Through the Window of Maury's Uptown Diner

There are two things I can’t stand. Well, more than two, actually—I guess I’m just a complainer at heart. Complaining is what gives me a purpose, like it’s my job to point out all the world’s problems. So there’s plenty of things I can’t stand—but here are two that immediately come to mind.

The first is cellphones. At first they were convenient, a great tool, but before too long they became an annoyance. Even a menace. They distract drivers, disrupt dinner conversations, destroy the concentration of everybody else in the movie theater just to indulge that one single caller.

See that girl over there, across the street, the one on the payphone? I really admire the fact that she’s using the payphone. No cellphone for her, though most of her friends probably carry them. I guess she’s an individualist, a rebel. Goes her own way, says if others want to follow, that’s fine, but she’s not following anybody else.

Man, it’s drafty in here. You’d think they could turn up the heat just a little bit.

But it’s probably not as simple as that, nothing romantic or heroic about her. Maybe she’s too poor to even have a cellphone—even though kids seem to scrimp on everything else just to be able to walk around with those stupid things glued to their ears. Maybe she has no choice but to go her own way, because nobody’s going with her. She’s ostracized, being poor and being outside of the cellphone in-crowd. Look at her—all those plastic bags full of stuff, like everything she owns is in those bags. Maybe I shouldn’t admire her, but pity her instead.

Oh god, this coffee is cold already. They never refill your cup fast enough here. We’ve really got to stop coming to this place. No, smart ass, that’s not the second thing I can’t stand. I’m just making an observation. Besides, stopping coming here would be a solution, and I don’t do solutions. Flag the waitress when you see her, okay? I need a warmer.

So the other thing I can’t stand, the second thing, is the loneliness that girl must be feeling all the time. I remember what that was like, always being on the outside looking in, calling mom for a ride home while the other kids were tooling around in their fancy new cars. (Yeah, I’ll take a refill….thanks.) I’ll bet that’s why she’s on the payphone—she ran short on bus fare, and has to call her mom back home in Lyndale or Harbor View to come pick her up. Mom won’t be too pleased—I know mine never was. So the kid’s lonely, on the outside, not from being deprived but from other kids having much more than they need. The rest of them ought to be using payphones, too, and taking the bus, but just because they can afford not to, it’s her that’s on the outside. It’s just not fair.

No, I don’t know what to do about any of it. That would require solutions, and solutions aren’t my job. I’m a complainer, remember.

Done with your coffee? Yeah? Well, let’s get out of here, then.

(Note: This piece was podcasted by Quirky Nomads, narrated by the writer, and was inspired by this photo.)


Copyright 2006, P.J. Anderson