Monday, October 26, 2009

The hookah smoking caterpillar

Hope you kiddies had a delightful weekend. Mine kicked off Friday at a hookah party with a bunch of ostentatious windbags and ended Sunday night swathed in scraps of cerulean blue, reading one of Thomas Friedman's latest articles.

Perhaps we should back up.

J's friend "Sam" invited us over to his place on Friday night for a fun-filled few hours of cocktails and social smoking through a shared tube. Yummy.

"Hey guys, I just ordered Mojito-flavored tobacco, are you in?" he asked giggling over the phone, a remix of Britney's "Circus" blaring in the background from his pink iPod. Love this guy to death, but there is no way in hell he is straight. We've all discussed in depth and think the only person who doesn't know is his girlfriend who's currently living with him. Poor little lamb. It's quite obvious, we're all just waiting for her to some day find out.

Anyway, I'm not one to turn down mojito-flavored anything, so we trotted over and got to meet all of Sam's friends who also, as it turned out, delighted in tropical tastes as much as I did. After the martinis were poured and the hookah was lit, we began ruminating on our college years, current jobs and everything in between.

"I never knew mojito-flavor of this existed," I said in a cottony tone as the smoke poured from my lips. I passed the hookah tube to J and sipped my third glass of wine. The others around me nodded, inebriated grins on their faces.

"Oh I have strawberry daiquiri flavor too!!!" Sam squealed, getting up to find his little store-bought baggie of paradise. I squealed along with him, as did two of the guys to my right, and as he got the new flavor ready I turned to the boys who'd just shared in my strawberry daiquiri excitement.

"Soooo...." I said, "How do you two lovelies know Sam and his girlfriend?"

"Oh, he used to live with them in college," the fatter one said, pointing to his thinner boyfriend.

"Really?" My interest was piqued. The tone of his voice was a little ... off. Perhaps some ill-fated love-triangle had transpired back then?

"Yeah," the thin one said, sitting cross-legged across the table from Sam, his girlfriend, and their fourth cocktails. "I knew [Sam's girlfriend], and that's how I got to know Sam. It was ...," he paused, "Interesting." He sat picking at the table leg, avoiding eye contact with Sam, a weird look on his face. Tension. Drama. Something obvi went down betwixt these boys in college and it was so juicy you might as well have ordered it tar-tar. The others -- minus Sam's girlfriend, of course -- picked up on the subtly, but I wasn't going to prod. Not with her there.

"How very Three's Company..." was all I could think to say, inhaling the strawberry daiquiri goodness and trying to think of a way to change the subject. "Wow, this is like a tropical paradise in my mouth," I said blowing the smoke aside. We couldn't stop laughing, though now without being five glasses of red deep, it's not as funny anymore. Strange how that happens. ;)

Then they all started on about their jobs. Let me preface what I'm about to say with one thing: There's a fine line between speaking about yourself modestly and sounding like a pretentious snob. I can't stand the latter. So, after listening to them try to "out-job" and "out-cool" one another this is all I wanted to say:

"Look, it's one thing to have a job. That's awesome, we get it, you all have jobs when most qualified people your age (22-28) can't even get an interview, much less a job offer. I guess this in someway gives you the right to smugly point out that you're a star for even having one ... or something. But just because you have a job doesn't validate your existence. Congratulations. You've rescinded yourself to accepting your mediocre mid-tier position which you complain about hating but use anyway as a fragile tent pole in your superiority complex . But here's the thing: None of you are doing anything that's really that important. Most of us don't, so really, you've got nothing to feel so goddamn pretentious about. You're not saving lives, or changing laws or finding cures or educating those who need to learn or anything even remotely close to making any sort of difference. The fact is you're all replaceable, and you don't even see it. Or maybe you do, and that's why you feel the need to be so self-aggrandizing. To make up for that bleak realization you have hidden somewhere that it doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things. Phonies."

Whew. Someone get me another drink. "Ok, Holden Caulfield," J would call me later during the car ride home. But at the party I just sat smiling, nodding at them. "Really," I said, listening to Sam's girlfriend talk about her love affair with her inbox. At least the girl was getting action somewhere. "You don't say."

I know, you're probably thinking "Get over yourself Crystal, like you're doing anything that amazing or important." Never said I was, and that's why I don't chatter on at parties like an insipid fool who's accomplished something incredible. Working on it. Most of us are. Thomas Jefferson once said "Don't talk about what you have done or what you are going to do." Basically, just do it. Actions speak louder than words.

So last night I was working on my Pan Am stewardess costume for Halloween (hence the cerulean blue), when I took a break and read one of Thomas Friedman's latest columns. In it he discussed how "just having a job" these days doesn't cut it anymore, it doesn't set you ahead of the pack. You need to be a thinker, be entrepreneurial, bring something extra to your job.

"In a world in which more and more average work can be done by a computer, robot or talented foreigner faster, cheaper “and just as well,” vanilla doesn’t cut it anymore," he wrote. "It’s all about what chocolate sauce, whipped cream and cherry you can put on top."

I guess that's my point. What chocolate sauce, whipped cream and cherry did they bring to their jobs? None. Going through the daily motions alone was enough to inflate their egos and in someway be brag-worthy. If this had been Alice in Wonderland I would have puffed my mojito smoke and asked in a breathy voice "Whooo ... are ... you?" Instead I simply listened quietly and smiled along from my mushroom.


Andi said...

I love the "phonies" commentary. I feel this way too when people start gushing on about their self-important jobs. Darn posers.

I have to ask myself, was I ever like that before I quit my "real" job??? I hope not!

Chloe (Naturally Frugal) said...

Great post Crystal, and I wholeheartedly agree. I have friends who make more thank 100k a year AND think they deserve a job because they've been with the company since they graduated. Whoa - a whole 3 years and you get a raise for programming computers?
I'd have to agree with my parents, we are an entitled generation and I hope that those wise enough will see it's only going to bite us in the ass.

myprettypennies said...

Thank you. You just described about 90% of the young professional population in Washington, DC. I remember when I first moved here I was so relieved I already had a boyfriend because most of the guys I met were pretentious over-grown frat boys who don't know how to talk about anything but themselves. It's nice to know I am not the only one in this town who feels that way!

The Daily Connoisseur said...

I abhor when people gloat and brag about themselves and their jobs...

Love the "Whooo are youuu?" reference. lol- that brought me back!! xo

Lan said...

Hey, new to your blog. Man, I don't feel so bad now about having a crappy retail job while getting through grad school. I will say that the people I know who do have "real jobs" don't use it as a social status marker. I like how you pointed out most of these people are replaceable and not doing anything life changing or making a difference in people's lives. I always think teachers get a lot of flack and not enough recognition for their work.

Oh hookah smoking...haven't done that since undergrad. I felt so badass and a little smarmy when I first did it. ;) Strawberry Daiquiri sounds delicious! My favorite flavor was always Tutti Frutti.

Anonymous said...

Does your taking these comments as boastful have more to do with the fact that you just quit your job than the way the individuals intended these remarks? Some people may really like their middle management young professional jobs and not feel the need to be extraordinary.

Crystal said...

Amber: I doubt you were. :P

Chloe: I agree with your parents too. We are very much an entitled generation, as much as that pains me to say! We think that just because we have college degrees we deserve to be handed a job, or just because we've put in a certain number of years at work that we deserve a promotion. "Just" putting time into something doesn't guarantee you security the way it used to. That might not be such a bad thing...

MyPrettyPennies: I'm with you on 90% of the DC yuppie population. It's so annoying listening to people drone on about how important they are, and that conversation seems magnified here in the Capitol, where pencil-pushing jobs in the government are as abundant as non-sequiturs from Rose Nyland.

Daily Connoisseur: Had to make that reference, I adore Alice in Wonderland. :)

Lan: Welcome! I agree that teachers -- esp. here in the U.S. -- don't get enough recognition for the importance of their work. P.S. Also love Tutti Frutti. ;)

Anon: No, not really. I've always felt this way about pretentiousness, especially when I had a 9-5 and worked among people who thought they were amazing just because they had a job.

charkstudios said...

Great story! I will need to go to a hookah party, now that I know what it's all about now! A good time!

Thanks Crystal!

Anonymous said...

What a great resource!

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