Just a couple days ago I was having a very bad day in what seems like a year of plenty of bad days. Around two in the afternoon I was full of anger, anxiety, and other adjectives beginning with A. But I still had to go to work. Work doesn’t care about bad days. Neither do customers … especially tourists.

You would think that tourists would be pretty damn happy-go-lucky. Isn’t that what vacations are for? Shouldn’t they be trying to strike up conversations with me about meaningless, but well-intentioned little topics. Shouldn’t they be asking me why there is a tunnel across the street leading down into a sea cave? (answer: tunnel dug for bootlegging illegal alcohol which was dropped off by Mexican ships during prohibition)

But the tourists they do none of this. Instead, on this very very bad day, they speak to me in the purely subjunctive. This is a no no with oso. No subjunctive and no ordering on the cell phone (not even with a hand cupping the microphone and a fake-ass smile). "Give me a small latte," they say, not even looking in my eyes.

"Give you a small latte?" I repeat hoping that they understand I am not their butler. But they just stare at me like I’m an idiot and I get even angrier. While the milk steams and my blood boils I catch someone at the very frontier of my peripheral vision. I know these types. These are "just a coffee refill" types, or … "just a little steamed milk on my coffee" (called a cafe au lait – order it if you want it) and they do not want to wait in line so they hop into my peripheral vision and think if they bounce around awkardly and politely enough that I’ll pay them attention … and not charge them.

I do neither. Pointedly I go straight to Mr. Grumpy with his damn small latte instead.

"Would you like anything else?" I ask, though I shoulda known better.
"Give me a tea."
"Give you a tea?" Sorry, but this is a rule, I have to question their damned commands like they’re asking me to bomb civilians in war.
He says nothing.
"What kind of tea?" I ask.
"Regular tea."

Oh god. There are people in this world who really believe that there is a flavor of tea called "regular." They are the same types that believe there is a cup size called "regular." Then you ask them if "regular" is a code word for "medium" (much like grande – which, of course, means large). And they tell you, "yeah, whatever."

"I’m sorry, but I don’t know what ‘regular’ tea is," I say. By now the lady who was on one side of my peripheral vision has moved to the other and is still bouncing around with this weird pointer finger pumping thing like she doesn’t realize that I’m obviously ignoring her. Everyone waiting in line is shuffling. Their arms are crossed over their chests. They have bad sock tan lines and bad Tommy Bahama shirts.

"Whatever, regular tea."
I sigh and ask, "Do you want english breakfast?"
"Yeah, whatever."
"What size?"
"Regular." This made me happy because sometimes consistency and predictability make me happy for whatever reason.
"Does regular mean medium?" I ask. Now his turn to sigh.
"Yeah, whatever."

I give the donkey his tea and I ring him up. He uses his credit card for a $4.50 total. While the machine prints out his slip and I continue ignoring the bouncing lady, two realizations occur. Firstly, I am so calm. There’s a line of 30 people behind this asshole who will probably all be competing for top asshole prize, but I feel like I’m at the cool down of a nice yoga session. Second, I’m pretty sure – let’s say 80% sure – that I was capable of killing someone. Not with malice. Not at all. But just because one less person in this world who believes regular tea and regular cups exist probably makes a better world for all. I think I’d make an A-OK serial killer.

He signs his slip and I tell him to have a nice day. He says nothing. I say have a nice vacation too. He’s walking away. I tell him I hope he doesn’t die. Then I tell the bouncing lady, who starts stuttering like crazy once I face her, that she needs to wait in line.

A good friend of mine yesterday told me to stop being an ass. I’m really not sure what he was talking about, but maybe he saw me at work. The sad truth is that he’s right, even though he shouldn’t have known he was right, but yes, I have been an asshole to people who don’t really deserve it. There are quite a few people who should be awaiting apologies from me, but sadly it seems like they will have to keep on waiting.

Unless they want to go swimming with me. I’m content when I’m swimming and that’s about it. Dave and Sparsh. They see me content. They know exactly what I’m talking about. I wish I could explain it to the rest of you. One minute your surrounded by craziness. By unhappy families, insecure teenagers, manipulative relationships, workaholics with cell phones glued on their ears … and then the next minute you’re underwater. You’re with fish. The cool of the water rushes all over your body. It’s the Ganges, you’re holy again. Come to think of it … so many religions use water as a symbol of purity. The prophets were obviously all swimmers. Makes so much sense.

There is no more sound. No more yelling. No more laughing at others’ expense. No more gossipy chit-chats or guilt trips or victimology. Just the lapping of water every second stroke. Every third stroke if I’m feeling particularly good. When you approach the quarter-mile buoy you hear the clink and clank of the underwater chain. In fact, I never even realized what made that noise – change in your pocket – until Dave pointed it out yesterday. After a while swimming is no longer effort. It’s not something you think about. You’re a machine, well-greased, well-tuned, and all the various gears are perfectly inter-locked as this freckeled, biological mechanism makes it’s way from one side of the bay to the other. It’s like climbing an analog ladder. There are no rungs. You reach, streteching far, let your body rotate, pull your entire being forward and push off behind you into the liquid ether, feeling the V of your tricep flex just slightly. Your back is arched just a few degrees, your stomach tight, and you’re pretty sure you could make it to Mozambique, which is supposed to have a lovely coastline with old, crumbling, portuguese, colonial, colorful buildings.

Why has the New York Times been so slender lately? If I’m going to pay an entire dollar for a newspaper I want there to be more content than I’m able to read through. This has not been the case. And why have my fellow coffee house goers not been doing their share? Before I left for Monterrey we had it all figured out without saying a thing. I would buy the paper once a week and leave it for others to read and they’d do the same for me. Now everyone else is taking their papers with them even after reading through everything. Why is this? Is this the new "ownership society" vogue? Do we no longer share newspapers?

A History Of The World In Six Glasses

In today’s NY Times there is an editorial by the technology editor of The Economist, Tom Standage. While in Monterrey I subscribed to a podcast feed of a program on San Diego’s local NPR station to try to keep up on local events here. For whatever reason, they had this Standage guy on the show to talk about his latest book, A History of the World in Six Glasses. It was, by far, one of the most interesting podcasts I had heard in a long time. I woulda never guessed you could actually break down the chronological history of humanity into what they drink, but, with some overlap, you’d be surprised. The host of the show asked him what "beverage era" we are living in now and his answer was right on. In this 20th century alone we’ve moved from the soda era to the processed teas and juices (snapple, sobe, etc.) and now we’re moving into the bottle watered era. (he had plenty of purchase statistics to back it up) The irony, he said, is that now that we have drinkable tap water almost the world over, we’ve decided to pay a dollar a bottle every time we’re thirsty.

Which is what today’s editorial is about. First of all, despite what people say (lie), nobody can taste the difference between bottled water and tap water. Secondly, bottled water becomes contaminated just as often tap water and "tap water is more stringently monitored and tightly regulated than bottled water."

Bottled water is undeniably more fashionable and portable than tap water. The practice of carrying a small bottle, pioneered by super-models, has become commonplace. But despite its association with purity and cleanliness, bottled water is bad for the environment. It is shipped at vast expense from one part of the world to another, is then kept refrigerated before sale, and causes huge numbers of plastic bottles to go into landfills.

But in North America and most all of Europe, there is absolutely no reason to drink bottled water at all. This compared to the developing world were access to water really does mean life or death. Which is why Standage says:

I have no objections to people drinking bottled water in the developing world; it is often the only safe supply. But it would surely be better if they had access to safe tap water instead. The logical response, for those of us in the developed world, is to stop spending money on bottled water and to give the money to water charities. If you don’t believe me about the taste, then set up a tasting, and see if you really can tell the difference. A water tasting is fun, and you may be surprised by the results. There is no danger of a hangover. But you may well conclude, as I have, that bottled water has an unacceptably bitter taste.

Checking out this post by Ethan Zuckerman on Fiji brand water and his presentation from PUSH is also well worth while.