Several of the local Starbucks shops have removed comfortable seating and substituted tables and hard chairs. Perhaps this is meant to cater to the business-meeting or laptop clientele, or maybe some people lingered too long. Whatever the reason, it has limited my options, as I’m an easy-chair type. My usual choice these days is a shop next to a Safeway, which leads to the following observations during a visit in December. For some reason I didn’t inflict them on the web at the time but, though stale, they still are relevant, if not especially important or original.
Perhaps because I tend to be a pessimist — although I prefer to attribute my attitude to being unusually perceptive — I harbor thoughts about cultural decline. (Actually, I find it puzzling that anyone over the age of forty could not be aware of that development, but never mind). There are so many significant indicia of that trend that the following examples will seem trivial, but here they are anyway:
The story begins at the gym (sorry: fitness center) I use twice weekly. It provides towels (small) for mopping the brow and semi-large — large by the standards of the underfunded organization — for showers. The drill is to toss them, when used, into bins provided for the purpose. Instead, a growing number of those frequenting the men’s locker room drop them on the floor, leave them on benches or in showers or stuff them into lockers, anything to avoid the ordeal of carrying them twenty feet (on the way out) to the bin near the door.
After my workout, I stopped at Starbucks. When I left there, I found several carts from the adjacent Safeway abandoned on the sidewalk, some distance away from the grocery store, which is in the opposite direction, and nowhere near any of the return areas. Proceeding toward my car, I spotted a parking slot covered with trash: cups, napkins and other bits of paper; someone had cleaned out his (messy) car and left the debris for someone else to clean up.
Back to the gym: while riding the stationary bike, I glanced at one of the tv monitors which, as usual, displayed Fox "News." Actually, it was Fox Business "News," but no matter. There was no sound, but a display at the bottom of the screen asked whether the wealth gap really is a problem. Those who can ask, and more so those who deny it, are of the same class as those who litter and abandon carts. The smug and comfortable and their admirers may not dump trash on the ground, but they are soul mates to those who do: both are of the I’m-more-important-than-my-fellow-man, let-the-little-people-cope sort.