Thursday, August 18, 2005

Jay Adds Entries To His Shit List

I hear that back in the good ol' days, there was this shopkeeper's adage about how the customer was always right. I wonder whatever happened to that belief, because I'm tired of handing my money over to some store or restaurant or movie theater only to be accosted by some lackey trying to enforce a rule that the management arbitrarily dreamed up solely to, in all likelihood, irritate me. Like, a few months ago I went to the Museum of Modern Art, which has an twenty dollar admission fee. First of all, twenty bucks? That's like two movie tickets, or a month's worth of Netflix, or three spicy tuna rolls plus a young-adult discounted ticket to the New York City Opera. For twenty bucks, you ought to be allowed to take home — maybe not a Cezanne or a Picasso — but at least some abstruse installation piece or a photo print of something that looks like a vagina but isn't.

Anyway, I was on the top floor of the museum, and the architecture of the museum lets you stand on a balcony on the top floor and look down to the bottom floor. This seemed, to my briefly modern-art trained eye, like it would make an awesome snapshot, like something by Andreas Gursky, only cheap and hackneyed. So I got my camera out and hung over the balcony railing, and then this MoMA security nazi stopped me, saying that photography wasn't allowed on the sixth floor. Every other floor, fine, but apparently this floor had national security secrets or something on it and we just couldn't risk having those fall into the hands of Japanese tour groups.

This would've been a good time to practice nebbishly saying "No English" with an unplacable foreign accent. "Oh, you take picture?" Instead I just kind of walked away disappointed.

Not much you can really do about that, but I'm totally stymied by these restaurants that threaten to kick me out after I've spent my money there. There's this place in the East Village called "UT/DT" and I went there one day cause they've got free wi-fi. And today, Ankur and I were getting coffee at Le Pain Quotidien, which I believe is French for The Bread... Quotidien. It's a snootier, more overpriced, more French variant on Starbucks, and we probably shouldn't have been surprised when we walked in and the hostess snapped at us, "Do whatever you want!" I can't even start to put that in context here. Anyway, there's about a hundred seats (with giant communal tables) in the place, and maybe six of them were filled. But a sign helpfully informed us that "tables are for waiter service only."

Confused, Ankur and I ordered up at the counter since it made slightly more sense to us, but then we made the mistake of sitting at one of the many, many empty tables with our forbidden take-out mutant coffee beverages. And we're talking, having a grand time subverting the social order, when the take-out counter guy comes by and, barely holding back centuries of French rage, informs us that "for future reference" these tables are really for waiter service only, but he's gonna be generous and not kick us out. Which was really cool of him since, "for future reference," if he goes out of his way to alienate his clientele, they're not gonna be coming back in the future.

Same thing with UT/DT, where there's a drink-an-hour minimum. They actually have a sign on their counter: "We're in business to make money. If you're using our wi-fi, you need to buy at least one drink every hour." I didn't really want anything to drink, but I was more than happy to buy something just so I'd look like I fit in. And I can understand their wanting to make money, but how freaking short-sighted is this management? (Answer: an hour's worth of short-sightedness.) I wish I were the type of person who could explain business economics to these managers: (a) there's a good probability that, at some point in the future, I'm going to be thirsty again and (b) when I am, you're going to want my money but (c) if you kick me out, you won't be getting it. Simple, right?