March 30, 2004

Damn Rude

When i consider the many reasons i’m grateful to be outta New York City, chief among them is the incredibly high level of rudeness that has developed over the past year or two. Now, we all know that the good people of New York City are somewhat known for their, shall we say, aggression on a personal level—the short-tempered Peter Luger waiter, the snotty Kim’s Video clerk, the irate teenage Puerto Rican girl, the garbage can-kicking punk, the little old Ukranian woman with 20 items in the express checkout line at Key Food who pretends like she don’t speak English. And let us not forget the classic “Fuck you!” ”No! Fuck you!” exchange that is practically an official motto. Yes, people in New York City have often been described as “rude,” but if you show a little respect, a little humor or a little balls of your own, you’ll often find a warm reception after the initial flip-off. Most people—excerpt certain stockbrokers, airline employees and drag queens—aren’t really cruel, they're just defending their turf in a place where turf is at a premium.

But the bad manners of which i speak are of a different sort entirely. It’s the impolitness of entitlement—and, as we all know, the area below 14th Street reeks of entitlement. Shiny, happy Kiehl’s-slathered faces living the Vice magazine lifestyle on a Wall Street Journal budget; they arrived in the neighborhood eighteen months ago and live there with the absolute conviction that no one else exists. And their bad manners give them away—what few neighborhood vets linger (Four or five, now that I’m gone. And, no, that’s not an exaggeration.) know the code. It’s like how you can always tell the nouveau riche n’ powerful by the way they abuse their subordinates. Or, as the great Mr. Diva always reminds us, “What shows, tells.”

Allow me to provide my favorite relatively recent example. One Saturday evening, somewhere past 2 a.m., a friend of mine and i decided to go have a drink at Max Fish. I know what you’re thinking: “Mistake #1 right there, kid.” And i am well aware of the fact that few places offer a better example of how the neighborhood’s done gone downhill like that big drop on the Cyclone. But many of the employees are old friends of mine, great and noble men who have the misfortune to toil in the Valley of the Shadow of Death and/or Dire 80s Fashion Show and i certainly shall not abandon them, especially not while the buyback ratio remains so favorable. But i get ahead of myself. So we sit at the bar, having our cocktails, Lake (that’s who it was, Lake) gets up to go to the bathroom and, a few minutes later, some girl (pale blue Adidas T-shirt, white belt... have i ever told you about my fantasy of training a squad of gorillas to roam the Lower East Side pinning hipsters to the sidewalk and tearing off their white belts? Doin' it right after i build my robot tiger army.) and guy (bedhead, Elvis Costello frames) move in and the girl sits on her stool. I point out to her that this would be my friend’s seat, note the half-finished gin and tonic, but she can sit there until she returns—given the weekend crowd and Lake’s compulsion to “network” every halfway decent haircut between here and the soap dispenser. And, 7-10 minutes later, she returns. I request princess vacate the seat and she announces that “It’s my seat now.”
“She left, so she gave up the stool. It’s mine now.”
“But that’s my drink,” interjects Lake, although i already sense reason has no place here.
“Listen, I told you that you could have the seat until she came back. Now—“
I am dumbfounded by such obvious flouting on one of the most basic rules of bar etiquette. I am well aware that, for all my anarchist persona, i adhere to a code of behavior as rigid and far-reaching as that inflicted upon any Edith Wharton heroine—there is a way to act and that’s that. And unless this little snatchfaced pisstarget just got out of 3,000 years of rehab, the most basic rule of tavern propriety (after "tip your server") should not be beyond her.
No, it’s my seat.”
It is at this point my right arm raises of it’s own accord and gives her a gentle shove. Of course, a gentle shove from me—especially when backed with the force of sudden rage—was enough to toss her from the barstool in dispute and leave her on her back with her legs in the air (a familair posture, i'm sure) over three feet away. I promptly stormed out, as things had clearly gone beyond the pale in said establishment. Lake ran after me, proclaiming “You can’t leave now! You won! Everyone’s on your side!”
This didn’t slow me one whit, but the reminder that i still had a full drink on the bar did, so i turned on my Converse, found a booth and finished said drink without even looking at the brats on their precious barstools, who glared at me, not understanding why i was the one getting the apologies and the gratis cocktail. Which, ultimately is why i still hang out at Max Fish—it may be crawling with D-grade assholes, but i can pull rank on any one of them at any time for any reason.

And it ain’t just me. In the same establishment, i saw a whole other altercation when yet another dipshit in a trucker cap shoved some girl out of the way. “whatever happened to chivalry?” she lamented. Of course, when one of her male companions challenged the clown, he began hollering ”No beef! No beef!” Still no apology, but he wanted to show off his ability to use outdated slang. (Or maybe Vice says it's in again, i dunno. Word up!) When my friend and recent co-bridesmaid Steph was in town on a Saturday night and i took her out, i warned her that many people would “be assholes.” Something she laughed off until we were at our first stop of the evening and she headed for the ladies’ room, a trip that took her ten minutes (and me two fended-off pickups) to come back in a huff. Apparently some chick had spent nine of said ten minutes and several before that in the toilet, even giving those on line shit for daring to knock on the door while she applied another coat of MAC lipglass. “Jesus. It was like the 80s,” said Steph.”80s-level spoiled-kid snottiness.” ‘Tis also a pity because Lucy’s is one of the last bars in Manhattan to hold out against this kind of behavior, really. It’s one of the last old things left on Avenue A; the warm, rosy glow of Lucy’s lovely soul and the red-bulb Bukowski-deco design have been my refuge since well before i was even legally permitted, host to entire years of my life, site of everything from the most dizzying girlish highs (toward the west end of the bar) to the deepest of existential lows (bathroom on the left). Lucy’s Bar and Ray’s Egg Cream are literally the only things that remain on Avenue A from the old days. Before the dark times, before the Empire. Back when New York City was a refuge for freaks—they don’t understand you back in Poughkeepsie, but we got a place for you here, amidst the rest of the raised-ranch refugees. Now it’s just a playground for homecoming queens to kill time playing Sarah Jessica Parker until they rope a fratboy, get a rock, and head back to whence they came. Unfortunately, by then, it's too late for the rest of us as the next batch giggles down East Houston, teetering on their stilettos, flipping their blowouts and emitting their mating call: "I'm sooo drunk!"

I was flipping through a local tabloid on one of my (many, many, many) Metro North train rides and noticed an article about PR people complaining about increasing rudeness—i know that’s like Anna Nicole Smith bitching about a lack of decorum and the complaints mostly concerned the theft of goody bags and centerpieces, excessive bad language and bouncer-hassling, but it further illustrates my point. I’d see asshole kids roaming the neighborhood, going, “Let’s get into a fight tonight!”
“Nah, only if we got the numbers. I’m not fighting anyone unless there’s more of us.”
Sure, you consider “the numbers" (well, i never do, but i'm borderline suicidal anyway) but the first priority is finding someone who needs an ass-kicking. And, Lord knows, there is no shortage of people in New York City begging for a beatdown; a main reason why i had to leave was because i couldn't handle the constant low-grade homicidal rage every time i went out for a pack of cigarettes. But how can you expect a sense of justice from people who steal your barstool, step on your feet and throw screaming hissyfits on Avenue A because a taxi won’t stop for them? Never mind that it’s across the street going the other way. And occupied. How dare people not abandon their taxicabs and violate traffic laws for Lauren and Steve? The whole world rotates around them. The sad thing is that it actually does.

Posted by lissa at March 30, 2004 03:40 AM