Tuesday, September 12, 2006

pipe dream à go-go

You are not a revolutionary. It’s the troubled dream of an adolescent mind to think that one might change the world. Might somehow make a difference. Might make one’s mark. No, you are not a revolutionary, not one to blaze trails, not one to call the shots – only the product of that age-old propaganda machine which has you believing that your life matters, that you are important, that you are unique. But you are not so much a puppeteer as you are a marionette. Dangling from strings. Played by fingers. Mouth chattering away.

“You like what you do?” I ask the cute barista from behind a steaming cup of morning coffee.

“I do what I do,” she says, cockily, blowing by me on her way to the espresso machine.

“How come you don’t wear a nametag?” I ask.

“Because this ain’t what I do,” she replies, peeking from behind stainless steel. “I only work here.”

Not a mover nor a shaker, not a rebel nor a leader – you’re no-one’s champion. More reactionary than revolutionary, you’re more than happy to don the uniform of an innovator once in awhile if only to have others believe that you are on the edge of something new. But you ain’t no pilgrim. Only a backyard camper in a shiny new pith helmet. Never venturing far from the comforting hum of electricity. Never straying beyond the familiarity of the manicured hedges. Never too far out of sight, out of mind.

“Probably meet a lot of losers in here, hey?” I ask. “Pretty girl like you must really attract them.”

“Nowhere near the level of loser they see here at night,” the cute barista says before adding, “but we do get the odd one.”

Ouch. She’s got claws, this one. A fragile little girl wearing the costume of a big tough broad, she has yet to find out that this is, really, what she does. And will do. Forever. Server – nothing more. Big plans, but I know all too well that her twenties will run out all too fast, and her thirties will rush in to fill the void. There will be a desperate grasping for meaning, a regret, a clawing at the past. Pessimistic? Naw, realistic. I hear, too often, the same story: they’re always better than their job. I’m only doing this for now, to save money, you know? I’m gonna travel the world. I’m gonna learn, like, seven languages. I’m gonna go back to school. I’m gonna—

“—need you to settle up your tab.”

“Pardon me?” I smile.

“I’m gonna need you to settle up your tab,” she repeats. “I’m going off shift.”

Yes, yes, run along, dear. You’ve things to do and you’re not going to get them done hanging around this place. Being cute. Forcing smiles. Serving caffeinated beverages to losers like me. Run along and lie to yourself some more. Start with an idea, put together an army, and change the world – at least until the start of your next shift. At least until you punch that clock, don that apron, and whip up that first double non-fat soy latte of the day.

Don’t worry – I’ll still be here. A defeated revolutionary, failed radical, conforming nonconformist. Sipping coffee percolated from the ground beans of some backward island nation. There’re tattered fatigues beneath this suit and tie, you know. Ragged ideas in this old head. I was once the guy. I was once the guy who was going to change everything. Now, I’m just a guy who has realised that he is unable to change the fact that he will never change anything.

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