So I’m arriving at a big and fairly busy Starbucks in Burbank—the kind where nearly every single customer has a laptop or a spread of text books—and I’m lucky to find one good seat left. Even better, the seat’s near an outlet for my PC.
Except that the power outlet is in full use by others sitting on the couch right next to the chair.
No problem, I thought; I’ve got my handy-dandy 3-way plug-in with me, making it possible to share an outlet with others.
No problem. Except …
Except I sure didn’t expect this:
“Excuse me, ma’am, could I unplug your laptop for just a second to—”
“No, you may not,” she interrupted. “I don’t want you sitting anywhere near us.”
I was startled by this unexpectedly harsh response. Her expression was hard to read, so I thought maybe she just has a strange sense of humor.
“Are you joking,” I asked with a smile.
“No, I’m not joking. I don’t want you anywhere near my daughter. I don’t like the leering, perverted way you keep staring at her, like some sick freak.”
Leering? perverted? sick freak?
I’m completely stunned. First, I just arrived!—how I could be one who “keeps staring” is a mystery.
Second: What daughter—where?
Oh … that shapeless, silent blob beside her, whose face is completely buried under a tangled mass of long hair—whose clothing is so baggy I couldn’t even be certain it was a female—whose indiscernible age is somewhere between 25 and 35 years younger than mine—THAT daughter?
If anything, I should be apologizing to the lady for not noticing the existence of her daughter until she spoke of her.
I laughed. Maybe. I can’t recall for sure.
But I certainly am laughing on the inside as to the preposterousness of her accusation. It is so completely wrong and bizarre that I’m still trying to figure out if she is serious.
Except that she isn’t backing down—no “just joshin’ ya’” twinkle in sight.
Instead, she has returned her focus to her laptop, lamely pretending I’m not there, even as I’m standing two feet away from her, still dumbfounded.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, ma’am.”
Finally, I take a good look at the two of them.
They both look like the product of some Appalachian inbreeding experiment—a dull look in their eyes, crooked and yellowed teeth, bad skin, lots of excess weight, frumpy clothes, K-Mart shoes, and cheap, plastic-framed glasses held together by tape.
And, yes, this is markedly different from all the other customers at the store, some of which are overhearing this and trying to not to look.
Okay, well … this is going nowhere.
But there are two outlets on that switch, so I turn to the person on the other side of her—a guy who is about 18 or 19, I’d guess. Based on his attire and dull eyes, I wonder if he’s related to the women, but he’s ignoring everything so far, playing some handheld game system instead.
“Excuse me,” I asked in his direction.
“Excuse me, do you mind sharing your outlet with me, I’ve got this three-way plug that … hello?”
He is not only not responding, but anti-responding: turning his body away from me.
The message is clear; they’re a matched set.
And I’m thinking, this must be what it’s like to be a character in a Twilight Zone episode.
How bizarre, how bizarre
Am I being punked perhaps? No. Not famous enough.
I’m about to give up and just see how long my PC can last on battery power—because I sure as hell ain’t gonna sit elsewhere, as a matter of principle now—when a young guy sitting on the other side of the couch offered to share his outlet. I thanked him, but declined. He surely knew that his outlet was too far for my cord to reach from my chair, but it seemed his offer was more an acknowledgment of how ridiculous this paranoid lady was being. It was his way of extending a voice of sympathy.
Then the person to my other side offers to share his outlet. I don’t see an outlet anywhere near him though. It turns out that he has a six-foot-long power cord with him—obviously a regular—and it easily reaches. Awesome.
Just another day in starbucking paradise, I guess.