So yesterday Matthew and I walk into a Starbucks in Baton Rouge. I have to update this blog, because we haven’t had wifi at the new house since we moved. Matt has to do an online algebra class. The coffee shop is almost full. Matt grabs the one free leather chair and starts his class. I go order us some drinks, then come back and take the last seat at the long communal table. My back is to Matthew.
A woman sitting across from me packs her things and leaves. The scraggly, skinny, pimply faced college boy — who had been sitting next to her looks at me with googly eyes and says, “She can sit next to me if she wants.”
“Excuse me?” I say.
“I said she can sit here next to me.”
“Her.” He points to my six-foot-tall, 14 year old son sitting behind me.
“That’s my son.”
“Ohh! Dude I am so sorry. Like, I’m really sorry. Dude, I can’t believe I said that.”
“No big deal.” I looked back down at my laptop. Scraggletop would not shut up.
“I mean, I can’t believe it. I’m so sorry. What was I thinking?”
“Seriously, it’s okay.”
“I mean, I just spent a month out in Seattle, and you know how it is out there. You can’t ever really be sure who’s a boy and who’s a girl. You just don’t know.” Moronic giggle.
I looked at him like he had lost his mind.
“Hey, dude, I don’t mean anything by that! I’m gay, alright? I’m gay. So I know.” He smiles this idiot smile.
“Listen,” I said firmly. “It’s really okay.” And I shot him a look that said, this conversation is over. I have work to do.
He has his iPad in front of him, puts in his earbuds, and starts to watch a movie. After a couple of minutes, he starts making phone calls with the thing. Have you ever sat in a coffee shop next to people who carry on lengthy mobile phone conversations? It’s unnerving. They could be sitting there talking just as loudly to someone across the table from them, and you would barely notice. But the absence of an audible response is crazy-making. Your mind keeps wanting to fill it in.
After the third phone call this jerk made, I looked around, saw an empty chair across the coffee shop, and moved.
But once I’d heard his voice, he became impossible to ignore. On and on he went with these phone calls. An elderly gentleman sitting in a leather chair next to the long table caught his attention and said, “You need to take that conversation outside.” Scraggletop just looked at him and kept on. Completely meaningless conversations this guy was having. He was just calling people up to talk.
I must have lasted about nine minutes after that. Finally, I snapped. I stalked across the coffee shop, put my finger in his face, and went off on him. “You need to stop this, and you need to stop this right now!” I barked. “You are behaving with no consideration for the people around you. If you want to talk to somebody on the phone, go outside. Do you understand me? Have I made myself clear?!”
Man, I was mad. Scraggletop nodded weakly, and I went back to my seat. That was the end of his phone conversations inside the coffee shop. When I sat down, I noticed the old man look at him and say, “I told you it was annoying.”
I don’t think I’ve ever done anything like that, but you know, communitarianism has its limits. Maybe I’m a bad guy, I dunno. Maybe I was in touch with my inner Uncle Chuckie. Or maybe I was inspired by this French national hero: