Last day in paradise

I leave Hawaii today. I’ve managed to

  • still check my mail hundreds of times a day
  • avoid reading tech industry news other than email subject lines

Holy god without startups to fall back on as a crutch, I am an incredibly boring person. And you know what, that’s okay.

I didn’t realize how incredibly affected I am when I’m in work mode. Just the jargon, the references, the discussions about IPOs. Ugh!

And I dress a certain way, or highlight certain things I like… Sigh.

At Kevin’s wedding, I openly did not want to mingle. I associate mingling with work. My default when I don’t have to mingle for professional purposes is… Don’t fuckin do it, lol.

After reading this article (http://www.theawl.com/2014/03/the-service-economy-trap-inside-brooklyns-barista-class), I especially don’t want to mingle.

Fuck it, I’ll quote the whole thing here:

After a while, the process of dealing with the clientele itself can conform to a similar—albeit slightly more nuanced—math. Somewhere around the hundredth order, the expectations underneath each inflection become easier to decode, like you’ve developed a sixth sense. Often it was simply detecting how much overt power a customer wished to exercise. By far the simplest to please are, unfortunately, the most cliche: the older, better-dressed, and very likely monied ones. They want substitutions and customized drinks, and from their servers, only hyper-polite deference. For a woman, men over a certain age are easy, most of the time—there is but only one marginally flirtatious smile, and all it requires is a twist of the mouth.

To fill the time between taking a customer’s order and ringing them up, a few stock questions can be used interchangeably, depending on the time of day and how expectantly or boredly the person in question is gazing across the counter, in your general direction. If it’s a Monday morning: “Going to work?” On a Thursday: “Plans for the weekend?” On a Saturday, during the brunch rush: “Have a good night last night?” And, in case you’re too exhausted to remember the more timely openings: “So how you doin’ today?”

It’s not that I didn’t care about certain customer’s responses, or genuinely enjoy the answers on occasion. In Brooklyn, one stout, bearded regular had a particularly self-effacing way about him—every weekday morning, he’d arrive with his messenger bag slung around his shoulders and sit in the back, eating granola and drinking an americano before he rode his bicycle up through Queens and into Midtown. He worked in advertising, I think, “something horrible and old,” he told me. I’d poke fun at him sometimes, asking if he was reading The Believer on his iPhone, if LCD Soundsystem was playing on those earbuds. “No,” he scowled, head bent down in mock shame. “I’m listening to podcasts.”

Take what you will from his irony, but laughing about all of our posturing relieved some of the tension of performing in earnest. That guy was certainly easier to serve than the aspiring filmmaker who, no matter how long the line was, would park in front of the espresso machine and unleash a running commentary on the current state of independent cinema. As it turned out, when I started working in Brooklyn, the most difficult to serve were the ones who wanted—or expected, really—for you to be cool, or at least receptive to a certain projection of hip-and-coolness. It was nice, at first, to have a job that let me swear and show my tattoos, but the pleasure of that freedom waned somewhat when most of my interactions became about the “fucks” and body modifications. If I had a quarter for every time I showed off my expensive liberal arts degree, holding up my end of a conversation about New York’s small presses or the most recent issue of The New Yorker, my tips certainly would have been better.

After reading that article, to be honest I felt a little deflated. As if small talk with cashiers was actually a burden to apathetic cogs who couldn’t possibly be bothered entertaining the idea that strangers are worth their time at all. And maybe it is part of the persona I’ve created as a tech professional. In any case, I took a break from that too.

Sometimes I struggled to talk about stuff with the other friends I’ve been rooming with. I’m certainly not the most interesting, and honestly I don’t want to be. Actually, I don’t really feel any sense of FOMO here. To do so would just stress out my fiancé and make me seem really uptight to my friends, people also in the industry but not nearly as obsessed about it as I am. It’s their vacation too and I don’t want to ruin it.

I didn’t feel obligated to try out all of the best restaurants here. Or do every single thing. Or sound fascinating. Or sometimes even carry the conversation forward. When I was bored, I didn’t feel obligated to read anything intellectual. I even played candy crush. Or just took pictures. Or sat there people watching or staring into space.

And it was okay.

At home, I was stressed out every waking moment. A startup I’d never heard of? A delay in finding out about that acquisition? Am I losing my touch? Am I wearing the right clothes and going to the right meetups and maintaining my network and…

Siiiiiiiiiigh yeah from here at this vantage point I really don’t give a shit.

I feel my own pressure to be fascinating but also deeply entrenched in tech industry bullshit all the time. Here, I really don’t care lol. Here I’m nobody and I kind of want to be nobody because everyone here is nobody and I don’t see any fucking billboards for the best new tech company or anything, people fuckin ride mopeds without a helmet on like they barely give a shit if they get hit by a car ’cause they won’t. Wtf redneck Hawaiians??

I’m just nobody here. A nobody with no posturing at all. Sure let’s go for cheap booze and hotel cafe food, I don’t give a fuck. Too far a drive to the national parks? I’ll live.

I wonder how I’ll hold up when I get back and pick up that other identity.


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