The other day I woke up early and got breakfast at a small, inconspicuous restaurant. The waiter was overly-friendly and clearly did not understand my morning evolutionary process, nursed along by a delicate coffee/conversation ratio. It goes something like this:
One cup: I am sufficiently stimulated to exist in the world.
Two cups: I have a warm feeling creeping up on me. Small talk seems approachable.
Three cups: This is when you have to catch me, overly-friendly waiter.
Four cups and I’m completely awake, thinking about many things and wishing to remain unmolested. But at cup three I am, for a brief 20-minute period, willing to listen to your cheerful thoughts and anecdotes. You took your cat to the vet? You like my glasses? You’re feeling great about the Phillies? Fantastic. You’ve got me, for the moment, to engage in meaningless conversation—but don’t fuck up, waiter. I’m still tender and, probably, a little hungover. Please, don’t use any of these words:
Baby – I don’t listen to stories about babies. You made somebody, and now that somebody is acting like a person. Okay. If I wanted to know about all the saccharine, goofy things a baby does, I’d get somebody pregnant.
Art – Look, I know you’re a struggling artist of some sort. Pretty much everybody is nowadays. I wasn’t under the misconception that you’ve resigned yourself to being a waiter at a tiny bistro for your entire life. You’re gonna make it big—real big. You’ve got a collaborative show coming up at the co-op. You think you write kind of like Hemingway. You think art is the struggle of human beings to understand themselves through symbols, and you thought of that all on your own. I know. I just don’t want to hear about it.
Literally – Overly-friendly waiter, I can only tolerate so many literallys before noon. About six, actually. And if you say that word once, especially if you use it in the way that is becoming extremely popular these days (i.e. repeatedly, pointlessly, incorrectly), I know you’re prepared to use it—at the very minimum—three times per minute, which leaves us approximately two minutes to speak before I attempt to take my own life with a teaspoon.
Election – This one should be self-explanatory, but I’ll break it down for you. I follow politics enough to not feel like a complete idiot. I have political leanings, but those are unimportant. If you feel compelled to spout political verbiage to a complete stranger, and are a conservative, you will sound bitter and snarky, like Oscar the Grouch after an expensive prostate exam. If you are a liberal you will sound uninformed, naive, and delusional, like a Carebear on Vicodin. In any case, you will remind me of a character from a children’s television show who has had something weird happen to him, and this will freak me out.
Gentrify/Gentrification – I’m aware that your neighborhood was wa-a-ay cooler when you were the only white kid on your block and the crime rate was through the roof and your rent, subsequently, was half of what it is now, but that’s just how cities work. People like you move into shitty neighborhoods, making other people like you want to move there, and slowly the fun, unpredictable poor people are displaced by middle-class, young professionals with little, squeaky dogs and $800 bicycles. It’s pretty much your fault, so please—don’t.
Jesus – You may use Jesus as an expletive or adjective, e.g. “Jesus-Rodeoclownin’-Christ, this coffee is good!” or “Those Jesus sandals are fucking sweet.” Both of these formats are acceptable, but under no circumstances do I want to deal with Jesus as a proper noun, especially before noon.
OCD – I’ve got news for you: you do not have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder solely because you like to keep your apartment neat and tidy, you make your way across the city in a criss-cross pattern, or you can’t stand food going to waste. Those things are just called being an individual with preferences and habits, a human being. I know people with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder; it’s a terrible affliction. They cannot shake hands. They’re afraid that people they love are going to die at any moment if they don’t call them. They sterilize their dishes in boiling water before and after they run them through the dishwasher. They cry if they wake up before 6am, because their whole day is ruined. They often kill themselves. If you collect two-dollar bills or are a ‘neat freak,’ you’re not OCD, you’re quirky in a way that is common and unoriginal, therefore, normal. In other words, you’re not quirky.
Ironic – Over-friendly waiter, you’re using this word incorrectly, but people will happily argue on your behalf saying things such as, “Definitions change as the years go by. If enough people use it in a new way, it can take on that meaning as well.” They’ll also say, “Coffee-drinking customer, you’re such a goddamn elitist. Give over-friendly waiter a break.” Listen, a word is a word is a word. If you use the word ‘ironic’ when what you really mean is ‘coincidental’ or ‘funny’ you subvert the actual meaning of one of the most complex words in the English language. Irony is a concept that’s shaped literature and art in the 20th century more so than any other. If you want to be a great artist, you should probably look into that. Also, if you mean ‘coincidental’ just say coincidental, and leave me to drink my coffee in peace. Literally.