Friday, May 1, 2009

T Squared

Despite all outwards appearances, I'm not ~really~ a people person. I tend to find humanity confusing, contradictory, and hilarious at times in its hypocrisy. The single biggest flaw in observing the masses at work is the complete lack of self-awareness most have going through their day.
I often visit a blog called Stuff White People Like. It's funny, but it's also very ~true~, at least from a simplified perspective. Basically, white people like to be an expert in something, or be a bigger fan in something, or have done something ~more~ at some point than you have. And it must be immediately distinguishable and pointed out.
That irritates the shit out of me, to be honest. There are so many other things to talk about in the world... why do that? I remember in my younger days you actually got to know somebody by asking about what they did, where they came from, and went from there. You showed mutual interest, you didn't sit there and drown someone in how much you knew about a topic. Unless further information was requested, of course.
In a rather last-minute maneuver I discovered there was a tea tasting courtesy of the JASGP in downtown Philly. It was held at a lovely little place called the "Tbar", run by two sisters who are seriously in to tea.
Bob humored me and went along with the short notice and the drive in to Philly, and I think we're both really glad we did.
First off, this place has bubble tea. Bubble tea is the nectar of the gods. This was a huge drawing card, to be honest, as there really weren't any places out near us that had it.
Second, it has some amazing product in it. They have all kinds of teas and tissanes, and even have different grades. It isn't just flavored black. They have Japanese green and Chinese green. They have chai. They have matcha. They have chamomile... it was the most thorough tea selection I've seen since Market Spice in the Pike Place Market. And to boot, it was a very calm environment, trending towards hipster but still comfortable enough for us to walk off the street and not feel out of place.
The talk was given by one of the owners who is actually closer to us than Philly in terms of residence. She was highly knowledgeable, very animated, and made what could have been a very dry topic lots of fun.
Those in attendance were for the most part upwardly mobile professional types, skinny with good complexions and dressed in clothes that had never even contemplated leaving in anything but a boutique shopping bag. Being dudded up in the very best that Gap, Target and Old Navy had to offer, I initially felt a little lower on the economic ladder rungs, but decided I was comfy and screw it.
Throughout the course of the talk, wherein we sampled some of the wonderful offerings of the shop, it was revealed that about 60% of the table had already been to Japan. Why, then, go to a talk to learn about tea? Had they not been exposed to it? I immediately suspected it was a case of someone showing up somewhere they already had knowledge of for the purpose of gaining report with the speaker over the topic and "helping" others that had not had first hand experience. The rest of the group, all 4 of us, had NOT been, and listened as the other 7 went on at length about how they'd had each of the tea-types in Japan. I was amused.
I enjoyed the teas immensely. I now know that I will love genmaicha until the day I die -this being an accidental discovery on my part after searching for barley tea that I'd had at the Buddhist temple in Seattle near my college campus- and that kukicha, despite using parts of the twigs in with the tea, had a far milder taste than the astringent sencha most of Japan seemed to favor. And we discovered despite the tea ceremony previously, that matcha is actually completely palatable if mixed with steamed milk and sugar in a matcha latte. The bitter evaporated completely!
In truth, I was simply there for this kind of information. I knew some of what I liked, but was also aware that there are entire stores with wall upon wall of the stuff that I couldn't even pronounce and might never get to in my lifetime. Any toehold in the world of sublime and healthful beverages was appreciated and sought for.
But seeing as this was a tea talk, that meant there were people there. And those other people... well, you know, I'm polite. There's no reason not to be unless they break out some crazy behaviors or verbal abuse. I am generally pleasant to be around and pride myself on having figured out how this is done. But I swear to god, any time I go anywhere with yuppies, I end up being tested to the limits of my civility.
Yuppies are annoying. And I almost died laughing with how textbook their behaviors were vis-a-vis "Stuff White People Like" because the constant revisitation of the "I like this and know a lot about it, probably more than you do" theme came up.
I smiled and weaved among people as they dispersed, talking with the other couple who said they didn't know anything about tea -being without knowledge, we were mutually chatty and appreciative of things, there for the purpose of the experience- and enjoying all of the neat little accessories they had. Books on cooking with tea (ME WANT), proper chado/chanoyu (tea ceremony) sets, designer tea services, neato little devices for the proper brewing of them... it was gadgety about tea the way Starbucks was gadgety about coffee, but had not yet decided to slap its name on everything. I was thoroughly enjoying myself drifting in this world, learning with my eyes and passive ears.
Then I was cornered.
The gentleman who'd come in a suit jacket suddenly perked up talking to us and began at length to tell us about how he'd been to Japan and how there was a wall of tea in department stores with everything under the sun added to it. This was great, this was information we needed, what with the Impending Awesome Trip. Except that when we tried to thank him for the info because of it, he spoke over us. Or Bob, specifically. And kept going. Really it wasn't much of a conversation. It was more of him talking AT us, while we nodded. It was one of those worthless interactions I really hate to get in to because I know they won't remember it, and it only serves as a place for people to show off what they know. I'm old school. Don't tell me what you know. Tell me what you love, and why. Tell me who YOU are.
This guy couldn't, or had never learned, or was simply from a place where you did this sort of thing for interaction. I took it in stride for the most part and listened where I could to glean info from it. To be fair, he asked questions, but really he just wanted someone to say "yes" or "no" and talked over each response we attempted to give, not aware that we were multi-syllabic in our existence.
Not his fault. He didn't know and couldn't see. I can't fault a person for being who they are. But I don't have to humor them, either.
In a moment of what was probably misanthropy, I decided to talk so fast the guy had to stop and listen, and countered his stories with the only one I had... that I'd had barley tea at a Buddhist temple in Seattle and had been on the lookout for it ever since but unable to find it and we were hoping to find it in Japan when we go in a monthsohisinformationwasreallyvaluableandweappreciateditwewrttlygoing2chkitoutnao...
Yes. I spoke that fast. I sped up when I saw him open his mouth. I dunno what the hell was wrong with me, but for some reason I felt like if I was being forced to be in that type of interaction, I was getting equal floor time, damnit.
Blessings on Bob. Beautiful, sweet Bob who understands these things and was probably reading my mind and/or my body language and knew that we should get out of there because the situation was escalating to the point where I would be "accidentally" rude. (Hey, it happens, sometimes when I don't even mean for it to). He quickly pulled my shoulder and advised the man that we had to go and it was nice talking to us and... we were out!
These things are my fault, because I assume that people are going to act a certain way, then I'm disappointed when they don't. I jumped in to chatting with the guy and stayed around longer than I really wanted or needed to with the idea that it would be fun. TOTALLY my fault.
If I'd been able to just breathe and accept what was going on, it wouldn't have bothered me. All of that lovely assumption introduced stress in to an event that was otherwise really, really fun.
I would totally go back there again. I may be able to with a better attitude, as well. There's just something about people that want to tell you how much they know that sets my teeth on edge. I wish it were enough for them to realize that if we're at the same event, we have ~that~ in common and just go from there.
I don't mean to dwell, either. I loved the bubble tea we got there, and Bob liked his. We walked around center city a bit to give the shop space to clear out and to see what all was around the area. Some cute little shops, some neat restaurants, and a lot of life just happening. It felt really wonderful the way only a metropolis can with that many people on top of each other and moving past each other. It was a neat afternoon, good people watching, and some excellent city pizza.
For the record, there is no way to get awesome pizza if it isn't in a hole in the wall place in the middle of a major city.
It's going to take more work and more active meditation before I can do it without letting the wayward behvior of another person mess with me. That can be applied everywhere, after all. That, and my craving for items I don't have. Like right now, I could seriously go for another bubble tea. And I heavily desire more copic markers and stunt kites. This is all horribly un-Buddhist of me. :)
Funny that becoming a better Buddhist might circle back around to making me patient with the human race as well.

No comments: