Service industry mysticism

Yesterday was dissipation. I couldn’t go anywhere or see anyone. I had to remain relaxed, slackened. Sedentary and supine. I needed stillness and silence. Dim light and drugs. A long shower to wash away the filth of working.

I needed to be unseen. Hide in my tiny room and smoke pot with the curtains drawn, a sliver of light breaking through the bottom left corner of the window. I bought light blocking curtains but I didn’t get the right size, so a little light always sneaks in.

A day off isn’t a day off if you have to go out, if you have to do things and ride buses and see and hear the public. If you have to go out there and take a train and submerge yourself in a mass of mongrels. If you’re going to hear sirens, honking horns and subhuman music as you run a gauntlet of hobos with your eyes fixed forward and your jaw clenched, you might as well head into work.

It’s not just working that ruins you. It’s getting to work and getting back home. Spending half the money you make keeping yourself alive and mobile so you can keep working. Poor people used to live where they worked. They fell asleep on tables next to their sowing machines, on top of each other, five or six to a room. And then they woke up and went back to work.

The lower classes couldn’t afford to separate work from home. They couldn’t afford privacy. That was a higher class luxury. For most workers, there was little difference between public and private. When you closed your shop down in the evening, your neighbor wouldl knock on your door and ask for something.

We might as well go back to that. What’s the point of having a separate space if work defines your life anyway. If work haunts your time away from work. Why pretend there’s something else to preserve.

Some people look at a day off as a day to pursue their interests. Enjoy company, friends and family. Go to a park or museum, get a drink or go to a restaurant.

For me, a day off is just off. Nothing will happen. I will do nothing. I’ll lay on my couch and feel my bones ache. Soak in the silence. Meditate on the simple joy of not moving, of not having to look at people or answer the same questions over and over.

I concentrate on the absence of grinding, repetitive tasks and the freedom from being under surveillance. That’s a day off. When miscellaneous Bangladeshis bring pasta to my door. A day of avoidance, of indolence.

A day without wiping, sweeping and mopping. Lifting up mats, taking out trash bags bursting with slimy, hot food and coffee grounds. Without burns, heat, steam, spills and stains from sticky syrups and sauces.

Making drinks for people and then making the materials to make the drinks. Preparing the syrups, dosing the coffee, making the milk alternatives. Almond cashew milk. Chalky, jizzy water that tastes like nothing.

Some day soon a robot will do this job. I can’t wait to be obsolete. The problem is that I’m not dysfunctional enough. Once I have nothing to contribute to society, then I’ll live easy.

The robot will make all the coffee with precision and efficiency. It will never feel tired or irritable. It won’t get lost in demoralizing thoughts about having wasted years of its life. A robot doesn’t pity itself for pitying itself.

The last role for people in the service industry will be telling the story of the product to the customers. The machines will produce the goods and the humans will produce the narratives. Fuck if I’m going to do that. I hate telling stories, especially stories about food and drinks.

2nd shift.

The other side of working when it’s busy is working when it isn’t, and that is its own nightmare. Time turns to sludge. There’s the uselessness of doing something stupid over and over again, and there’s the uselessness of not doing anything for hours on end.

Doing nothing is perfect when it’s your own time. Then it’s the pinnacle of existence. But when you’re on the clock at your job, when you’re on your feet standing in place waiting for direction like an abandoned cow, it’s unsettling.

The heaviness and abundance of time. Of course it slips away when you’re with people you love. It’s slick and scarce when you’re playing and laughing. But when you have to be in one place for eight hours without anything to do, that’s when you feel the pressure, the weight of what passes. It surrounds and suffocates you.

When time moves slowly enough, fragmentary memories float to the surface. You catch pieces of the past. It’s never a complete scene. My dead selves return and find me stuck in a forgettable present.

I’m not making new memories. Nothing I’m doing now is worth remembering. Even those important moments and people from the past are fractured, incomplete, filled in with fantasy. When I’m working in the evening, standing and shouldering fat, heavy time, I look out the window and catch the sunset. And the waning sunlight and trembling leaves impress me with impermanence.

For as inert as time feels on the inside, I see everything changing through the glass. Despite my static soul, the world seems fluid. The glimmering orange of the fading day grows darker by the moment. I project myself into a future in which I’ve already forgotten this moment. I want to remember this sunset, to recall the shadows filtering the light, to freeze and fix this ceaseless movement.

The void is what’s full; nothingness contains everything. It’s changeable reality that empties itself; it’s time that leaks the contents of the void. I’m a sponge of spilled time.

Notes on group behavior

When someone in a group we don’t like does something bad, we blame the group.

When someone in a group we like does something bad, we blame the individual.

If a member of my group misbehaves, then he wasn’t a real member of my group.

If a member of a rival group misbehaves, then he’s a real member of his group. His bad behavior is consistent with what his group believes. The whole group has a problem. They need to reform themselves or disband.

When someone in a group we like does something good, we praise the group.

When someone in a group we don’t like does something good, we praise the individual.

We can admit that there a few decent individuals in a bad group. And we can also accept that there a few bad characters in a good group.

But the bad people in our group are bad because that’s how human nature works. Even a good group can’t make everyone good.

And the good people in the other group are good because that’s also how human nature works. Even a bad group can’t make everyone bad.

Certain groups today (I won’t name them) prefer purging their members to strengthening their ranks. They are more concerned with adapting to the alien, subversive standards of rival groups than maintaining their own cohesion.

These groups see themselves through the frame of the outsider. They are all outsiders themselves, or at least feel themselves to be.

When you throw a bunch of selfish individuals into a group, they can’t disown and disavow each other fast enough. Their instinct is to dissociate themselves when their group belonging isn’t an advantage. If an association hurts their individual status, then they don’t support it, they don’t defend it.

You might think that the purpose of a group is defense or protection, or that individuals draw support and strength from a larger social body. You might think that common feeling means more to a group than individual advancement or status. But that’s not how some groups work these days.

On the other hand, there are groups that refuse to police themselves. They don’t criticize or cast out their own. They prefer swelling their ranks to checking themselves. These groups excuse the bad behavior of their members.

One group says, “it’s this other group’s fault when one of our own messes up.”

And another group says, “it’s our fault our members are bad, and it’s our fault when the members of your group make mistakes.”

One group believes in its principles, its core values. It just doesn’t believe in itself. If its people aren’t good enough for its values, then it will throw them away.

Another group believes in its people. Principles and values serve their interests. They would never punish their people for the sake of a proposition.

One group refuses to believe in conflict with another group. Each individual in the group carries petty resentments against other individuals. They won’t identify with common traits. They want to be different.

Such individuals can even use other members of out-groups to attack their in-group rivals.

For these radical individuals, the very fact that there are outsiders is a condemnation of the in-group. The sophisticated insiders will ask themselves how they could be in a group that doesn’t give everyone equal consideration, equal love. It will strike them as barbaric.

Seeing barbarity in their neighbors is a precursor to importing it into their neighborhood from half the world over. Almost as if they wanted to show the uncultivated among them just how rough it can get out there.


So, I’ve been thinking about hate. Don’t get nervous. I haven’t been feeling hate. I’m a modern, educated, western white man. Hate is a subject, a matter of thought for me.

There’s nothing I love enough to inspire hate. Nothing I want to protect. I walk around in a fog of indifference. The closest I get to hate is frustration when I have to wait for something I expected to get immediately.

Other people annoy me. They get in my way and slow me down. They get attention that should go to me. But I don’t hate them. When people are better than me I feel inadequate. Envy is also close to hatred, but I think less about the other and more about myself. I focus on my own shortcomings rather than the undeserved advantages of others.

My education and environment have blunted my emotions. I process my feelings as if they were coming from someone else. I experience myself as if I were someone else.

That’s the secret of a certain sort of identity. I only identify with my thoughts. Not my body or background. Not my skin color. What I identify with is something no one else can see. Something no one else knows or will ever experience directly. It’s something only I can know from the inside. I don’t have a religion or live with any purpose. I drift on the current of an unceasing commentary.

My thoughts come to me, and they seem to be all that I am. And all the rest of the world as well. If something happens out there, it’s nothing until I’ve thought about it.

I remember Descartes. He found certainty by way of doubt. Insofar as he was thinking, he knew himself to be a thinking thing.

For Descartes, doubt was a means to an end. There was no danger in doubting everything. He had God to hold him up when he dissolved the world. I’m a modern, educated, western white man. I have no God to catch me from falling into the pit of despair I’m always digging. My thoughts imprison themselves. God isn’t there to break them out.

Maybe there is nothing more than what I’m thinking. I might not hate, but I could be mad. We think a crazy person has to act like a crazy person, make a show of their madness. But there are other forms of insanity, like hearing only yourself in your head. You can stay quiet about that.

I have a few other feelings.

There’s guilt for having a powerful identity that I also can’t enjoy. I’m supposed to be on top, so if I’m not then it’s my fault. My innate power to oppress people is so subtle, theoretical and abstract that I’m broke and alone. No matter how far I fall, I should feel worse than I already do because most people are even worse off than I am.

Then there’s shame. I won’t risk humiliating myself. I move and speak with caution. My sensitivity to embarrassment makes me avoidant and distrustful. I stay scattered and distant.

Which brings me to loneliness. Like wandering through a sun scorched desert. Loneliness is lack of boundaries, a lack of borders. The nothingness burns white hot and stretches on forever. I can’t get to the end of it.

I think about why people dream of becoming computers, why they think they might be simulations. When you don’t seem to matter to people and other people don’t seem to matter to you, life feels unreal, a pixellated mess. When you get close enough to something, it melts away.

What would it be like to hate. To feel the burning certainty of desiring destruction for another. Knowing yourself through opposition. Your opponent knows himself, he knows who he is through his hate. He runs on the renewable energy of hate for you. Not just you as an individual, but you as a representative of a group.

He sees more in you than you see in yourself. And he hates it, he wants it dead. You mean something to others even if you mean nothing to yourself.

But I’m a modern, educated, western white man, and I don’t see individuals as representatives of groups. I can’t hate someone for not being like me because I believe everyone else is just like me. Everyone is equally alone, fractured, separated from themselves and others.

We share the bond of the unbounded, sinking into chaos and disorder. Coming apart feels better than staying together. For the disintegrating, the purpose of life is avoiding pain.

As an individual, my vulnerability is what defines me. And I don’t want to hurt anyone because that would hurt me as well. I want a life of minimal trauma. Psychic ease and an untroubled conscience. This isn’t about long term survival. I’m not trying to live forever; I only want whatever life I have left to be as pain free as possible.

Why do people hate? I know what I should say: because they’re hateful. It’s a weakness, it’s a reaction to feeling inferior. Some people just fear what’s different from themselves, and when they’re afraid they become hateful. Well adjusted, open minded people don’t hate. Educated people don’t hate.

But this is what I end up thinking: hate is self defense. It’s the instinct of self preservation. People hate because they feel threatened and want to defend themselves. Destroying the hate in someone disempowers them. Discrediting and shaming a healthy reaction to danger is an attack on a person’s ability to defend themselves.

Now, I don’t feel any of this hatred, any of this passion for self preservation. This is just what I think about it.

Another mutilated morning

I woke up this morning believing I didn’t have to work today. And then I checked my email. Somehow, I didn’t see a Saturday shift when I checked my schedule earlier in the week. But this morning when I blearily looked into the screen, there it was; undeniable, grim, impassive before my human incredulity. Another reminder from my scheduling app. Your shift starts in one hour.  The only thing worse than working is working when you thought you didn’t have to.

A day off on a Saturday in the service industry is especially sweet because you never get weekends off. Holidays, weekends, birthdays; every occasion when normal people gather to relax or celebrate means more work for me. Every Saturday and Sunday it’s the same. It’s the division of labor. No one has fun unless someone else is made to suffer.

In waves they crash into cafes all over the city. They demand efficient and friendly service as my body breaks down and fills with bile. The jabbering of unconnected individuals merges into a dull, disorienting roar. Conversations clang off the concrete walls. You can’t move quickly enough. Drink orders bury you.

Someone alway has to wait longer than their patience allows. Their expectancy is searing. And the eyes, the staring, glaring, searching, impudent eyes. Inscrutable gazes radiating the mystery of a strangers desire. What are they thinking when they look at me? I feel  used and cheap, a spectacle. I’m a bear in a tutu balancing on a unicycle.

My shop has a reverse panopticon structure. The worker is corralled into a ring in the center of the building where he can be observed from anywhere. There’s a comically low counter top separating worker from customer. In most normal coffee shops and cafes, espresso machines sit on top of high bars or counters, giving the the worker cover from the public.

But my shop uses an espresso machine that sits underneath the counter. So there’s nothing cushioning me from the intrusive presence of the customers. They lean half their bodies over the low counter and peer into my space and track my movement. They ask impertinent questions.

These open kitchen or cafe designs are cooked up by people without souls. They think they’re advancing this progressive style that fosters transparency, bridging the gap between producer and consumer. We want to encourage interaction, we want to create a space where the customer feels included, a part of the production. No. Get them out of my space. Give me cover, protect me from them.

Recently a customer asked me what my favorite coffee was. My favorite fucking coffee. Let me tell you about my favorite coffee as I sweat, dart from station to station, wipe down counters, pull shots and steam milk in the middle of a rush that will rage unbroken through the morning. My favorite coffee is the coffee I can enjoy alone.

Also, I don’t have much to say about favorites, especially when it comes to consumable goods. It never crosses my mind. I couldn’t tell you my favorite music, band, movie, book or food. I don’t care.

Rushes during the weekend last for hours and feel like years, lifetimes. And when you’re finally free from it, you blink and take a breath and it’s time to do it all over again. Your non-working life doesn’t count. Your free time is like a balloon in the hands of a five year old. It slips out; it floats away and disappears into the clouds.

I made no plans for this Saturday because I have no money or friends. But I still intended to enjoy the comfort and peace a day of not working brings.

I lay my head on the pillow last night thinking at least I don’t have to get up early. I could wake up early, but not having to makes all the difference. Waking up early when I don’t have to be anywhere is true freedom. I prefer those early, idle mornings. I drink coffee, read, write and listen to the birdsongs. It’s my time to not get something for someone else.

I prefer a slackened morning when I’m not moving faster than I want to move, when I don’t have to stumble out of my room and walk down the street so fast my calves burn to get on a smelly bus for a ride to work. It was going to be one of those preferred mornings. I was going to write and go to the gym to begin rebuilding my ever softening body.

But it wasn’t to be. I woke up this morning to the rude reminder of an automated messaging device. So I went to work like any other Saturday. I’ve never moved so slowly. Like an elderly man shuffling between turkey and mashed potatoes at a buffet. I came home today and started writing with one tenth of the energy and focus I had this morning. This is the trash you get when I work on Saturday.

I fell behind at work today but I didn’t care. There was a brief time when I wanted to believe you should always do a job well even if you don’t like it. Now I feel otherwise. Hard work is meaningless. No one cares. Of course your bosses want you to work hard for their sake but you’re nothing to them. You’re nothing to anyone unless you’re related to them or grew up together. Work hard for those people if you have to, or work hard for yourself if you want to accomplish something of artistic or spiritual worth. Otherwise, forget about it.

I can’t even afford to pay my rent anymore. People can wait a few extra seconds for their coffee. They have the whole day off.

Good times are on the way

It’s now June, and that means I have one month left in DC. One more accursed month in this quivering polyp of power. 30 more days of making coffee for flat souled functionaries and vapid trust fund layabouts. Where the government pays fat black women to sit around and grow their ass cheeks beyond human proportion. Where the dogs in nice neighborhoods eat better than I do. They’ll live longer too.

DC pools the worst traits, characters and tendencies of modern humanity together into a mephitic morass. It’s a swampy, soupy, parasitic breeding ground of urban detachment, coastal arrogance, status seeking, bureaucratic sprawl, jaundiced humanitarianism and underclass dysfunction. It’s the home base of a spasming, gangrenous establishment rattling through a drawn out death. Leviathan is a beached whale.

We have it all here. Economic inequality and segregation. Flagrant abuse and misuse of power. Dehumanizing urban development. Traffic and commute times that would crush the will to live of a holocaust survivor. Managerial jargon mingling in the air with garbled ebonics. Conversation caught between the buzzing of insectoids and the grunting of gorillas. It’s drab, impersonal, anonymous and standardized, as well as chaotic, nerve racking and insecure.

Uniform, affluent, sequestered neighborhoods proudly welcome aliens and invaders. They put up signs in their mexican manicured lawns denouncing hate. No borders or limits for these worldly saints. They don’t see difference and they don’t discriminate. You can live right next to them as long as you make over a quarter of a million dollars a year. Otherwise they’re happy to let you drive them around, cook them food, and clean their fine, imported toilets.

There are upwards of seven heterosexual men in this city, among the whites at least, and a bathhouse on every block. The normal amount of testosterone of one healthy white man is distributed among hundreds of thousands of quasi-males. They all have tits, guts, and lisps. Men are becoming middle aged lesbians. No one needs to rush into sex reassignment surgery. In another generation, we’ll all be women anyway.

Culture and environment work together to corrode masculinity. Nature and nurture currently turn us all into fruits. We raise boys to believe they are intrinsically responsible for everything wrong with the world. They’ve inherited a rape culture and patriarchy, and their solemn task is to dismantle an invisible system that allows them to rape anyone at any time as everyone else applauds or excuses them.

So men grow up hating themselves and awkwardly denying their biology. And then they eat estrogen and french fries, play video games and spill their seed in socks, towels, mouths, eyeballs and anuses. There is no physical resistance in their world. Nothing tangible and real. Nothing to overcome or steel themselves against except gender norms, systemic racism, hate and other phantoms they can fight from the comfort of padded chairs in subsidized offices.

But the lack of straight, patriarchal men doesn’t disturb the women of DC. They aren’t here to meet the fathers of their children. They’re here to push causes, make money, and advance their careers. Advocate for abortions, flesh out their resumes and betray their maternal instincts.

DC is an unblended, chunky mix of people for whom suffering and want are real and people who must continuously imagine and invent problems to expand government reach. I have no stake in any of this. I have a family back in Indiana and it’s time to go back to them.

A simpler, slower paced life appeals to me now more than ever. I want to drive a truck down country roads and read and drink tea on a placid front porch. Enjoy the stillness, the space, and precious time with family and friends. I’ll fish, camp, work, study and write. Lift weights again and relearn Bach on the classical guitar. Play out my days among people of similar background and shared genetics. And cherish the blessing of living in a place with almost no blacks.