Tuesday, September 4, 2007

If Patrick Ewing Wanted To Talk To You, He Would Have Called You Himself

It's ungodly hot here at the corner of Commonwealth and Commonwealth. My blinds are drawn and the air-conditioning's on full blast.

Nevertheless, I am a creature of habit, so I went to the 7-11 to get coffee and breakfast food. It may have been Donettes; it may have been Pop-Tarts -- I'd rather not talk about it, really.

The coffee cups at the 7-11 have taken to sticking together. Normally, I twist them apart, cursing softly under my breath, bending them a little bit, taking, in the end, the cup that I've gotten fewer dirty paw-prints on. It makes me feel a little bad, leaving a cup that I've touched for somebody else to take -- oddly, it makes me feel bad although I could care less if somebody else has previously touched my cup.

Today, beat up by the heat, I didn't notice that I had two cups until I was pouring in the coffee. And, given my general levels of coordination, I didn't think trying to separate two cups while one of them was half full of hot coffee fell into the 90th percentile, good-idea-wise. So I just went up to the counter.

Anyway, the cashier said that 7-11 charged for each cup. I told my story; I pointed out that I didn't want two cups -- one cup would have been a.o.k. by me. And she sighed and looked mournful and tested the cups to see that, in fact, they didn't pull easily apart and she only charged me for one.

There was, back at the coffee station, a whole pile of unused cups. Other people, it appears, have been having the same problem. And I'm sure these 7-11 franchisees are paying the 7-11 corporation for these stupid cups and it's not their fault that the cups stick together. And I imagined them teetering on the brink of losing money from the 7-11 and the defective cups pushing them over the edge and I started feeling a little bad about the whole thing.

Given the profit margin on coffee, I think we can all agree that that's dumb. But it's also something I wonder about a lot: to what extent does the ability to understand the difficulty you're causing other people translate into an obligation to do something about it, i.e. to not cause them that difficulty?

The example that I always think of when I'm thinking about this is kind of embarrassing. Namely, there are some people who call a lot that you don't really want to talk to. (If you are reading this, you are not one of those people in my life.) And for me, there's a certain level of mental irritation that comes with dodging those people, getting off the phone, whatever. So then when I'm calling somebody, and let's say I've called a couple of times without getting a response, I start to think that I'm probably causing the person I'm calling that same level of mental irritation.

Does that mean I shouldn't do it?


Charlie said...

For those baffled by the post title, it refers to what people phoning Patrick Ewing in the early 1990s heard on his answering machine. Apparently, the message was: "If I wanted to talk, I would have called you." People hold it against old Pat that he never won an NBA title. In rebuttal, I offer his answering machine message.

Captain Colossal said...

Are you trying to say that the title post is not entirely self-explanatory?

By the way, the source for the above anecdote (mine, anyway) was this book.

Captain Colossal said...

I mean post title.

Noko Marie said...

I have a lot of dysfunction around coffee cups also. I'm stunned to realize how many I'm throwing away: an eco-disaster. It seems in the abstract so easy to just carry a plastic mug around. I can usually manage this only for a day or so. The system just isn't set up for it: there's nowhere to wash it out; if it's dirty coffee gets on your stuff in your bag.

These are tiny problems but I'm amazed at how unable I am to overcome them.

In my fantasy world, there would be a system of identical exchangable cups. You bring a dirty one in and leave it, and they give you coffee in a new clean one. You may be thinking: I don't want to drink out of someone else's cup! But of course we drink out of each others cups all the time, when we get it "for here." Anyway, after the revolution, exchangeable cups.

hithere said...

yes. this has something to do as well with the mold issue. If we all were virtuous and hauled around cups made by wolves in their newly-reintroduced habitats out of foreign invasive plants that we do not choose to introduce, the revolution would have come. But those cups would grow mold, still, unless they were made out of material that was harmful to us as well as the mold. unless one adopted the exchangeable cups idea, which is a great one, but I am afraid that the 7-11 I turn one in to will have 5 million of them, and the 7-11 I go to buy coffee from will be out of them, totally out, so will force me to buy a styrofoam deal instead. I am sincerely hoping, however, that at least recycled paper can ALWAYS take the place of styrofoam. It is very bad stuff.

Captain Colossal said...

I always had this kind of blithe hope that coffee was one of those not-particularly-susceptible-to-mold-substances. Was I wrong?