You people and your coffee.
Enough already. Enough with your walking-five-blocks-out-of-the-way-because-you- must -have-Starbucks habit. Enough with your I’m- so -over-Starbucks-and-am-loyal-to-my-50-cent-guy-in-a-cart affectation. You think you’re being gritty and retro, but you’re just cheap.
And for all you coffee enthusiasts at home. Enough with your elaborate, obsessive little rituals: your drips, your filters, your cold mountain spring
Enough with your stainless steel thermoses, your plastic eco-mug. Your goddamned coffees-of-the-world subscription.
Enough with that little twirl of lemon peel next to your after-dinner espresso. Who wants espresso that tastes like lemon, anyway? Enough with how you take a sip, then look up from the paper and stare benignly into the air as if to say, “Ah– now I like this world …” Enough with your bad-mouthing the quality of the office stuff–because you know better!
Enough with your icy summer coffee drinks that you pay $5 for and slurp through a straw because you’re thinking, “Why not, I deserve a little indulgence. A little treat.” What makes you think you deserve any such thing?
Enough with your faux-humble “It Is Our Pleasure to Serve You” Greek-diner backlash cup. That’s almost as bad as the coffee cart thing.
Enough with your A.M. bad manners because you’re just not “yourself” until you’ve had your first caffeine of the day. Enough with your P.M. decaf because you want the “fix” but not the “jitters.” Enough with your safe, socially acceptable, quite possibly harmless (some experts say it may even be good for you!) addiction.
Enough with your chai .
48-Year-Old Doctor, Educated, Downtown
It was a Saturday night at Veselka on Second Avenue and Dr. Marcia Pehr had finished her veggie burger, cold borscht and cake. With her long auburn hair, oval metal-frame glasses, gray wool pants and sandals over white socks, Dr. Pehr did not look out of place in this neighborhood–although she certainly did not look as stylish, zippy and airheaded as the younger generation of East Villagers.
A 48-year-old Doctor of Medicine, she grew up in Brooklyn and Queens, attended the University of Rochester, Columbia University, then medical school in Ft. Worth, Tex. “I added it up one time,” she said. “I went to school for 26 years counting kindergarten.”
Now she works in the emergency room unit of Eastern Long Island Hospital.
“I was kind of the height of the baby boom,” she said. “And that was at about the time they stopped having classical educations and great books. When I was in college, it was about the time they started saying, ‘Well, why do we have to study all this old stuff? We should have science fiction as art!’ But I still got the tail end of it, and I happen to have liked the classical stuff better than some of the stuff they were teaching. English courses on science fiction instead of Shakespeare. One of the courses you took if you didn’t want to work too hard was History of Motion Picture Art.”
She said she was a “voracious reader.”
“You know you’re getting old when you start saying, ‘These kids today have no clue about anything!’ I remember talking to a patient who was probably late teens, early 20’s, and he said something about his grandfather being in World War I. And I said, ‘There is no possibility your grandfather was in World War I. My grandfather was in World War I. You mean World War II?’ And he said, ‘Oh, one of those.’ And the fact that you don’t know the difference and don’t care, either, I find that’s something appalling …
“My cousin’s little daughter is about 9 or 10, and we were chatting and she mentioned something about, she knew about George Washington Carver, they’d done the unit on that–but they hadn’t gotten to Abraham Lincoln yet. I think, no disrespect, um, you know, there are priorities, what’s important and what’s not, and one is a sidebar and the other is mainline history.”
She feels like “something of a dinosaur,” she said. Can’t work a computer, can’t figure out the new telephone functions. Still, she feels learned. Once she was able to pick up from an X-ray that an elderly lady patient had heavy metals in her buttocks, having read that before World War II in Louisiana, doctors treated the “bad blood” (syphilis) with mercury and arsenic compound injections.
“There used to be a joke when I was a resident that just about everybody who showed up in the emergency room was either under arrest, under the influence, or under the age of 12,” she said. “You really do deal with some majorly world-class dirtbags. But even they, I sometimes get the feeling, look at me with this idea of ‘Honey, you have no clue what’s going on. You wouldn’t know how to score dope if you needed to!’ And it’s true, they have their areas of expertise, I have mine.”
She went on. “When I had my education, computers didn’t exist. They still had slide rules, and when pocket calculators came out, you weren’t allowed to use them. That’s another thing I get intellectually snotty about. Anybody under the age of, I would say, about 30, cannot make change. For instance, if something is 96 cents and I give the cashier a dollar and a penny, meaning give me a nickel back, they look at me funny, like, ‘Why did you give me this penny?’ They can’t do that quickly in their head. People of my generation are the ones who add up our checkbook and then use the calculator to check it, to find that one penny, because if I use the calculator, I invariably hit a decimal wrong and ruin the whole column of figures, and it annoys me.”
“So we’re devolving, we’re getting dumber?”
“I don’t know that we’re necessarily getting dumber. Supposedly Einstein never knew his phone number because he said, ‘That is something you could look up; why would you clutter your brain cells with it?’ and he was certainly no dummy.”
Although Dr. Pehr looked pretty granola and has worked as a volunteer in Third World countries “for the fun of it,” she wasn’t too radical back in the late 60’s: “The students demanded this stuff and the fuzzy liberal thinking of the time said, ‘They’re right, we must do this,’ and they didn’t think of the consequences.”
“So what’s the remedy?”
“You do need to reinstate some classical education. I will certainly admit that some of the great books I have read were garbage–I am not quite sure why they made me read Silas Marner , quite honestly. I thought it was garbage. It was O.K., but I can’t see why it’s any better than, say, Kurt Vonnegut. It’s more of a question of there’s no discipline. When my uncle went to medical school 60, 70 years ago, it was expected you would get out and you would do everything: You would deliver babies, take out tonsils, stitch up cuts, treat heart attacks, set bones–by the time I was going, you had specialists. I remember how many classes I went to, and they would say, ‘You’re never going to do this,’ and immediately your brain goes, ‘Not on the exam, click off, delete,’ and you never learned it. And there’s so much now–’We don’t really need this; it’s on a database, if I need it’–that nobody learns anything. Nobody has any available knowledge in their brains. And as I say, compared to some people in the Third World, who can remember thousands of people and all about them … I think there was some general in the ancient world that had 10,000 people in his army, and he knew all of them by name! Can you imagine anybody now knowing 10,000 people by name?”
“So what’s the prescription?”
“God, if I had the magic prescription to change America’s educational system, they’d kick out Rudy Crew and appoint me. Read. I like reading. I think reading is a good and righteous thing and I think people should read more and stop playing video games, by God. I don’t think it actually matters, as long as it’s not a bodice ripper, you know. As long as it’s not major pornography–although I have gotten some good bits of historical information from the odd pornographic bodice ripper. But I don’t think it’s going to happen.”