Here's an anecdote by my new favorite blogger about a War of Attrition that ensued after he ordered an espresso poured over ice:
And the guy at the counter looked me in the eye with a straight face and said “I’m sorry, we can’t serve iced espresso here. It’s against our policy.”
The whole world turned brown and chunky for a second. Flecks of corn floated past my pupils, and it took me a second to blink it all away.
“Okay,” I said, “I’ll have a triple espresso and a cup of ice, please.”
He rolled his eyes and rang it up, took my money, gave me change. I stood there and waited. Then the barista called me over to the bar. I reached for it, and he leaned over and locked his eyes with mine, saying “Hey man. What you’re about to do … that’s really, really Not Okay.”
I could hear the capital letters in his voice, could see the gravity of the situation in his eyes.
He continued: “This is our store policy, to preserve the integrity of the coffee. It’s about the quality of the drink, and diluting the espresso is really not cool with us. So I mean, you’re going to do what you’re going to do, and I can’t stop you, but”
I interrupted. “You’re goddamned right you can’t stop me,” I said. “I happen to have a personal policy that prohibits me from indulging stupid bullshit like this — and another personal policy of doing what I want with the products I pay for.” Then I looked him right in his big wide eyes and poured the espresso onto the ice.
I seriously love this. Maybe I'm getting older, but I find immense satisfaction in the tiny, quotidian revolutions that we save for interactions like this. This reminds me of my old friend Tim, who used to demand to rip his own ticket whenever we went to the movies together.
Usher: [holds out hand]
Tim: Oh, if you don't mind, I'd actually like to rip my own ticket.
Usher: No, I'm sorry, I rip the ticket.
Tim: I'd really just like to do it myself. I'll give you the stub.
Usher: No, we rip all tickets, sir.
Tim: Why can't I just rip it? I'm right in front of you, I'm not going to pull some trick or anything.
Usher: Sir. Sir. We rip the tickets.
Tim: [not breaking eye contact, rips ticket, hands stub to usher]
Usher: No, I'm sorry I can't let you into the movie.
Tim: I just ripped my ticket and handed you the stub. Precisely nothing has just occured here. This is a routine transaction.
Usher: I'm sorry, you can't be allowed into the theater.
I started getting to movies half an hour early so Tim could do his routine. It always ended with the usher's head dipping down to his shoulder-walkie and beckoning either the manager or security. Tim stopped after we got bounced while trying to see 'Desperado'. Come to your senses indeed.
There's something human about reverting to the default 'No!' when confronted with behavior that is outside of the norm. I can't help but think that the reason I can't get married really just comes down to a million of those movie ushers, voting or legislating or evangelizing or word-of-mouthing their 'this is how its done' paradigm. Every once in awhile me and Tim would get an usher who just went 'whatever' and straightened his fez. The only thing I learned from The Regularly Scheduled Uprising of Tim, ultimately, was that a little apathy goes a long way.