It’s Saturday and, as such, the entire Upper West Side has decided to congregate in the smallest Le Pain Quotidien in the surrounding area. Not the large, open location on 91st and Broadway where Tina Fey hangs out, but the claustrophobic enclave on 84th and Amsterdam that lacks any star appeal. True to human nature, we Quotidien-ers are collectively making this poor decision whilst glaring at each other for being so stupid.
You should know that coming here, for me, took LOTS of effort. I had to actually turn off the syrupy voices in my head that were whispering sweet nothings like “House of Cards, day-long napping, and the March issue of Vogue.” But after months of giving in to that damned seductress, I decided to rally and do something vaguely productive instead. Emphasis on the vague part.
New York is chock-full of prime study spots, so full that deciding on one becomes a project in itself. There are far too many facets to consider. This is quite unlike the suburbs, where the range is limited to one Starbucks that moonlights as a tween-age mecca, a public library too eerily quiet and filled with people whose proximity to death is difficult for us invincibles to face, or the bedroom I grew up in which simply sends me into a pool of nostalgia and angst about all that space between past and present.
You don’t go out in New York City without thinking about who you might come across. Real friends, sham friends, loose acquaintances, exes, people you slept with once and never spoke to again, Tinder dates gone awry—they all line up as potential “oh, shit” moments waiting to happen. So you weigh what you’re willing to deal with today (niceties are so le hard sometimes), how insane you look (which, in my case, is generally VERY) or, perhaps, how freakishly good you look for once (and god damn it, someone better see this!)
Today I was straddling a line somewhere in between, and knew that if I worked anywhere near my apartment it would last for a good thirty minutes before thoughts of Netflix came crawling back. I chose the Upper West Side for good measure, having never rendezvous’d naked with anyone up here and also having a strong affinity for the neighborhood that I was born and raised in. It has the seemingly magical effect of making me want to do my childhood self justice by actually, you know, getting shit done. To which I say: never underestimate the ability for your environment to mind-fuck you, sometimes for better, though more often for worse.
So with the best of intentions I travelled across the park (eclipsing dysentery), my transformation into a better person surely imminent. It was obvious right away that Le Pain was overflowing with the too-easy-to-stereotype masses of the UWS. But, being a woman on a mission (which means something serious yet hazy, according to literature everywhere), I wasn’t going to let the chic Jewish grandmas and Brad-and-Angelinas-gone-granola suppress my urge to work. I would be immune to the shrieking of children and certainly would not be transfixed by one little girl’s bounty of American Girl dolls which, necessarily, were taking up two empty seats as a line formed out the door. Actually, I fully understood this…having been a passionate AG supporter in my youth.
Even when they brought out my pot of green tea and it was an Arctic-worthy temperature, I evoked David Foster Wallace on a good day (see: This Is Water) and brushed it off with a congenial laugh and a glance to the waiter that said, “This is a shit-show, I understand your mishap.” The point is that this was not real struggle, despite how easy it is for all of our coddled asses to fall prey to that fairly pathetic idea whenever minor irritants come our way.
Having patted myself on the back for my good citizenship, or whatever, and feeling pretty great about leaving the black heart at home, I was then struck by a couple standing in the waiters line-of-fire (that hot spot between the kitchen and the dining area which is not unlike competing in Legends of the Hidden Temple). It was wall-to-wall crowded, to be sure, and I would have understood…except they weren’t just standing, they were vigorously making out in the manner of teens who have felt their loins heat up for the first time ever. Picture the deepest, most aggressive kissing you’ve ever seen—a scene more appropriate for the bedroom, or, if you must unleash it in public, perhaps a place less stuffed to capacity.
All bets were off now, as I looked for other people’s reactions with my mouth agape—hoping to make an across-the-room connection with someone who, too, wanted to vomit. Waiters hovered around them nervously like the children of parents caught fucking in the kitchen, too freaked out to really acknowledge it. My eyes rolled to new heights and made for a brow so furrowed that it was eerily akin to a gooey layer cake, cueing the start of my anti-aging regimen for later this eve.
Eventually they disbanded, after a solid fifteen minutes of apparently crucial groping and pheromone-fueled merriment (party of two), and decided, at last, that they couldn’t bear to wait any longer. Their show over, they exited as indiscreetly as they came, and every head seemed to turn in their direction, eliciting a communal sigh that had flagrant undertones of what theeeeeee fuck.
With a steaming pot of green tea now at my table, I could comfortably resume my heroic pursuit of accomplishing something, anything…please, on a Saturday. And, lucky for me, I now had that strong force known to some as bitter to catalyze my efforts.