I’m sitting in Le Pain Quotidian in Dupont Circle, watching everyone. I’m facing the bay windows, giving me a front row seat to the traffic around the intersection of P and 20th. Most everyone is walking briskly by under the June heat in attempts to a) appear candid even though my searching gaze is clearly on them, or b) possibly avoid my judging eyes as I glance down at my book or to my right and left at all the intellectuals who foolishly convened at a wi-fi-less mock-French brunch establishment where we’re led to believe that French people tip and drink coffee out of saucers. If Le Pain Quotidian told them the French like to lap up the coffee from these dishes, I’m sure they’d do that too.
I’ve noticed that everyone walking by seems to be going somewhere; in other words, everyone is up to something. Some of their agendas are harder to figure out, others not so much. A young Asian man just walked by with an exposed tennis racket in his hand. Obvious. Although, I wonder how an Asian-only sports-themed party won’t be seen in the community as racist? A young lady just flew by on her bicycle with her left arm outstretched. Turning left, I see. Another young lady just gave met my gaze through the window. Sorry, taken. One young man in particular captured my attention. He wore his suit a little too relaxed for my fashion tastes, but he was portly and, to his credit, he wore it confidently. Just as he appeared on the left of my stage he walked stage-left-ward and brought his cell phone to his ear. It could have been anyone on the other end of his call if he hadn’t completely given it away. Before he dialed the number he was walking humbly, like everyone else, but as he began the call, the gait of his steps widened and lengthened considerably, leading me to believe that he owned the place. His left hand managed the call while his right stretched outward and shook in a rotating motion, causing his watch to fall as far down his wrist as possible, and giving himself a more comfortable range of motion, which one needs while wearing a suit, and while making one of two kinds of phone calls: a business call or a call to a girl one is sweet on. It’s then when I felt embarrassed.
Earlier today, admittedly, I too had strutted while making a phone call, a business call, to be exact. From waking at 7:45 until around half past eleven, I was humbly sharing my space with all of the other elementary and middle school teachers at teacher training. Becoming a middle school teacher is harder than one may think and while “training” may be too strong a word for me, I certainly wanted to hear what they knew about the field. I spent the morning smiling and passing the trail mix, giving everyone the impression that it was just as much theirs as it was mine. I listened silently as others talked, as if their opinions were just as important as mine. It was around 11:30 when I looked down at my phone and received an assignment via email from my other job. I was to call Steve to alert him of a meeting place in Denver for my boss, Vince. Steve is the CEO of a marketing company in San Francisco and Vince and I had just conference called with him last week about hiring his company. On the call I had already made my mark as we discussed electric bike technology and scooters at length. I had boldly asserted myself as the expert by saying a little too loudly, “Yeah, you’re preaching to the choir here when you talk about scooters. I ride one to work every day…” and then I lost steam and forgot what I was saying and said something like, “so I really like them,” and Vince reprimanded me thoroughly with body language, grinning and nodding at me sarcastically.
Upon receiving the email I put the trail mix down with ease and patiently waited for a potty break from our seminar speaker and then, like Superman hearing the cries of helpless citizens in trouble miles away, I rose out of my chair with something to fight for, something to lose. Matters were urgent. I barged out into the hallway, phone number at the ready, and, much like the young man on 20th St., my legs became chariots carrying me high on clouds of esteem. I too lunged forward and outward with each step. Back and forth I strode. I raised my phone to my ear and cleared my throat so that the crowds at the rear could hear me clearly. I’m not sure what it is about these calls or certain rooms that we walk into, immediately assessing their need for a new owner and deeming ourselves worthy of the position, and I know even less why we self-proclaimed owners of places walk with such wide gaits like we’ve just been traveling on horseback, shaking our wrists and propping our hands on our hips, leaving no room for by-standers or at least making it unsafe for them, but I’m sure when Steve hears that voicemail I left he’ll be overcome with respect and awe and maybe he’ll even return my call before hell freezes over.
Wait, if mild-mannered Jon covers enough ground for two when he makes business phone calls, and the young man on 20th St. is doing the same, it stands to reason that this is a universal situation. This is the 21st Century; business everywhere is being done over the phone. Men all over God’s green earth are taking up far too much space as they walk and talk. I’m surprised any business gets done in confined spaces like cubicles or cars. Maybe that’s why successful people buy Mercedes and Lexus; they must have a feature where they literally swell with pride when the On Star phone is in use to make room for all passengers. Come to think of it, it’s always been impossible to sit next to Greg due to his wingspan and he’s successful. And if all businessmen are doing this, who wins? love?
The question must be asked, especially if you live in DC: is there enough room in this town for the two of us? If not, I call not relocating.