Honest Conversation Is Overrated
Actual Human Interactions Witnessed Or Overheard
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
Occasional Customer Mostly Loiterer walks into the store, not wearing a mask.
Me: Hey. We're still requiring masks.
Him: I don't have one.
Me: But you know we require masks. I told you yesterday.
Him: I don't have one.
Me: You can't come in without one. Sorry.
Him: Can I have one of the store's?
Me: No. I gave you one yesterday, and you just took it and walked out. That was the lastone. What did you do with it?
Him: I needed it to get into another store.
Him: So you're not going to give me one?
Me: I don't have one. You took the last one yesterday.
Him: Can you get more?
Me: Sure. Do you want to go pick up a pack for me? I'm here by myself so I can't go anywhere.
Him: I'll watch the store for you.
Me: Thanks, but no.
He leaves without buying anything. Just like he did yesterday.
We were stalled on the runway for twice the duration of our eventual flight from Boston to New York City, and were worried this was somehow going to be emblematic of our trip. Our lastish minute trip. Our We're Both Boosted Against Covid And Need Some Time Away That Doesn't Involve My Family Why Not Just Go To Vegas And Not Gamble Vacation.
The cabin pressurizer was busted, so our ears were all doing a weird pop and lock routine that was going to get real old if it happened for the whole flight. The issue, of course, is connecting flights. We were okay, as we had two and a half hours between our flights, and New York to Vegas isn't some Golden Pheasant that only leaves the nest two or three times a day. But there were people trying to make a connection to Madrid who were ferried off our flight and back into the airport so they could catch a faster flight. Then they were brought back on. Then many of them left again, and then I believe most-to-all of them came back. It wasn't at all interesting but the forty-something guy across the aisle from us kept saying things like "This is the craziest thing I've ever seen. Have you ever seen anything like this? This is insane." I assume it was the first time he ever left the studio apartment he shares with his overprotective mother. He was invested in getting Comrade to agree how bonkers it was that people would try and make a connecting flight but he was ultimately disappointed.
We got to JFK with an hour to spare before our flight, and decided to grab something to eat. But at three pm on a Monday, virtually everything was closed. There was one sad American style cafe that was open but which also had high chairs blocking the entrance. We were about to give up and stay hungry when we were waved in by the single beleaguered server, who tossed us into a booth, and said "You know you don't have to wear your masks in here, right? The time for fear is over. Where are you from? Boston? Don't people in Boston know that Covid is over?"
We did not remove our masks until the food came. The food was exactly the quality I'd expect in a generic airport eatery, which was actually a pleasant surprise. The table next to us boasted four strollers and a couple of parents who looked about ready to start preaching abstinence education in high schools. They kept waving to the oblivious server while their kids fussed but had the decency not to wail or shriek. Their table wasn't cleared by the time we left, and I believe those plates are still there, possibly overseen by one of the couple's abandoned children.
We transitioned from eatery to Getting On The Plane (fuck you, I'm getting IN the plane) flawlessly. The flight was packed. The attendants kept making announcements about not switching seats until everyone was on the plane because the flight was sold out and something something something. I only noticed because, of course, Comrade and I were not quite seated together. Somehow, we had seats B and D, and were prepared to be seperated for the whole flight. Except that nobody ever came for Seat C. So Comrade snoozed next to me while I talked to a very nice British motivational speaker about Covid in England vs Covid in the US, what we liked about Vegas, and other nothings that passed the time.
Our Hugely Stereotypical Flight Attendant announced "Welcome to Vegas, Bitches." as we landed, and then had a horrendously long improv comedy discussion with the middle-aged flight attendants about the differences between their generations. He mentioned that he'd just turn thirty which is Dead Years Old in gay. I've been hearing that ha ha line for at least twenty years now. It never gets better informed or more valid.
We arrived at The Flamingo around 10:30pm. The promised Express Check In Kiosks were all manned (and I mean that, not a single woman, or non-cis robot was behind a desk, they were all white dudes) by Happy Go Customer Service People who were too chatty to be Express Anything. Apart from a quick glance at Comrade and I, and asking if we had the same last name, our assigned white guy was surfacey nice, and warned us that it was NFL Draft weekend. "GO TITANS!" yelled the thirty-five year old meth dealer behind us, fumbling through his tattered Scooby Doo backpack while his either 17 or 50 year old companion scratched at her drug rug. Clearly, the age difference between us was the least interesting thing going on in that check-in line.
In 2003, Steggy and I stayed at Bally's Casino. I remember it being great. In 2014, a bunch of us rented a house that was pretty close to the strip, and very well maintained. The Flamingo is ok. We booked it because there was a special (there is always a special everywhere in Las Vegas), and because Comrade loves flamingos. The flamingos have been absent all week. A sad little pink sign informing us, every day, that due to nebulous reasons we should be satisfied gazing at a bunch of mediocre ducks swimming around a glorified koi pond. Also, their pillows are filled with razor sharpened pigeon quills. Our request for foam pillows was initially met with "Oh, we don't have any extra pillows in the whole casino right now, try again later.", and then we were given pillows that have been in circulation since the casino opened in 1946.
I have been mostly unable to sleep. Comrade hates the pillows but claims I'm "spoiled" because when I buy pillows, I don't pick them off the curb during Allston Christmas, but actually try out pillows that are comfortable and support my neck. I would not recommend staying at The Flamingo, although I'm sure there are worse places.
Before we fell asleep, we went over our plans for the next few days, and confirmed that all four of our parents had been relentlessly asking us if we were going to Vegas to get married. No. But we didn't come here to break up, either.
A couple is in the store, shooting the breeze with my coworker, trying to figure out whether or not to get to Volume 1 of the Invincible trade or to get the first compendium, when they guy's phone rings.
Approximation of Random Guy's Call:
"Yes. yes. Well, that can't be right. No. No. I'm on vacation. Yea, we traveled. No, I'm fine. I mean. Yea. A bit of a stuffy nose." Fuck. "Just since before Christmas. I'm sure it's not. Ok. Yea. Give me just a minute."
Shockingly, he decides he and his girlfriend should go outside to take the rest of the call. I am very much appreciative of this, as I'm guessing the call is to let him know he has Covid. Both my coworker and I are wearing KN95 masks, and I know that many people don't have the means and privilege to get checked for Covid every day, but you're supposed to get checked before traveling, even if you've been vaccinated and boostered. It's just common courtesy (and not in the Skeletor voice).
Assuming they're gone, I begin entering things into the computer when the girlfriend starts WAILING. I mean people a block or so away can hear her "BUT WE ARE ON VACATION! IT'S CHRISTMAS AND YOU PROMISED WE COULD DO THINGS. WE SPENT SOOOOO MUCH MONEY. I DON'T WANT TO QUARANTINE."
She lost all my empathy with her last sentence. Look, nobody wants to, but if your partner gets a call that he has Covid, your vacation is over. You need to go back to where you're staying, apologize to whoever you're staying with (because they almost definitely also have Covid now) and fucken quarantine. No matter how much money you spent, your vacation is OVER. Binge watch a show together, read some books that you already own or are in the place you're staying, have a Youtube party but stay the fuck at your home base.
When the wailing subsided, I heard the door to the building open, and I saw her walking towards the store door, I shut it. I didn't say anything or make eye contact. It's really shitty to find out you might have Covid and then try and go into a retail establishment. Get out of public.
She didn't argue or complain, but hung out in the hallway until her partner came back. I'm not sure what he said because I'm back on the computer, but she started crying again and they slowly disappeared from earshot.
Shortly after we moved in 2020, Comrade and I decided to buy a couch. But the Pandemic was reigning hell on the supply chain even then, and we weren't able to order one that we liked until February. It took about two weeks to arrive, was exactly the style Comrade wanted but it was hella uncomfortable. We gave it nearly a month where neither of us ever really used it for more than a few minutes at a time, and then we returned it.
It wasn't too long after that that I became weary of Granny Entitlement, and didn't want to buy a couch and then immediately have to move.
So we haven't had a couch. We have a dozenish semi-comfy chairs from Comrade's parents, one comfy chair that we moved from JP, and some matchy furniture that we don't love, but no couch.
On Friday, we decided to go to Jordan's Furniture. We figured we'd find a cool couch, be told it was no longer available, and after three or four "What about this ones?", we'd finally settle on one that would arrive in March. That's just the way thing are right now.
So we grabbed a Lyft, and arrived at a store that Comrade informed me was the place he used to go to hang out when he was bored growing up.
If you ever want to feel popular and antagonized, just be a gay couple trying to buy a couch in a nearly empty warehouse-sized store. I think there were three other couples spread out amongst the building, and we were all outnumbered at least 5-1 by bored staff members.
Employee #1 greeted us at the door, asked what we needed and if they could help, and we politely told them we were looking for a couch, and possibly other furniture, but wouldn't need any help for quite a while.
The couches in the front room were terrible, so we started a counter-clockwise circuit which Comrade immediately suspected was wrong. "Should we ask where the couch room is?" he asked, as we walked into a room with thirty couches. "Nevermind."
My goal for a new couch is: comfortable and grey (because Selina and Goose are going to shed all over it). Comrade has style needs, and an idea of what else to get to create a room around the couch. So we satdown on the first couch in the room, just in time for Employee #2 to welcome us, and ask if we needed any help, and to let them know if we had any questions. We politely told them we were looking for a couch, and possibly other furniture, but wouldn't need any help for quite a while.
The couch was great. Firm on the back, soft on the butt, not too deep. Also, comfy and grey with the legs that Comrade approves of.
We hit every other couch in the room and none of them was quite as good.
"Should we ask if this is the only couch room?" Comrade asked.
""I thought you hung out here all the time. Surely there are other couches."
"That was forever ago. Also, it's much different now. This place used to be Mardi Gras themed, and had a musical interlude every hour. Plus there was a Kelly's Roast Beef with an aquarium globe in it. I wonder what happened to the fish?"
There were many more couches. There were many more "Can I help yous." Some were concise and to the point. One guy, though, saw us sitting on a couch that seemed to be made entirely out of springs and thumbtacks, and said "Great couch, right? It's made of Sunbrella." He said this, standing under a GIGANTIC Sunbrella sign. "Everything in this room is made of Sunbrella."
"Thanks." I said.
"You can get that couch in any of the Sunbrella colors available over there on the Sunbrella fabric wall." And I think he said Sunbrella fifty-leven more times before letting us know that he was happy to help us if we had any questions. We didn't give him our rote polite response, we just fake smiled and nodded.
"That guy is The Worst." Comrade said.
There was a leather couch room (no can do with they tiny grey terrors), a These Couches Were Designed By Contestants Eliminated During The First Episodes Of Various Project Runway Seasons room, an abstract art for people with broken spines room, a Millionaire's Lounge with sleek black couches and expensive looking art, a room of Tilt sofas that recline at the press of a button and have their own cupholders built in, and a couple of rooms of random sofa assortments. There was also a "sleep laboratory" but I knew if Comrade went in, I'd never see him again.
There was a terrible table designed to look like an early 20th century car, where the two square feet of table was supported by six or seven feet of car. There was also a weird little cubby chair that looked hideous and uncomfortable. While Comrade was demonstrating how the wooden back brace pushed directly into your spine if you tried to sit back, Employee #72 told us how cute it was, and how easy it was to maintain before realizing that the brace was supposed to be covered by a piece that had fallen underneath. We left her still struggling to figure out how to put the "easy to maintain" chair back together.
Eventually, we had completed the full circuit, and decided that the very first chair we'd tried out was the one we would first try to get.
Nearly every employee had mentioned the Supply Chain, and that they hardly had anything in stock, and we should pick out a bunch of alternates. We already knew this, and it was a little disheartening to realize we probably wouldn't get a couch until March or April.
"Yea, I'm sorry." said Employee #80-something, "I'll check and see if they have this in the warehouse, but we really don't have much right n---Oh. We have it. And in that color. That's a nice surprise. I never get to give people good news anymore. Unfortunately, because of Christmas and The Supply Chain, we don't really have many delivery appointments available. Unless you could do next Thursday."
"I have next Thursday off."
"And where do you live?"
I gave him the info.
"It says here we've made a delivery there before, so that's good. But I guess we had to take out a window because of the narrow stairs."
"We live on the first floor. This will definitely fit."
"Then, congratulations. You will have a new couch next week."
While walking by an outdoor coffeehouse seating area today, I heard a woman dressed in a puffy coat and thick pants (it was in the 60s today) say "Well, it's just impossible to find anyone to work these days. Everyone's so entitled. I just can't find anyone willing to work for me."
And I couldn't help but say "You're probably not paying enough or providing benefits." as I walked by.
I didn't linger to take the brunt of her reaction.
So far, the Venn Diagram for people who don't want to wear masks in the shop, and the people who can't read the sign with the giant arrow letting them know the entrance to the store is down the hall, is a complete circle.
I can't remember what the phrase on the menu was that had Comrade and I discussing Worst Possible Drag/Porn Star Names, but my contribution was "Squelchy Donuts".
Not only is that NOT a Googlewhack, it's both a description that an actual bakery uses to entice people to buy their actual donuts, and also, unsurprisingly, part of adjective noun spam for adult sites that will absolutely steal your personal info.
But also, a porn star whose work one should never have to encounter. Or, a drag performer who is probably utterly delightful.
Employment is challenging right now. I bet it's damn near impossible to find work if you don't have experience, but calling up businesses at random and saying "Hi. This is totally strange, you know, but if you guys are hiring, I think you found your next employee."
I can guarantee you, we are not, but if we were, we wouldn't have.
On our way home from our first night out since the pandemic hit (Rosebud Diner for delicious night time breakfast foods), an SUV rolled by us, and the driver stuck their head out the window and just screamed like they were on fire.
Dude: "ME, TOO!"
The driver gave us the thumbs up, and kept driving.
Did he ever return / No he never returned / And his fate is still unlearned / He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston / He's the man who never returned.
No, thanks MBTA. I don't think I'll be sitting near the seventy year old white guy, with no mask, reading from the book of Revelation.