Last month Barbi and I visited New York City. We love to go down once in a while and walk the city and just see what happens. The transition from rural Maine to Manhattan is always amazing. This time Barbi brought her brand new, DSL camera. As we walked the city she began collecting a montage of shots of women wearing their New York City “uniform” – all black fashion-wear usually including a short black jacket, tight dark pants and boots. Barbi is obsessed with the uniform concept. Toward the end of the day we headed back to her sister’s apartment on the upper west side to prepare for our very first opera that evening – Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. Barb wanted coffee, so we stopped at Starbucks. She ordered a mocha latte and handed me the camera saying, “Take this. I need to use the bathroom.”
Placing the bulky Pentax DSL around my neck, I stood dutifully in line while the busy male barrister processed his orders at the busy Starbucks. But then I noticed the woman in front of me. She had on the uniform. Black clothes, the boots – the whole NYC deal. Hmm. Do I dare? I gently arrange myself for a quick, covert photo shot with the new camera. Like an undercover cop, I pull the DSL into position and double check my aim. Unfortunately the DSL camera is a mystery to me. I’m more of a PowerShot kind of guy. Or perhaps I should stick to pics from my iPhone. But I notice there’s a big green button that I’m pretty sure triggers the shutter and the lens cap is definitely off. I think I’m good. I gently press the big green button.
It was like a freakin’ fire alarm went off. The camera suddenly and noisily throws up this flash thingy and sets off an explosion like a super nova in the dark Starbucks. All these loud mechanical noises informed people on the bus out on 86th Street that a photo had just been taken within Starbucks, by an idiot. The barista guy behind the counter begins yelling at me. He screamingly informs me with a deep accent that photos are not allowed in Starbucks. He’s quiet for a minute. Then he demands that I delete his photo. I apologize and assure him I will delete the picture. I can see the photo on the display, but have absolutely no idea how to delete it. He can tell by the way I am fumbling with the camera that I am not deleting anything; that he’s either dealing with some NYC wise guy or a god damn fool. I’m leaning towards the latter. My brain is screaming, “Where’s Barbi? Where’s Barbi? Delete! DELETE!”
Barista man, while gracefully whip-steaminging up some milk, is still loudly complaining about not using cameras in Starbucks. Finally, he yells out, “Grande Cappuccino,” and then calls his manager over.
Meanwhile the female photo subject in line doesn’t know what to think. She assumed I was taking a picture of the crazy barrister and I let her continue thinking that. Why risk the harassment charge? She grabs her cappuccino and heads for the street glad to be free of the international incident brewing behind her.
And I’m wondering what’s happening in that bathroom and generally panicking. It’s what I do.
The manager is on her way over, probably to tell me they have my wife trapped in the women’s stall and that I’ll be arrested shortly… and just then, Barbi finally shows up. She takes in the disaster I’ve created with a quick sweep of the area; she reaches over and with one poke deletes the picture.
The manager, closer now, lets us know that Starbucks does not allow pictures to be taken in the stores. Who knew? We explain we’re sorry and that the pic is gone. She also explained that people of certain cultures do not like having their picture taken. We apologize again and reassure her that the picture is gone. Just then my favorite barrister screams “Grande Mocha Latte.” What? We get our coffee after all that? We grab our latte and scram.
They say Madame Butterfly is a tragedy and I look forward to spending the evening watching somebody else suffer through cultural differences. And don’t worry, no pictures at the Opera.