"Time to wake up, my fine moron friends." Cars were stopped ahead at the corner of 97th and Park, despite a green light, and the driver, through this remark, and some gentle beeping, reminded them of this paradox. Ahh, the gentle northeast, which I rhapsodized yesterday on this very site!
From the very first SECONDS of rearriving in the Homeland (a word now inextricably linked, sadly, with Security, and a sense of insecurity), I was confronted with an evocative and representative situation, proving 1) that I was in fact home, and 2) that nothing is too trivial for me to discuss it here on Think Denk. A little backstory: I slept heavily through my entire cross-country flight, emerging into the terminal at a rather advanced point of the day without having consumed a drop of coffee. Au Bon Pain, near my gate, seemed like a good place to rectify this urgent situation, and I placed myself in line. However, there was a small quandary, as shown in the diagram below:
Two persons were clearly and umambiguously in line for the cash register, as evidenced by their proximity, whereas a third man (labelled Man In Question), a rather nebbishy fellow in his late forties, stood rather farther away... I intuited that he was nonetheless probably "in line," and merely consumed with choosing a pastry, but the question remained open in my mind, and it seemed possible he might head over to the refrigerator, for instance, to get a sandwich, or some sushi, an action in the cruel Lord-of-the-Flies world of the airport concession stand that would certainly place him "out of line" and force him to begin again from scratch. Groggy and caffeine-starved though I was, I reminded myself of our common humanity, and gave him the benefit of the doubt ... and ... all would have been well ... EXCEPT that soon enough, pressure came to bear on this situation, in the form of some impatient youths:
They had in fact chosen sandwiches from the refrigerator and were now coming to consummate their choices with a purchase. However, in the meantime, as the diagram shows, the nebbish in question had moved even a bit farther away from the invisible vector of the line, in order apparently to peer at more remote croissants. I still assumed that he represented the "end of the line," despite this renegade behavior, but the youths to my rear, in leather jackets, chafing at their fashionable bits, saw the huge gap between Customer #2 and the Man In Question and began to move past me... asking in the meantime "are you in line?" in a very dismissive way, like an unnecessary formality. It seemed too cruel for me to lose my spot in this fashion, and indefinitely postpone my cup of coffee at the whim of these youths, and I felt my hand was forced, and perhaps a bit overforcefully I said to the Man in Question, "Excuse me sir are you in line?" and at that moment he turned his head away from the croissants and gave me a pained expression I shall never forget. It seemed to distill a lifetime of being hassled and to convey a deep consciousness of the inexplicable impatience of the human sphere, within which we are all yoked. Yes: I, I, was the focus of this terrible, baleful, look, like that of an animal you have just fatally shot, and for a moment everything went still and the airport grew dim and the sun went behind the moon and time itself seemed to pause for my punishment:
"That's a real good question. Yes, I'm in line, and in another way I guess no, I'm looking and deciding; a little bit of both; is that OK with you?; does that mean I'm not still in line? If you have to, just go ahead, go ahead, do whatever you want, please just go on ahead, don't worry about me... whatever you want..."
So bitter, and so beautifully executed. A man who cut ahead at this point, as he was inviting me to do, would be ravaged by guilt, pursued by a croissant curse, for the remainder of his days; it was a passive-aggressive masterpiece. Somewhere in the cosmos there was silent, respectful applause. I looked helplessly at the youths who now also paused, and fell back into place behind me; I could not now shift the blame onto them, though of course I was caught between the generations, my 35-year-old impatient self harrassing the next older generation at the behest of the younger, by fateful proxy, against my will. It was so archetypal! Oh, the humanity!
I promise at some point some future post may actually discuss music again.