You get a hot drink at Starbucks. All of the tables are taken, so you ask if there is anyone sitting in a seat between a guy on a phone and a woman taking up three consecutive chairs and a footstool with various bits of work. There isn't. You sit down, pull out your laptop and hot pink earbuds, and start working. You take a sip, and as pieces of the roof of your mouth disintegrate with the pain of a thousand fiery suns, you shudder and manage to get a drip of Americano on the seat to your right, where the woman has placed a bunch of her crap. You get up, get a napkin, and politely wipe up the spill, then put your drink discreetly on the corner of the closest footstool, which holds the woman's drink, a pile of trash, and what appears to be sheets of seaweed, for some strange reason.
She says, "You know, you could use that table," gesturing to the footstool to your left, where the guy on the phone has his FEET.
You say, "You mean where that guy has his FEET?"
She frowns and counters, "Yeah, well, this one wobbles. See?"
She shakes her footstool, spilling a big blurp of your drink.
You give her your bitchiest smile, the one that intimates you might know how to break her arm, and whip your drink to the other footstool. "There," you say.
"I wasn't tryin' to be all whatever," she says, insuring that she WAS actually trying to be all whatever.
What do you do?
a) Say, "Yes, actually, it's pretty obvious you WERE trying to be all whatever, because our social contract says that I have to accommodate you, because you seem to think you have the right to three public chairs and a footstool for all your crap. But I don't play by your rules, and you can GO TO HELL with your sissy-pants non-apology. My m-er-f-ing American is gonna sit on that m-er-f-ing stool, and if you don't like it, you can TAKE YOUR STUPID SEAWEED SOMEPLACE ELSE."
b) Punch her in the face.
c) Pick up your drink and leave with a derisive snort.
d) Accidentally spill your Americano on her iPad.
Did you choose (c)?
And I kind of hate myself for not having the girlballs to pull a, b, or d. This social contract crap is simply meaningless in a faceless society where even if I did see this lady again, I wouldn't recognize her, unless she had her fake Burberry scarf and weird sheets of faux seaweed. Being nice to people used to be your societal insurance that they would one day be nice to you. Now it just means that rude people with less to lose get to impose on polite people who understand the ramifications of violence at the Barnes & Noble Starbucks and want to be able to work there again on Thursday.
And yet there's not a good option for a nice, peaceful suburban mom who doesn't want to go to jail for messing up bitches at the local coffeehouse. I'm 100% sure I've got more fight training than she does, and I'm also 100% sure that my boiling coffee could have pulled an Indiana Jones on her face... or her iPad.
But instead, I got up and left. That's what you have to do, if you want to pick up your kids on time at preschool and not get fined $10 for tardiness.
Sometimes, I wish we could just go back to Viking rules.
Because then, I'd have an iPad and a hand towel in Burberry plaid.