairs and a footstool for all your crap. But I don't play by your rules, and you can GO TO HELL with your sissy-pants non-apology. My m-er-f-ing American is gonna sit on that m-er-f-ing stool, and if you don't like it, you can TAKE YOUR STUPID SEAWEED SOMEPLACE ELSE."

b) Punch her in the face.

c) Pick up your drink and leave with a derisive snort.

d) Accidentally spill your Americano on her iPad.


Did you choose (c)?

I did.

And I kind of hate myself for not having the girlballs to pull a, b, or d. This social contract crap is simply meaningless in a faceless society where even if I did see this lady again, I wouldn't recognize her, unless she had her fake Burberry scarf and weird sheets of faux seaweed. Being nice to people used to be your societal insurance that they would one day be nice to you. Now it just means that rude people with less to lose get to impose on polite people who understand the ramifications of violence at the Barnes & Noble Starbucks and want to be able to work there again on Thursday.

And yet there's not a good option for a nice, peaceful suburban mom who doesn't want to go to jail for messing up bitches at the local coffeehouse. I'm 100% sure I've got more fight training than she does, and I'm also 100% sure that my boiling coffee could have pulled an Indiana Jones on her face... or her iPad.

But instead, I got up and left. That's what you have to do, if you want to pick up your kids on time at preschool and not get fined $10 for tardiness.

Sometimes, I wish we could just go back to Viking rules.

Because then, I'd have an iPad and a hand towel in Burberry plaid.


Patty Blount said...

"girl balls"

Love that!!! You reminded me of a brawl I was once ready to start in a laundry room at my last rental place. I waited 20 minutes for a free washer, sat there while my clothes cycled and the witch who took up all the machines then transferred her clothes to ALL the dryers just as my clothes finished.

I asked her to save me one and she said, "Sorry!" in a sing-song voice that made me want to crumble her up and squish her into one of the dryers.

I ended up shoving my wet laundry into my basket and lugging it across the development to another laundry room. OOOO, that was 20 years ago and I still burn over it.

I hate thinking this, but it's clear everyone's just out for themselves. Some are just more subtle about it than others.

Eoywin said...

I picked C, but I'm not big into confrontation unless I'm really pissed off.

stephanie constantin said...

I would have left too, I just don't have enough "girl balls" or the attitude to pull anything off.

charissimo said...


amber d* said...

Me four years ago would have done option A. Me now-a-days would have done option C, but wished they would have done option A. I miss being a ballsy bitch some days.

Nicholas Denmon said...

Doesn't the snort and leave feel a little like letting them win?

delilah, the unruly helpmeet said...

Yep, Nicholas, it does. But I'm not willing to start a fight in public and risk damaging my family or being banned from Starbucks. It's part of the price we pay for being civilized.

Anonymous said...

Why isn't there an option E: "Point out that she has small, lopsided breasts and that her husband is probably cheating on her because she's such a bitch."?

Ericka said...

You can hate yourself for choosing "c" but what you chose was how much of your day you would let her affect. You would have hated to lose a whole day to being hauled off to jail because she was bitchy. However your option "c" came with a bonus of getting to vent on your blog. Even better if you had slyly snapped an unflattering picture of her so we could all focus our venom on her and maybe she would grow a wart or something.

delilah, the unruly helpmeet said...

I'm at Starbucks. She walked in. I gave her bitchfacedeathlook. She turned around and went somewhere else.