Thursday, February 14, 2013
Working part time as a barista and shuttle driver has allowed me to nurse and grow a love of people-watching. During my shifts as a shuttle driver I simply sit in Heartbeat’s parking lot (located 6-ish blocks away from Heartbeat) and wait for someone to park their car and get into the van. Sometimes I will sit in the parking lot for two hours and not have a single “shuttlee.” While this may sound boring, the hours go by swiftly thanks to the characters on the street. This is going to sound super voyeuristic, but it is fascinating the things people will do when they think no one is watching.
One man crossed paths with an attractive young woman. A few steps after they had passed one another the man turned, stared at the woman’s ass, and gave an approving smile. He turned around just in time to run into a large low-lying limb. He let out a guttural yell, threw his hands above his head, and kicked one leg into the air. Regaining his balance, he looked to make sure no one was watching. I pretended I had been staring at my lap the whole time.
On another occasion I watched as three teenage boys walked in between a few parked cars that were located diagonally from the van. They circled each car carefully until a white BMW caught their full attention. The boys peered into the car’s windows and even looked under the car. After about ten minutes of this they finally thought to look and see if anyone was watching them. Their eyes stopped on the shuttle van and I smiled and waved.
Caribou, however, provides more fascinating people-watching because I can actually hear their dialogue. After working at Caribou for a month and a half I have observed one thing: people choose to meet in a coffee shop for almost anything, even meet-ups that should be in a private location. Last week we had a mini birthday party in our lounge with the fake fireplace. One couple came in every night for a week and interviewed a new nanny every day (and they brought their child with them, which was an unfortunate choice because he tried to destroy something each night). A man came into the store the other night, ordered a cup of decaf coffee, and then sat and stared at the wall for an hour. Literally. He did not pull out his phone, he didn’t not scribble notes or even drink his coffee. He simply sat and stared. He thanked my coworker and I for the coffee and then left.
One afternoon I got off of Caribou at 5 p.m. and decided to kill an hour and a half before I was to meet some family members for dinner at a restaurant down the road. I took a seat in a back corner of the store and pulled out my laptop. I gave my best friend a call to catch up. As we chatted, a man who looked to be in his late twenties entered Caribou, wheeling a suitcase behind him. He paid for a drink and took a seat at the table directly in front of me. I finished my call with my friend and plugged earphones into my laptop. An attractive blond woman entered the store and bee-lined to Suitcase Man’s table. She sighed heavily and let her purse drop with a loud thump onto the empty seat. It was clear that she was pissed.
I began searching for a song in my iTunes. I sampled a few, but couldn’t decide which Broadway musical I was in the mood for. Between each song I heard snippets of the couple’s conversation:
“How was your trip?”
Drowsy Chaperone? No.
“Good day at work?”
“I’m glad we finally got some snow.”
“I just want to know how the FUCK you could lie to me like that.”
My interest was piqued. In my freshman year of college I took a Playwriting class. The professor gave us a weekly assignment to listen in on conversations and transcribe what we heard. The exercise was meant to teach us how everyone has their own specific speech pattern. Without thinking, I started a new page on the Word document I had previously been working on and began typing the dialogue that began to transpire.
“You laid in the same bed as me,” the girl said, her voice not rising, but full of vehemence. “You looked me in the eye. You looked me in the eye as we laid in bed together and you lied to me.”
“I didn’t lie to you.”
“Well you didn’t tell me, did you?”
“Well no –“
“I would have liked to know when you were coming home on Sunday.”
“I didn’t come home on Sunday.”
“Yeah. Would have been nice if you had texted that to your fucking girlfriend.” Angry Girl was all about emphasizing her words. Suitcase Man simply sat and took the anger. I found myself automatically siding with him, the weaker party.
“We’ve been dating for over two and a half years,” Angry Girl continued, “and you’ve boiled it down to this. Literally you are horrible. I can’t believe you did this to me. You just had to say, ‘Tasha, I’m having a really hard time. I feel like I’m not getting enough love and attention.’”
“Yeah, grabbing my boobs is one thing, but maybe try opening your fucking mouth.”
“That’s not fair.”
“What’s her name?”
Oh shit! I momentarily left the confrontation to type this information to my boyfriend who had started Instant Messaging me. When I returned it was like being thrown into an episode of Days of Our Lives.
“My mother had just died,” Angry Girl said. “I was going to therapy. It was nothing personal. I went over to his place after the funeral and cuddled. Okay, yeah. I liked it. You weren’t there; I needed someone.” (She began speaking faster and angrier so I began to lose what pronouns she was using at times.) Suitcase mumbled something and Angry Girl responded, “I was always attracted to you. I was never thinking about other guys.” Suitcase mumbled some more. “You were dressing up nice for work!” Angry Girl retorted. “You were flirting with her and she was baking you cupcakes. I mean, if you’re just eating another woman’s cupcakes that’s just fucking disrespectful.”
“The cupcakes didn’t mean anything.”
“When we first got together you told me how cheating was a big deal to you. Your dad cheated on your mum and they got divorced; your brother cheated on his girlfriend who he then proposed to; and then your girlfriends cheated on you – I mean what the fuck? Now you go and start dating someone else while you’re still dating me?”
“We weren’t dating.”
“Sorry – fucking. You started fucking some other girl while we were still fucking.”
“Everyone cheats on each other.”“Everyone cheats on each other? Pieces of shit in your head. Literally all you had to do was open your mouth one time.” (Suitcase mumbled something inaudible.) “You’re moving to North Carolina?” Angry asked. “When?”
“I dunno. Two months probably. I’ll stay at Rob’s place until I go.”
“Where are you going in North Carolina?”
“You’re just going to up and leave? Things get a little hard and you just move?”
“It’s what I do.”
“Which is why you moved here from LA.”
“What the fuck, man? You are seriously fucked up. You just run from place to place.”
“I will put your stuff in trash bags and leave it at the front desk,” Angry responded.
“I’m traveling for business tomorrow.” Suitcase’s tone became suddenly defensive.
Angry crossed her arms and leaned back in her chair. “Okay.”
“You have all of my suits. I need those for presentations.”
“I’ll put them in a garbage bag and leave them at the front desk when I get around to it. Probably won’t be by tomorrow, though.”
“I need those suits. You can’t just hold my clothes hostage.”
“I could throw them out the fucking window, but I thought I’d be better than that.”
“Come on, just let me come up and grab a few things. That’s all I need. I need my suits, Tasha. I can’t go on a business trip without suits.”
“Go buy one.”
Now Suitcase was really pissed. “I’m gonna call the police and tell them you’re holding my stuff!”
“If you can afford to take this girl to Mexico, you can afford a new outfit for work.”
“Goddamnit, I didn’t take her to Mexico.”
“No, you two just kept planning your business trips at the same time. I wanted to go to Mexico, you know. I asked if I could go and you said it was a ‘guys only’ trip.
“I didn’t want you to go.”
“Well it’s fucking obvious why now. It was just you and your whore.”
“You can’t hold my stuff hostage for a fucking week!” Suitcase was getting so upset I wondered if he was about the get physical. “Just give me one piece of clothing!”
Angry studied her nails. “Okay...I’ll have to see what I can find,” she said nonchalantly.
“Can I have my computer, too?” Angry didn’t respond and continued to look at her nails in an approving manner. “Please? You’re really being horrible.” (Ha! Hello, Pot, this is Kettle. I believe you’ve met.)
“Are you kidding me?”
“Hey,” Suitcase threw his hands in the air, “I’m the one being civil here.” (Stupid, stupid man.)
“You’re being civil? This is civil? You just feel bad that you were caught!”
“I’m a fucking piece of shit. I get it.”
“You’re dating another girl.”
“We’re not dating!”
“You went to Mexico together.”
“That wasn’t a date! It was just a trip – you say you were attracted to me, but how was I supposed to know? You didn’t want to have sex! You were always pissed off.”
“I was going through the worst fucking tragedy of my life. I lost my mother and my best friend, I mean that’s something the really only happens once in your life so I’m pretty sure things were going to get better if you had just waited.”
I was finally so invested in this conversation and relationship that I fought the urge to get up and just call the guy an asshole to his face. I thought about texting one of my coworkers to bring Angry Girl a free drink.
“Everyone’s parents die,” Suitcase said.
“Not when you’re in your twenties! You seemed so much more than just sex when we began dating.”
“We drifted apart.”
(The next few moments of the conversation were to low and hurried for me to hear, but I caught that Angry Girl found out about the affair because she didn’t know when Suitcase was coming back from his business trip. She went into his email to find his flight itinerary and instead found a plethora of emails from Tori Murphy: aka Cupcake Whore.)
“I thought about putting your laptop in the sink,” Angry said, staring daggers at Suitcase. “But I decided to take the classy route.”
“I threw away all of your corks, though. We were collecting them to make a table together. I threw yours away.”
They were silent for a while. Angry was still leaned back in her chair, arms crossed, staring at Suitcase, who sat hunched and staring at his hands in his lap. “I hate you,” Angry finally said. “You suck.”
“And unlike me, your girlfriend is ugly and has an eating disorder.”
And with that, Angry agreed to grab a few of Suitcase’s clothes from her closet while he waited in the lobby.
Two days later, Angry Girl walked into Caribou and searched through our rack of cards. I waited for her to come up to the counter and thought about giving her a free drink. I knew that the gesture would probably reveal what a creeper I had been in listening to (and transcribing!) her break-up, but I decided it was a risk worth taking. If our roles had been reversed I certainly would appreciated a free drink! Unfortunately, she decided she couldn’t find the card she wanted and left.
It’s a shame I never got a good look at Suitcase’s face. I’d like to cough into his next drink or give him 2% milk when he asks for skim. Taste my vengeance!