Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Do You Have A Reservation?

Brad and I stopped off for coffee last night on our way to a party that promised gift bags and guest lists, but instead delivered a crowded cash bar and Thomas Pink-ed elbows to my tender bits. It sounded like a fun night on paper though, which is why we were walking near Washington Square at an hour when I'm usually beached on the couch like a humpback, unable to resist the dangerous shallows of another VH1 countdown.

We hit a Starbucks on the corner of the park and, once inside, remembered we were in NYU territory. Every good chair was occupied by a hoodied head nose-deep in Milton. Every table was crowded with a laptop, a used textbook and a peppermint mocha, and all the wooden chairs around them were occupied with either an ass in pajama pants or its corresponding set of Ugged feet. The final proof we were on undergrad turf came in the form of a jazz trio setting up in the corner, which was the reason we vacated the premises as soon as our Venti Cashalottas were in hand, which, in turn, is probably the reason that Brad and I are friends.

Most people call it ambiance. It is a rare and special gift when the heavens hand you another person whose ass puckers at the thought of shouting "VENTI MOCHA FRAPPUCINO LIGHT! FRAPPUCINO! NO, VENTI MOCHA FRAPPUCINO LIGHT!" over a freshman's enthusiastic clarinet solo. I will not yell "NO WHIPPED CREAM! NO WHIPPED NO WHIPPED NO WHIPPED!" like so many "No Whammy!"s because all the barista can hear is a whooping cough saxophone riff. Jazz in coffee shops is an idea that sounds good to managerial types and my mother, but I refuse on financial grounds to eat a three dollar biscotti eye-level with a dripping spit valve all for the dubious prize of hearing another crapass rendition of "Take Five."

Anyway, we left and headed for a bench outside the Stern School of Business to watch kids and their messenger bags hustle by. I felt a little edgy when we first began walking through the campus, particularly passing the library and its tired smokers slumped against the wall and flipping through wrinkled syllabi. My heart quickened a little when I caught a glimpse of the reserve books behind the circulation desk. During my academic career, "reserve" was shorthand for "chapters that Kathy will not ever read because the book is at the library and downstairs, and she is in her room and on the other side of campus and has just illegally downloaded a new episode of South Park; that she prays she will not ever be called on to discuss the content of; and, if for some awful karmic reason she is, that she can hopefully summarize in a sufficiently vague manner to convince someone, anyone, she has actually been to the reserve room at all during her post-high school education."

But safely on a bench with a cup of coffee it's kind of nice to be mistaken for a college kid. It comes along with perks like smiles from professor types making nice with the masses and places to sit that don't require a refill on the house blend.

It also teases out just a little bit of nostalgia; not for college days in general, but for the specific and very seductive idea that "mandatory" is synonymous with "recommended." I can't recall a single event in four years of college that was absolutely required, one time only, attendance non-negotiable that didn't start late with no sign-in sheet and have four make-up sessions. I miss the idea that nothing is so important that it should deter my trip to K-Mart to buy tiny pies and a pair of fuzzy boots.

Now it's getting up for absolutely mandatory work, to pay rent, to stay out of my parents' house and take a stab at independent adulthood. Of course this has a multitude of perks as well: being allowed to eat Cool Whip with a spoon, being allowed to throw out Tupperware that's too gross to wash, getting to stay out as late as I want on a weekday--even if that involves being in a crowd of rich old gay men (with free shrimp on their breath) vying for LOGO face time.

The night was not a loss. I was out at a club with a monosyllabic name. This means that when asked I can truthfully tell someone that on Tuesday night I "went to Blah, but it was kind of lame so we left."

I may have skimped on required college reading, but I got the full hundred thousand dollar tutorial in condescending disinterest.

2 Comments:

Anonymous anonymousmom said...

i'm wondering now if that guy you live with tossed the dirty dishes he was carrying around for a couple of years.

3:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't forget Kmart's tiny chocolate cheesecakes! Those basically defined my junior year. Holy shit. Various parts of me are watering just thinking of them.
-Clare

4:13 PM  

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