I was really in Starbucks to get some work done. I had my first set of AP essays perched on my lap with a green tea Frappuccino for backup. With seats in high demand and only one comfy chair available, I had no choice but to sit beside a couple of young men. One was a man of few words who typed on his computer and glanced up at intervals to appease his friend. I liked him. The other barely took a break from jet stream chatter to work on his Macchiato, and his volume suggested the quiet guy to my left might be hearing impaired. So while I tried to focus on how setting impacts theme and the appropriate placement of citations, snippets of conversation kept poking their head into my concentration and derailing my thoughts. But I couldn’t complain. Talking, even at an obnoxious level, is perfectly legal at a coffee shop. So I made up my mind to persevere until I hit the bottom of my beverage, and if I was lucky, infomercial voice might leave in the meantime. You should know that I’ve never been lucky when it comes to men.
“It’s like I was telling you the other day, Steve,” he took a long draw from his cup, “this whole online dating thing is a disaster. Do you know how much time I spend weeding through profiles of women I never want to meet, much less date? I get so sick of having to read about the hobbies of chicks who are only a 6 or an 8. I have to go through dozens of them before I finally land a 10. I’m just fed up with wasting my time.”
I stopped grading right in the middle of a paragraph without a decent topic sentence. Forget the need to link this point back to the thesis; the planet was slipping off its axis. I looked directly at the Online Wonder and took stock of his inventory. He was at least thirty pounds overweight, he wore sweatpants and an old t-shirt, his baseball cap was on backwards, and as for his physical level of attractiveness . . . let’s just say that he had a better chance of being gored by a rhino than landing a role on Magic Mike. Even as a camera man. And this is a man who’s annoyed with dating women who are less than a 10.
I tapped my red pen against the stack of essays. I tried picturing myself on the coast of Italy. I mentally worked on my shopping list. Anything to keep me from stomping into their conversation and offering a rebuttal to his statement. I took another glance at him and felt my blood pressure increase 10 points. Any second now I was going to lean over, look him in the eye and say, “Excuse me, but if I might offer you a moment of perspective . . .” and then launch into a verbal assassination that would expunge my name from any Wonderful People list I might accidentally be on. A 10? This man thought he DESERVED a 10! From where I sat, if he could get a 4 to agree to his offer of Big Mac’s and French fries he should fall down on the sidewalk and kiss her flip-flops. As the matter stood, I couldn’t believe this human being found dating women who fell into the 8 range a demotion. The thoughts in my head were ramming into one another with more violence than a kindergartener in charge of a Wal-Mart buggy, so I went to the bathroom.
When I returned, he was still there. He had crossed his ankle over one of his meaty thighs, and I admired the Birkenstock sandal dangling from a foot that most podiatrists would photograph, frame, and label Before in order to promote their ability to work miracles. I tried to resume essay grading, but I couldn’t seem to deal with the B’s and C’s because of the all the 6’s and 7’s Mr. New York stock exchange kept barking out.
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t dislike Mr. High Standards because of his lack of physical appeal. If I see a man who provides for his family, treats others with consideration, and makes the world a better place with his character, I think he deserves any swimsuit model who comes his way . . . even if the Ab Roller at his house is still in pristine condition. But these men often exude a sort of humility and forgo projecting unrealistic expectations onto others while they preen in front of Fun House Mirrors. I’ll freely admit that I’ve known arrogant women with all the appeal of a tree stump, but mostly I find it fascinating that so many attractive women suffer from insecurity while so many undesirable men strut around demanding an amazing relationship based on what little they have to offer. These fellows are the equivalent of the five year olds who sing at the top of their lungs because they have no idea that they can’t carry a tune in a bucket. Maybe that’s why this guy was yelling at his friend about his dating indignation. Maybe this was his tuneless song.
I gathered my papers and purse and stood up. The quiet guy beside me asked, “You leaving already?”
I smiled and said, “Yeah, I’m not making much headway with these papers. The music is getting on my nerves.” As I walked away, his buddy was still talking.
© 2013 – Traci Carver