Roughing It

November 28, 2009

To expand on my coffee shop comments, I’d like to now discuss sleeves.

If anyone hasn’t noticed: sleeves have become an indispensable staple of daily human life. (Sleeves being the detachable cardboard heat insulator around a cup.)

Have you ever tried to withhold a sleeve from someone drinking a latte? Try it. See what happens.

Apparently, human hands can no longer come in contact with heat of any kind.

If humans are constantly in a stage of adaptation, as many people believe, then that means our bodies are actually changing and molding themselves to a new, dare I say, lazier life of ease.

We have moved from a society built on hard working, outdoorsmen who would much sooner grab their shotgun to kill the rattlesnake in their bathroom than they would turn on their tv to check the stock quotes for the day.

Luxury items are great, don’t get me wrong. I would much rather stay in a nice hotel with all the amenities than the local motel whose vacant sign is always flashing and whose idea of a continental breakfast is a three-day old bagel and orange juice in a box. But the very idea of “roughing it” appears to have moved to the belief of going without a Starbucks for a day.

Another disclaimer I will note here is that I must admit that my idea of “roughing it” and living without the luxuries is far different from, say, my grandparents. Which even more proves the point that we have continued to move farther and farther away from the ideals and lifestyles that made us exceptional, diverse, well-rounded individuals.

What will we be like in 50 years? What will our technological children be like?

And if we all have to have sleeves, can’t we at least reuse them?

Individualism or Group-ism

November 21, 2009

Working in a coffee shop has its perks. Free coffee. A high-energy work environment. Free coffee. Merchandise discounts. Free coffee.

Yes, the benefits are what originally drew me to coffee employment.

However, there are many downsides to working with the public. Especially in a place where the masses are reeled in by peer pressure and the desire to be cool. (At least, that’s how my coffee shop became popular.)

Yes, working with the public day after day, I can’t help but become a tad cynical regarding humans in general and how easily influenced we are. The fact that my co-workers and I can 99 percent of the time determine what drinks people will order the second they walk in the door is a small tribute to that.

The businessmen with Blackberrys and newspapers. Those are the black coffee drinkers.

The young giggly teenagers. The caramel, frozen-drink crowd.

The young, YOUNG children trailing behind their parents. Usually hot chocolate or vanilla milk. Or even more disturbingly: mocha lattes with decaf shots.

The most disturbing question I can find is what type of young adults are we creating or, should I say, programming.  

Of course, it can’t be denied that we are all part of a crowd. Whether we aim to buck societal standards or are the first ones in line for the new winter item, we are all in a category. Nothing is quite original anymore. Individualism seems to be a thing of the past.

And yet we can still be individuals. Not letting ourselves be put in a mold. Diversifying our interests.

Stepping into the shoes of another person can be the richest experience.

Learning to cook. Learning the violin. Taking up a new language. Immersing ourselves in a different culture. Wearing a new style of clothing. Tasting a new food.

Or smaller steps like wearing glasses instead of contacts. Embracing our natural hair color. Finding new words for our vocabulary.

The options are endless when we start looking.

It’s exhilarating the new sense of self that can appear in such a small act.

And before we know it, we are no longer following one trend but, instead, mixing and matching to create our own.

the knitting high

November 16, 2009

Knitting is addicting.

The colorful spools of yarn.

The click-clack of the needles.

Patterns for anything you wish to create.

And like most hobbies, a close-knit, passionate community.

I’ve always wanted to be an avid knitter. To make scarves and colorful gloves for my friends. But my heart was never in it.

Until I went to Portland . . . in October. Arguably, the best time of year to visit the northwest. The colors, the smells, the umbrellas, the jackets.

It was the perfect place and time to rediscover knitting.

I think of Portland as a mecca for knit-aholics. The weather simply invites residents to settle in front of a fire or in a coffee shop with yarn and needles.

You can find a yarn store not quite as often as you might stumble upon a coffee shop, but close. And inside are helpful, smiling fellow knitters. Many times younger than you might expect. Showing that knitting has gained a new generation of followers.

And what also comes with these employees is an eagerness to share and encourage. If you find yourself questioning the activity, you won’t for long. Their excitement is contagious. Before I knew it, I was buying new yarn and needles to keep me busy on my flight home. And before I was even finished with my current project, I was dreaming about my next. And buying books to learn new stitches.

Yes, knitting captures what was lost decades ago with the advent of super stores, cell phones, computers.

The art of creating something with your own two hands.

It’s about time that made a comeback.

Everybody shouldn’t smell

November 13, 2009

The new color for the fall season is brown. Not the crisp, deep chocolate brown. No, the speckled crusty brown also termed dirt.

These thoughts and more ran through my mind as I gazed at the young boy behind the coffee counter this morning. Mussed bed head, sagging clothing, bags under the eyes and dirt under the fingernails. And that lingering aroma of fresh body odor.

Does anyone else find it disturbing that this person is making my latte? And he’s not just making mine, he’s making everyone else’s for the next hour. And in that time, he’ll pass along whatever else has taken up temporary residence on his fingers and arms since he rolled out of bed twenty minutes ago.

In connection with my previous post regarding the appearance of new technology and music trends, there has also popped up a new fashion fad. Some people might refer to it as a new type of lifestyle: the grunger. These are the individuals who do not own hair brushes, irons, mirrors or apparently soap. They laugh in the face of hygiene and scoff at those who comment on their radiating b.o., retorting that it’s their body, their right.

And it’s my right to protect my nose . . . and the beverage that will soon be entering my body.

I’m contemplating carrying extra tubes of deodorant and tossing them to smelly people. Kinda like a gift bag or a random act of kindness. It’s my body, my right to use my arm however it suits me. And if that means throwing a tube of deodorant at someone, why should I care how it affects them?

With the economy limping along at a tortoise pace and consumers’ pocketbooks closed tighter than ever and the holiday season staring us down, stores of all kind should be beating people over their heads with kindness to lure them in to buy. And yet, day after day, my theory is proven wrong. I find more self-involved store owners, aloof employees and an overall don’t-care attitude hovering over me in these amazingly overly expensive shops.

Do they really expect that by not greeting me for ten minutes after I walk through their doors, when they finally privilege me with their acknowledgment, I will hand over my money? When did this too-cool-for-customer-service attitude come about?

Probably with the evolution of iPods and emo rock and skinny jeans and the general “what’s in it for me” viewpoint of our newest generation of just adorable young adults.

But are they really to blame?

Of course not. Because if it were only them, we could easily become responsible parents and send them to their rooms without dinner to think about what they’ve done. Or at least, that’s what June Cleaver would have done. We, the adults, the supposed mature ones, have become infected as well.

Did technology cause this? Or maybe the ease of accessibility to absolutely everything in the free world? The ability to get whatever you want, whenever you want it? The replacing of intelligent conversation with constant scrutiny and idolization of celebrities? The me-first mindset, giving way to road rage?

June Cleaver would be appalled.

The man in the uniform

November 9, 2009

What is it about authority figures that conjure such fear in humans? They’re not superhuman. They don’t prance around in tights and a cape. They don’t wield divine wisdom or strength.

And yet, there’s always that twinge of fear or nervousness when a cop car looms close by.

Or maybe instead of claiming fear, you claim denial. Denial that cop cars cause you any trepidation. You experience no momentary pause in your thoughts. No slight quickness of foot off the gas pedal. Denial that, regardless of these individuals’ lack of physical strength or wise thoughts, they carry power in their backpocket. In fact, they hold enough power capable of ruining our day, our record or even our future.

Case in point: I was blissfully driving the other day with a friend. A friend that always makes me slightly concerned for my safety when she’s at the wheel. And considering that on this particular day she was eating an egg mcmuffin sandwich, her percentages got uglier. So I selflessly volunteered to drive her car.

I will carry the denial flag and claim that when I noticed the police car pull up beside me, I did not feel a moment of nervousness. Sure, I glanced at my speedometer. I was going 5 miles under the speed limit. No need to worry. So I put him out of my mind and continued chatting. I then notice he makes a quick move saddling up behind me, and I still don’t break a sweat. His lights go on. I look at my friend. What could I have possibly done?!

I’d like to make a break in my story to comment on the power of abiding by the law. Knowing that you are not doing anything to get in trouble for does a great deal for a person’s peace of mind. A great way to cut down on anxiety.

Back to story: I’m still feeling rather peaceful as I slow down, preparing to converse with the man. Wondering if he plans to compliment me on my excellent driving practices.

That’s when my friend drops the bomb. Her tags are expired. Not just a week or two, but three months expired. And as the driver of the car, I take the heat–something I was previously unaware of.

I will spare you the gory details of my penalty, but I will end with the thought that policemen, while they will no doubt continue to incite fear among countless law breakers and law abiders alike, they are just people. They can be kind and considerate. But also harsh and unyielding. The best antidote: a clean conscience.

And maybe a sweet smile.