Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Whine of the Ancient Grad Student Part I: Coffee Shop

Coleridge's Advice to Aspiring Writers: "never pursue literature as a trade."

My Comp readings have reached Coleridge's Biographia Literaria, and I'll have more to say about that when I actually finish the book. One of the reasons I didn't manage to finish it today is that I chose to do most of my reading in a coffee shop. About a half hour into my work, a girl comes down and sits at a spot two seats away. A friend of hers shows up, and they spend about twenty minutes talking about the first girl's problems: she just lost the lease on the house she shares with her roommate, and her weekend getaway with the boyfriend ended prematurely when the boyfriend pushed her too far and she broke up with him. So the friend--male friend--she's talking to decides that this is a good moment to toss his hat in the ring as a contender for next boyfriend, and takes the seat right next to me. They proceed to have a very heated, yet very whispered conversation. I am, at this point, insanely uncomfortable, but I refuse to leave, or even acknowledge I can hear them, because I was there first, damn it.

So the guy storms off, the girl sits there awkwardly for a few minutes, and then another, female, friend of hers shows up, and they talk about how the first girl's life seems to be spontaneously combusting, and agree to wait for a third (fourth?) friend before going out for drinks. And just as they reach the end of the story, the girl's mother phones, and she gets the whole story minus the boy scene I witnessed, and apparently, judging by the girl's end of the conversation, the mother is indignant on the girl's behalf for losing the house, since the landlord was being sneaky, yet somewhat sympathetic to the boyfriend. And as soon as the phone call ends, the other friend, also male shows up, and immediately asks what's wrong. The girl starts the story, and he says, yeah, he just ran into the most recently rejected guy, and he wouldn't say what's wrong, but he looked rough. Then, after hearing the whole story, he makes this statement: "You know, the only common element in all these situations is you."

Neither girl judges this as a helpful contribution, and the party storms off to discuss things further elsewhere.

I know eavesdropping is not polite behaviour, and that these are real people, and their problems should be taken seriously. And even though I'm preserving their anonymity on this post, by describing the event in this level of detail, I'm definitely edging towards the "uncool" in terms of maintaining internet privacy. But in my defense, they kept sitting next to me and having conversations that really shouldn't be happening in public areas (a point which, to be fair, the girl made repeatedly, albeit without actually moving).

How does all this relate to not finishing Biographia Literaria? Put it this way: try as hard as I might, Coleridge's dissection of David Hartley's mid-eighteenth century philosophical treatise on the oscillating ether of nervous systems just couldn't compete with some well-acted live theater.

Okay, that was kind of mean. Kind of true, but mean.

Later Days.

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