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Greg shook his hand in the air. “Guh, you wouldn’t think stirring cookie dough would hurt so much.”
“Worry not!” said Brigid, shoving her finger into the bowl and pulling it out covered in dough and chocolate chips. “Your sacrifice shall not have been in vain!” She greedily gulped down her prize.
“You shouldn’t eat raw cookie dough!” said Greg. “You could get sick from it!”
“No I couldn’t,” said Brigid. “It’s never actually happened to anyone in the history of ever.”
“Of course it has,” said Greg. “There’s the well-known case of Silas Gunderson. In 1874, he was making cookies to comfort himself after having accidentally slashed his arm open on a sewer grate while trying to fend off the diseased rats who chewed off two of the fingers on his left hand. Took one bite of raw cookie dough, and dropped dead on the spot.”
“What?” said Brigid. “That’s stupid. Even if you hadn’t just made that up on the spot, all that would mean was that he died while eating raw cookie dough, not from eating raw cookie dough.”
“Well, yes, but still. Better safe than sorry, don’t you think?”
“No, I so don’t,” said Brigid, scooping out another dollop with a large spoon.
Unfortunately, as she snuck out of the building, Brigid’s cellphone began vibrating stridently in her bag, which just told her she had a lot more hell to get through before the day was over. Pulling out the phone, she barked into it, “I’m not gonna say four hours until you give me details!”
“Well that’s fine,” said Isadora’s voice on the other end. “I don’t want you to say four hours anyway! Why should I? It’s no skin off my nose.”
“Ugh, sorry Mom,” said Brigid. “I thought you were someone else.”
“Well I’m not,” said Isadora. “What’s more, I don’t intend to ever be.”
“What’s up?” said Brigid, hauling her bag up onto the bus and waving her pass in front of the sensor.
“I’m calling to issue yet another invitation,” said Isadora as Brigid collapsed into a seat. “Your Aunt Edna is hosting a family reunion two weeks hence.”
“Oh, hell no,” said Brigid. “No thanks.”
“What do you mean, ‘no thanks’?”
“I mean Aunt Edna can go hump a pool toy. A team of Navy Seals couldn’t get me to go to that.” A woman sitting across from Brigid turned her head and blinked; Brigid just hunkered down into her seat.
“Brigid!” said Isadora.
“No way,” said Brigid.
“She doesn’t have many years left in her, you know,” said Isadora.
“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” said Brigid.
“Don’t be cruel-hearted!” said Isadora.
“Sorry, sorry,” said Brigid. “I’m just… Mom, I can’t take family right now.”
“You’re supposed to take comfort and joy from your family!” said Isadora. “That’s what they’re for!”
“Then I should have a comforting, joyful family for that,” said Brigid. “Not Disdain McJudgealot and the Fifteen Sneerers.”
“I don’t even know what that means,” said Isadora. “In any case it doesn’t matter. We all have obligations, Brigid, and family is one of them. I understand that you don’t necessarily like them, and that can’t be helped. But you’ll be glad to have them later in life, take it from me!”
Brigid just squeezed her eyes shut. Then, quickly pulling a bit of paper out of her bag, she rapidly crumpled it up in front of the microphone. “Sorry, what’s that mom?” she said. “You’re breaking up. What? WHAT?”
“Don’t you try that crumpled paper trick on me you little–” was as far as Isadora got before Brigid had hung up on her.
One of the unexpected things I’ve learned over the course of being That Guy at Starbucks, is how much there is to learn about being That Guy at Starbucks. For instance, you discover that there’s a whole shadow-economy of That Guys, many of whom are actually women, making That Guy a terrible moniker but alas the one that has stuck in my head and therefore I shall employ henceforth.
Another thing you discover is that paradoxically, “Dream a Little Dream of Me” becomes the most un-soothing song in the world when blasting too loudly in your ear. In short, there are times when having earphones is absolutely vital. I mean, the whole point of being That Guy at Starbucks is you’re working somewhere that has noise and bustle and activity, in order to get something that feels vaguely like human interaction without any of the attendant unpleasantness of going to an actual job– but when the shady character at the next table over pitches a ponzi scheme to his mark in a voice made to rattle windows, or worst of all, some harried suburban mother brings in her five year old, her toddler, and her infant, and shoves them all at a table in the corner while she goes to grab her triple venti caramel macchiatto before she murders someone, the calm bubble of humanity suddenly becomes a loud and intrusive bubble of humanity designed to keep you from getting anything done. Your choices therefore are to take your chances with the next Starbucks over, or to put on headphones and listen to, well, sound clips recorded inside coffeeshops. Because that’s the most effective background ambience for getting work done.
You also quickly learn the importance of scouting out the power plugs, grabbing the seat by the window in the brief moments when it becomes available, knowing which cashiers actually know what they’re doing and will give your drink to the barista correctly, and by extension which baristas actually give a damn when it comes to making the drinks. A mocha made without the proper amount of syrup is much worse than no mocha at all.
Once you get the hang of these things, however, you come to discover that having offices in every city of the world is worth its weight in gold, and as I mentioned, you can’t beat the rent. The only real downside is terminally slippery insides, but even that can be managed with an occasional lemonade and judicious selection of decaf.
“Oh, I found an answer to that question,” Brigid said.
“And good day to you, Captain Out-of-Context,” Greg replied. “Which question?”
“You remember a while back, I was wondering what the male equivalent of a ‘fag hag’ was?”
Greg winced. “I was hoping that had been merely a bad dream.”
“Turns out the answer is ‘lesbro,'” said Brigid.
“Don’t tell me these things,” said Greg.
“What’s wrong with ‘lesbro’?” she demanded. “It’s a perfectly good slang term. Way better than ‘fag hag.'” Greg merely gave a sort of soft whimper, and Brigid continued, “Typical, tho. The guys get a neutral or even guy-positive term, and the women get abuse.”
“Excuse me,” said Greg, “but I would very much like to be excused from the rest of this conversation now, please.”
“You can’t trust a thing kids say any more,” said Greg. “A bunch of girls outside just spend fifteen minutes telling me that London Bridge was falling down, falling down, falling down. But I checked the news, there’s nothing about it.”
“Uh huh,” said Brigid.
“Of course they might have just been confused,” he added. “They seemed to have mistaken me for an attractive woman.”
“I hope you realize,” said Brigid, “that this kind of malarkey is why you don’t have any friends except for that cat.”
“Harumph,” said Greg. “Ozymandias and I share a bond of true friendship, and tuna fish.”
“Don’t kid yourself,” said Brigid. “If Ozzie had opposable thumbs, you would be so evicted.”
“I don’t know why, but I was thinking about Blame It on Rio last night,” said Alex.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” said Greg.
“You were thinking of what?” said Brigid.
“Blame It on Rio,” said Alex. “Cheesy rom-com from the ’80s, had Michael Caine and Brooke Shields doing this May-to-September romance–”
“Not Brooke Shields,” said Greg. “It was Demi Moore.”
“Oh, wait, I remember that now,” said Brigid. “You’re thinking of Bo Derek.”
“No,” said Alex, “I’m pretty sure it was Brooke Shields. Anyway, her father and Michael Caine were like best friends, and Michael Caine’s wife was having an affair with Brooke Shields’s father while Michael Caine was having an affair with Brooke Shields.”
“Demi Moore,” said Greg.
“That movie did crazy things to my hormones when I was a kid,” said Alex.
“It certainly didn’t improve your long-term memory,” said Greg.
“Wait, I thought Blame It on Rio was the one where the guy spills Pepsi on his keyboard and suddenly his computer comes to life and starts fixing his love problems,” said Brigid.
“That was Electric Dreams,” said Greg.
“Then what was Woman In Red?”
“You mean who was the Woman in Red?” said Alex.
“Kelly LeBrock,” said Greg.
“Sigourney Weaver,” said Brigid.
“Kim Cattrall!” said Alex.
“Pam Dawber?” said Greg.
“Clara Peller,” said Brigid.
“Shields and Yarnell,” said Alex.
“Joe Isuzu!” said Greg.
“The Dunkin Donuts guy!” said Brigid.
There was a long pause.
“What were we talking about, again?” said Greg.
“Your long term memory’s not the greatest either, it seems,” said Brigid.