Friday, June 7, 2013

Beware of Old Men in Starbucks


A few weeks ago I had an odd morning. I was early for my shrink appointment and had left my portable coffee mug at work the night before so I stopped by Starbucks. I got a skinny vanilla latte in a size "medium" because I refuse to say made-up names for small, medium and large. This isn't science fiction. I'm not speaking Klingon or Dothraki, okay? If it's the middle size, it's a medium you Italian posers.

Anyway, I sat down to enjoy my overpriced, complicated coffee beverage, grabbed my phone, pushed my bangs out of my eyes and began to read an article. Or Twitter. Whichever sounds better to you.

"You don't have to play with your hair, you look beautiful!" an old man shouted at me across the Starbucks. He mock-pushed his imaginary hair to the side, shook his head and flicked his wrists in an overly effeminate and haughty manner.

I hated him immediately.

"I was just pushing my bangs out of my eyes so I could read," I said to him because I am insane.

"Riiiiight!" he said and dramatically rolled his eyes. I felt shamed and hated him more.

"Ha ha," I said without humor and resumed reading my friends' Facebook statuses and pretended not to feel shamed for touching my hair in front of an 85-year-old wildebeest.

"Can I show you something," he sidled up to me and entered my personal space which is a good five feet diameter around my person. I don't like people I know touching me let alone freaky old man strangers who shame women for hair-touching in public spaces. He sat down next to me anyway.

"Do you know who I am?" he asked.

No, god, please no, I thought.

"I wrote a book," and then he in fact shoved a book at me and I stared at it. "Here, take it. Look at it. Read that." He pointed at the back cover which was covered in small type. The front cover had photos of him in various poses as a younger man lifting weights and flexing his muscles.

"Hm hmmm," I said and scanned the words. "It seems you were some sort of personal trainer or coach?" I said, trying to pretend like I cared.

"I was the biggest coach in the world. I trained football players and baseball players. I taught Kung Fu to the president. I know Arnold Swatzenegger!* I came up with the idea of Dancing With The Stars.* I gave them 35 billion dollars so they could start their business. Do you have any idea how much money they made off of that deal?"

I shook my head no and remained frozen in fear.

He rambled on and I faded out of consciousness. He talked and talked and talked about numbers and famous people and exercises and jobs and about how he was going to be on TV the very next day. I couldn't even take it all in because all of my personal space alarm bells were going off and maybe even some of my psycho-killer gonna kidnap you in a full-size van bells too. He was mad as a hatter, of course, that much was clear. But he was also jabbing me in the shoulder with his index finger and the whole thing was such a sensory overload that it stunned me into a state of paralysis.

"What do you do?" he said after he took a breath.

"I'm a writer," I said and recoiled.

He stared at me and dramatically dropped his mouth open. His eyes widened. He shook his head in the subtle motion of a Loony Toons character and reacted as though I'd just I given birth to baby dragons in the leather Starbucks chair and the afterbirth had just gushed onto the floor at his feet. I suppose he hadn't met a woman who could read and write before? Perhaps they didn't let womenfolk do that in his day. Who's to know?

"Why, you do the same thing I do!" he said. "What do you write?"

"I write for an ad agency," I said and prayed to the seven gods that I would be struck dead or a fire would burst out from the espresso machine so I could find some reason to get up and leave.

"I wrote all the marketing for NAME OF EVERY COMPANY EVER for ALL THE YEARS EVER in the HISTORY OF THE WORLD," he said, gesticulating wildly.* Then he stopped and stared at me again, shaking his head and widening his eyes in that cartoonish eye-bulging manner.

I stared at him and waited for something to make it all stop.

"Boy, did you meet the right person," he said.

I stared at him and nodded. I began to fear that I would never again see the light of day outside of that Starbucks.

"Do you want to write my next book?" he said and squeezed my shoulder.

"Can't, sorry," I said and smiled. "Too busy." I began to regret that I stopped carrying mace in 1992. I was nauseated at being manhandled and at my inability to make it stop.

Then he proceeded to tell me how he brought seven writers in for his last book and interviewed all of them. He finally settled on a girl. One girl. I pictured seven young women standing in skirts, turning around for him to inspect. I said a quiet prayer of thanks for being born after his time as I sat captive in the leather chair.

"But thank you so much for the offer," I said, remembering to be polite.  "It was very nice of you to offer."

He gave my shoulder another squeeze, giving me the heebiest of jeebies.

"Hey Judge! Hey Judge!" he yelled at some attractive woman whom I presumed was a judge. It wasn't my friend who is a judge, for a second I was hoping it was because then I could run to her for protection. She's better at dealing with this sort of thing. I don't handle aggressive people well. I sort of clam up and freeze, as you can see. He got up to go talk to the woman who was not my friend and possibly not a judge.

I noticed he had left a copy of his book with me and I googled his name on my phone. Apparently he wasn't insane and he wasn't making all of this up. Though it's possible he may have been elaborating a bit. I was kind of hoping he was a crazy homeless person because then maybe I could have tapped into some kind of compassion for the guy. But instead he was just a rich old white dude harassing younger women at the Starbucks. So I went back to hating him and quietly slipped out of the building while I had still had the chance.








*This may or may not be a work of fiction, depending on whether the wildebeest wants to sue me or not. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination, are used fictitiously or have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental or is indeed a fact but I don't want a crazy old man to sue me because I blogged about him harassing me at my local Starbucks. Thank you. My husband is a lawyer so don't sue me. Good day.




61 comments:

  1. Absolutely almost fell off the Arc Trainer reading this at the gym. Hilarious. Also: painful. I LOVE YOU MANDY FISH

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    1. Mostly painful. But I knew it would entertain you.

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  2. Wonderful story OR report, depending on what the crazy old man does next. I've had a pasty white old man corner me in a B&N to tell me that I'm beautiful, but he didn't offer me any work. Just kept staring at me. Creepy!

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    1. I guess when you put it that way, the potential for freelance work was a plus.

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  3. This sounds exactly like the kind of thing that would happen to me. Exactly. I love it (because it didn't actually happen to me this time.)

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    1. Haha. I think these types of folks can sense who's gonna tolerate them and who's gonna give 'em what for.

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    2. I've just always known that I'm a freak-magnet. You're right, they can sense it.

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  4. I'm pleased that your penchant for attracting crazy has not diminished over the years. It makes for such good reading.

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    1. I think my appeal to the nutjobs is timeless.

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  5. At least you get a better class of creepy old men. I was in the supermarche and stepped away from my cart to inspect pastries. This small, wiry old man ran up and told me not to step away from my purse because someone could steal my wallet. And he should know, he explained, because he used to be a thief. I thanked him (to get him to go away) and he told me that I should be thanking my mother for my amazing legs. I told him my mother had nothing to do with it. She's a short troll. That shut him up!

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  6. "I hated him immediately." LOL! Girl, you crack me up! :)

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    1. I'm glad you appreciate my warped sense of humor.

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  8. I will have to watch myself as I turn into an old man next year. Thanks for the warning.

    And I especially like your courage in not falling for the faux Italian culcha in ordering coffee. Kudos to you.

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    1. Try not to squeeze strangers' shoulders.

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  9. So, he carries around a copy of his book with him everywhere he goes?

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  10. This makes me glad I'm a recluse now. I probably would've ended up actually interviewing for the writing job.

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  11. Creeeeeeeepy. Like creepier than a bag full of spiders hauled in by a parade of crawdads and millipedes.

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  12. Glad for you that he got distracted and give you the chance to slip out the door.

    Creepy yes, but a lot of the older generation is talkative out of loneliness or boredom. They used to be someone, probably in charge of a department or something and now they suddenly have no job to go to, no people to be in charge of and they don't know how to adjust.

    I have a feeling that any job or career choice you mentioned- he would have done it.

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    1. He was sitting at a large table in a big group of old guys all hanging out together.

      THERE WILL BE NO PITY!

      Just kidding. You can feel bad for him. He touched me one too many times for me to feel bad for him.

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    2. I tend to think age does not make you an asshole. Usually ,unless someone had a stroke or something ,a lot of older people are very eloquent and not intrusive and even interesting to talk to. That's why becoming a creative person, an artist, musician, helping others, inventing new ideas. If you never were creative and had no manners usually age isn't really the defining factor/ TLS :)

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  13. You need to work on a fake hacking/pheggmy cough that you can use to escape those situations. Finger up, heading for the bathroom, to hide until you can slip out the exit.

    Either that or scream "Augh! Don't touch me!" Works wonders, and all eyes will immediately be drawn to you -- and then focus on the creep trying to slink away ...

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    1. Oh to have that kind of internal fortitude.

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  14. For awhile there the man sounded like the Kristen Wiig character on SNL who always has to top anything that anyone else says by claiming to have done super amazing things. Anyway, even if he was legit, it sounds like he's a lonely, self-centered old man with no one to talk to, so he has to chase beautiful women around Starbucks and pray to God they all tolerate him. If I should ever meet you in person, I promise not to poke or squeeze your shoulder. That's just annoying.

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    1. She was probably my favorite character on there. Judy being a close second.

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    2. For awhile there, I thought I was dealing with the male equivalent of the Kristen Wiig character too!

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  15. I will never ever ever understand why some human beings, especially of the opposite sex, feel it's perfectly acceptable to lay their hands, or any part of their body, on another human being without previously expressed written or verbal consent.

    Pushing hair out of ones eyes is most assuredly NOT consent.

    Although the entire description was really freaking hilarious.

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    1. And that makes the whole thing worthwhile, in my opinion.

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  16. This is, easily, the best story I have read in a REALLY long time Mandy. Perfect.

    By the way, I feel exactly the same way about those stupid Starbucks sizes. When I order my LARGE iced coffee, I congratulate myself on winning the award for being the most sane person in the joint!

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    1. OMG, I'm glad you thought so highly of it! I had it saved in my drafts folder for a while. Wasn't sure if I should publish it or not. Ha.

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  17. You know what they said back in the day: When climbing the ladder of success...please remember to push your bangs out of your eyes. Pervy old creep! Sometimes I wish I had a pet monkey. A rabid monkey that would bite the hands(or other exposed appendages)of perverts. (Sorry, I rode the subway in NYC for years. I have issues.)

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    1. I would like a rabid monkey. I feel as though that would really help me in life.

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  18. I work with a wildebeest much like that, but all my coworkers stare at me with poorly-veiled disdain when I start in on my bug-eyed rants about PERSONAL SPACE and SEXUAL HARASSMENT because, hey- he's old. It's up to me to corral him.

    Am I crazy? Is he crazy? Am I really supposed to let old people off with shoulder-massages and constant, drippy "My psychic told me I'd see a Goddess today- she was right!"?!?!

    Sorry. I hi-jacked your comments. This is me saying: I Laughed Out Loud when reading your disclaimer. And thank you for making me feel not so crazy.

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    1. No you're not crazy. In fact, I just completed my annual Harassment Training at work and the fact is, the person who is doing the harassing does not factor in. His intent does not matter. How he makes the recipient feel is what matters. So even if he's just a well-intentioned old coot, what he's doing is harassment plain and simple and I would let HR know.

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  19. I could feel the skeevy bony finger plugging away at your shoulder.

    Ick.

    Just go away and why don't people know you don't jab other humans.

    Blech.

    I also refuse to say fancy size names. Small, Med, and Large, because that is what it will always be no matter how many times the baristas correct me.

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    1. It is amusing how they always repeat your order back to you, with their made up Italian Size name replacing your normal American English size name.

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    2. It used to be called marketing. Now it's called branding. Sheesh.

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  20. I think this was about as funny as the time a stranger sat down at my table at a fast food place asking me for some of my french fries and getting mad at me for not handing them over. Seriously funny yet disturbing , The way you wrote it made me laugh.

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  21. I think there is a name for that invading of personal space, its called a lunatic! Or close talker. Worse is the close talker finger poking shoulder squeezer . They get right in your face ,you can feel their spit hitting you as they close in for some inappropriate groping. TLS :)

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  22. Seriously its pretty sad that you generalize older people as being gross. Maybe this guy was but you kind of seem just a bit ....hate to say it ...snooty.? But its more like fear. I see you as afraid. You need to just tell people like him " You need to not touch me again,its kind of rude sir" He either will apologize ,if he was a gentleman he would. If he gets huffy , sorry but : Now you know he is a dirtbag. You don't have to pretend to put up with crap.
    Don't be defensive be yourself and don't be afraid. tls

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    1. Easier said than done. And snooty? Really? Is this the first post of Mandy's you've read?

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    2. To me, it's just part of the overall humorous, storytelling tone and style of the piece. While this recounts an actual event, it's embellished to entertain. It's not a literal word-for-word, thought-for-thought account requiring feedback from the reader on how the author should have handled the situation.

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    3. Well said. I think sometimes she is torn between being a practicing Buddhist while still having a materialistic western lifestyle with all the trappings it brings like designer shoes . Who is Mandy ? I think she is beautiful person but I think she has a hard time when someone compliments her. "When I do this , I will be happy", rather than "I'm happy to just be" I am guessing of course.

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  23. Once I went on a date with some millionaire or something who wouldn't stop talking about how he was ACTUALLY A REAL LIFE PSYCHOPATH and it's why he's so good at business but has a hard time with relationships and he was absolutely right because I was LEAVING ASAP.

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  24. As a middle-aged white guy, I just felt sorry for him. I'm guessing he's a widower, and obviously lonely, and his recitation of his work screamed "I was important! I mattered once!"

    It is so very hard to grow old.

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    1. Yes indeed. I recommend not accosting strange women in the process.

      ;-p

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  25. This cracked me up. I'm not sure which I loved more - your disclaimer at the end or "the heebiest of jeebies." Clearly, you need to never go back to that Starbucks again.

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    1. Good thing there's one on every corner!

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  26. you can't not write about that. good thing it never happened...

    (my space wants to rub up against your space.)
    (that would have been slightly more funny - and potentially less creepy -pre-facebook.)

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    1. Haha. Myspace wants to rub up against your space!

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  27. That is one crazy old man :O Even if he was not making it all up, he is still crazy. Who the heck comes up to random women at Starbucks and starts such a creepy conversation? Thank god I avoid Starbucks, you may never know what kind of crazy you might get.

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    1. Oh, I think you can find it pretty much anywhere. It's not brand-specific, in my experience.

      ;-p

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  28. waaaait. Is this actually Jack Lalane we're talking about? Like, of the juicing dynasty? Or is that just a representative stock image?

    In any case, you are HILARIOUS. this has happened to me more times than I can admit, which is sad as Id love to get someone my own age hitting on me for once. Le Sigh!

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    1. Haha. No, just a representative stock image. I think Jack LaLane passed away....

      Thank you for reading and I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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  29. funny and creepy all at the same time!

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