8/12/2007

Welfare Christmas

The trivia question at the coffee shop was, "What is Bolognese?"

"Meat Sauce," I said, claiming my ten cents off. "Who doesn't know that?"

"I didn't." replied the barista, who was only a few years younger than I.

Without thinking I asked, "Don't you ever eat at Figo?" the trendy and fairly new pasta bar next door.

"Too expensive," he remarked, not looking up from the register.

Presuming that he had never stopped to read their menu and that he had only inferred the place to be pricey by it's looks, I told him, "It's only seven or eight bucks to eat dinner there." A paltry sum for a full meal, I thought.

He looked up and, handing me my change he shrugged and said, "Yeah, too expensive."

I mumbled something noncommittal, probably, "Fair enough," but I felt as I had just been kicked in the chest.

Thinking back on the decade I spent working in restaurants I remember too many times when I scoffed at other people's comments and pretensions of casual affluence. The people that would spend two of my days' wages on a weekly haircut or that would buy a car costing more than I might spend on a house, I found those people detestable. I presumed them corrupt and observed their ignorance of economic reality with just enough restraint to contain my contempt.

Here I was, though, the reflection of the very people I vilified to myself. Have I become, even in some tiny way, like them? I only assume eight dollars is a measly sum because I routinely have that much to waste. To the person opposite me it might be a fortune.

I want never to be one of those cafe people, arrogant in their wealth, ignorant of their privilege and contemptuous of others' industry. I would rather live and die with my hands dirty.

2 comments:

Anne Johnson said...

I once overheard a gazillionaire tell another gazillionaire, "Oh, there's Mr. X. He only has $5 million a year. I can't imagine how he lives on $5 million a year. For me it would be impossible."

You could suggest to the coffee shop guy/gal that he/she look at the menu posted outside the restaurant. Sometimes those suckers are so specific about what's in a recipe that you can go home and make it yourself. I confess, I do that.

Peety said...

Well said, my friend.. *hugs*