Not that anyone who reads these Dispatches expects laser-like focus and Edward R. Murrow analysis, but I think I can favor you with genuine rambling this day.
If the displaced Israelites had gone a little further than Egypt, they would have found coffee bushes, discovered the brew, and then Moses & God could have gotten on the same page with regard to the respect to be given barristas. [Aside to my faithful brethren Preacher Joel, Pastor Josh and Parson Jim: Yes, I know that my Biblical historical time line is out of whack. I’m making a point here. Being literary in a petit way. Please feel free to point out what an ignorant heathen I am. In print. From the pulpit. On restroom walls. Wherever.] Ahem. Where was I? Ah, yes, barristas.
In any event, Moses & God would have approved of a conversation I had with the Starbucks barrista at the Morgantown Barnes & Noble this week. It is, by the way, if not a sin at least a spiritual faux pas to drive pass a book store intentionally and not check out at least the new releases. When I don’t have the time (or want to take the time) for an aimless shelf/stack search, I have a path through B&N that takes me past the bathroom, all the newly published stuff and then into the coffee bar. This week, I ordered a cinnamon dolce latte (same drink favored by cowboys ‘round the campfire) from a twenty-something barrista who just had that hard-to-define appearance of being a well-functioning person. By ingrained habit, I was calling her “ma’am,” and abruptly realized that might be awkward or even less than respectful given the differences in our ages. So I asked, and there being no other customers, we had a delightful conversation about forms of address. It turns out, she’d been to a sociology class at WVU recently which had discussed that very issue and while she preferred “miss,” the class had concluded that modern forms of address are very much in flux. She did express regret, though, that the most common address (I won’t say the norm, because to accept it is to give up) is either no honorific at all, “hey you,” or something worse.
A 20th Century sci-fi author, Robert A. Heinlein, made pithy social observations. Many were made through the “Notebooks” of a character, the near-immortal Lazarus Long. Among those entries, we find:
Moving parts in rubbing contact require lubrication to avoid excessive wear. Honorifics and formal politeness provide lubrication where people rub together. Often the very young, the untraveled, the naive, the unsophisticated deplore these formalities as “empty,” “meaningless,” or “dishonest,” and scorn to use them. No matter how “pure” their motives, they thereby throw sand in machinery that does not work too well at best.
A Constant Blatant Fraud for Only $59 per Month
I’ve run across a positively delightful low-life, immoral, unethical, brazen, brass ball, “who me?”, legerdemain business fraud which doesn’t violate any law, and which is a stench in the nostrils of honest people.
In the past couple of years, Partner JC has introduced me to a city concept called the “incubator.” That’s a business center where individuals go to work and are furnished (for a fee) a desk, cubicle, address, phone answering and, when necessary, conference room, etc. They only have to spend the minimum they need for their immediate office needs rather than fund a full-size operation before they have the gross income/sales to support that. Great idea.
Just as the Ponzi scheme followed the Mutual Fund, so the “Virtual Office” has followed the Incubator. The Virtual Office provides a phony address, phony phone number and phony presence in a “prestigious” place, without ever requiring you to get within 500 miles of that place. I’ve run into this by finding a consulting business located in a very, very small rural town in quarters so small and run down that you’d expect hay to be stored on the second floor. (Note for urban readers: That is a way of saying that it’s sort of like a barn.) And then I found the website and have seen some documents from this business. To contact the business, you call a phone number in area code 212. That’s New York City. It is answered in the barn, so the call is being forwarded. To mail something to the business, you send it to an address on Madison Avenue in New York City, which is in mid-town Manhattan. Presumably, it’s forwarded to West Virginia. There is NOTHING on any company document or public communication that says that they exist anywhere but Madison Avenue, New York. I checked out the address in New York and it’s a “Virtual Office” outfit which ostensibly will offer you office space, conference rooms and so forth, just like an incubator but which, for $59 per month, will let you use their address and they will forward your mail (at cost) and let you arrange to use a 212 phone number (at cost) to be forwared to you.
Those who sell goods have “customers.” Those who sell services have “patients” or “clients.” Those who have virtual offices have “poor schucks” or “marks”.
Dust Were Ye Made
Ash Wednesday was more than 40 days ago, but I been busy, OK? Wanna make something of it?
I had a thought that evening. There was a reference to the “dust to dust” thing, which led me to a line from Simon & Garfunkel, “For all I’ve created returns unto me, From dust were ye made and dust ye shall be.”
Which led me to memories of Carl Sagan. I’m slowly reading The Varieties of Scientific Experience, which is Sagan’s collected lectures on science and human spirituality. He was agnostic, and was kind about it. In Cosmos (which is a hell of a lot more spiritual than he intended, at least to me), he concludes that the science shows that atoms other than hydrogen have been made within stars. So you and I, beings made largely of carbon and oxygen, on a world made largely of silicon and aluminum and iron with 80-ish other natural elements thrown in are all made of “star stuff,” that our physical forms are created from matter made in the truly unthinkable heat of a star.
I have no point to impart. Other than maybe “think about this.” [Funny, as I write this, I'm listening to a musical meditation, Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet, sort of Christian New Age, and I don't see much irony.]