It takes a lot for me to write something negative about a small independent business. Making rent is tough, and doing more than that is success. But this one goddamned place was so egregiously weird and offensive that I'm almost excited to put it down in writing.
My girlfriend has been a regular at 66 Hope Cafe in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for a month or two. She raved about the place. Loved it. Wanted everyone to go there. Bugged me about going there for weeks, until we finally had a moment where our morning schedules aligned enough for me to snag some time in the morning before commuting to work in order to hang out there with her for a bit. I arrived first. The couple who own the place seemed a little overly excited to be alive, but hey, Monday doesn't have to hurt everyone.
I ordered a coffee, realized it was cash only, got cash, paid for the coffee. Pleases and thank yous. Everything was nice and cordial and perfectly fine. I wait outside for my GF to arrive. I smoke a cigarette. I hang out for a second. I go back in. The couple that own the place smile at me, I smile at them, we're all friends. My girlfriend arrives, sits down next to me, and smiles and waves at the owners. They don't wave back.
Let me insert here that there were maybe ten people in the cafe at this point. The cafe's capacity looks to be maybe forty to fifty people. My GF sits down next to me, I'm sipping my coffee, and she's putting down her bags. We're just getting settled. The owner lady waves at my GF impatiently, gesturing to the coffee machines, clearly demanding that she buy something. I'm still sipping my coffee. My girlfriend looks a little surprised and makes the "yes, just one moment" motion with her hand. The woman immediately walks over to us and demands that we leave, because: "We're a small business and can't afford to have people sitting in our cafe without buying anything and just lounging around. Thank you for understanding."
This all happened in under thirty seconds. We just sat there, totally gobsmacked. We got up and left. In my dizzy haze of shock at being ushered out of an almost empty coffee shop as a paying customer, I ordered a refill for the road. She charged me three dollars and filled my cup half way. She then said: "Thank your for understanding by leaving." I responded with "I don't actually understand." And then we left.
Now, here's the thing: it is absolutely fine and acceptable and, frankly, expected, for a cafe (or any small business) to have a set of rules that shape and guide what the experience will be for the customers and the employees. I actually really like it when businesses stick to their guns. 66 Hope Cafe has a no cell phone rule that I fully support. The Alamo Drafthouse removes people from their theater if they talk during a movie, and I silently applaud every time. But this is a completely out of touch, entitled, and crazed way of treating your customers. The owners honestly gave us no time to buy anything, get comfortable, or decide if we wanted to be there, before they ushered us out with hilariously Dickensian brusqueness.
If you're going to own and operate a small cafe, you have two things you can rely on: the quality of your product/environment, and the word of mouth of people who deliberately go out of their way to find your place instead of going to Starbucks. You, as a small business owner, absolutely rely on impressing the people that come into contact with your business. If you're going to alienate the very people whom you rely on to survive economically, then you'll inevitably, and deservedly, fail.
I cannot and will not recommend this place to anyone. And, judging by the responses that they've given to the other negative reviews that have been written about them, they'll probably respond to this review (if they respond at all, which I'd prefer they didn't) with a similarly out-of-touch, blame-shifting response that highlights the exact attitude that makes them a sub-par establishment.
Anyway, best of luck, 66 Hope Cafe - you're gonna need a lot of it if you keep losing customers like this. I'll be sticking with The West.
Before you say anything, I want to squeeze this word in: wait! You're probably never going to have another chance at making national news unless sometime in the future you become psychotically violent, so please lend me your ears for just a moment; this won't take long.
High-fives and panic for the past few days, huh? You have a $10,000.00 bounty on your heads which was offered up by a person whose job is making people laugh for a living - a pretty clear sign that you all may have made a slight miscalculation concerning your hope for the universally perceived hilarity of pouring urine and feces over the head of a mentally disabled young person who would have rather given you their friendship and the benefit of the doubt (and did), while also trying to raise awareness about another debilitating disease (I'm referring to ALS, not people like you - although that wouldn't be far off).
When I first heard about what you folks had done, there was a fun and colorful fast-cutting montage of ideas and feelings that went speeding through my mind. I was absolutely fucking gobsmacked by the fact that the simple, banal, imbecilic human beings I was reading about could have possibly mustered the neurons to coordinate an event that merited news coverage - and I was excited by my own feelings of justice being shaken out of my jaded little self. You see, I don't really ever write about the things that I hate, or things which I find distasteful. I certainly haven't ever written about people who spend their days wallowing in the dazzlingly miasmatic pond of protean stupidity which you all call home; I'd much prefer to only ever write about how much I love the things that I love. It's a much lighter way to live. It's airy and fun, but also thoughtful, and it makes me feel good.
But today, I'm writing to you people. Schadenfreude. Whatever. Let me cut to the chase.
Over the next few months, there will be a lot of people condemning you all for what you've done to this poor kid, this good kid; this kid who is a better person than all of you. The media and Drew Carey (of all people, right?) and countless others will publicly condemn you; others will defend you, saying that you're misunderstood kids; others in the comments sections of YouTube will call for your public executions; others, bloggers like me, will write deliberately (and transparently) over-eloquent essays on why you're scum and why you're whatever, etc.
But what I want to convey to you all is something a little bit more practical. You're never going to be successful in your dreams - all because of this.
You will, for the rest of your lives, be professionally passed over. You will be excluded from decision-making processes. You will be laughed at, considered to be nothing more than thickly-chuckling shitheads from your peers and your betters.
The tragedy for you all, and the joke, far surpasses the "joke" of dumping shit on that "retard kid". The tragic joke of your lives is that from now on, you'll be perceived by everyone you meet as the Dumb People.
You will be known as dumb and untrustworthy forever. You'll never get promoted. You'll never be making more than $16.00/hr, even when you're fifty years old. You will not retire. You will work a bad job, every day, until you are dead. And when you are dead, things will continue the following morning with breathtaking ease and unconcern. No one except for your roommate or your remaining friend will notice that you are gone. Your boss will forget about you a few hours after making a Craigslist post to replace your unskilled position at the minimum-wage rate you earned at for fifteen years.
Please understand that this isn't something that I'm actively wishing upon you, fuck no - this is something I'm warning you about. You've got some time to correct this absolutely inevitable, common, conventional outcome, but only if you act quickly.
You have to apologize to the autistic kid whom you fucked with. You have to work hard. You have to understand and believe that you are already dead, because you were born. You have to understand and believe that no one owes you anything except the benefit of the doubt - and you threw that away. If you sober up and assess the damage you've done to yourselves soon, you might be fine. You might retire at $30.00/hr. You might get married. You might have consensual sex, even. You could write a book or draw a comic. You could make a film. Hell, you could make a friend.
If you've gotten this far and you're laughing with your friends about how out of touch/taking myself too seriously/fucking pathetic/stupid/retarded/gay/fat/asshole/whatever I am, then I leave you with this:
The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.
So in that vein, the best time to stop being a dumbcunt is twenty years ago, but the second best time is now, but even now you'll be hard pressed to reverse enough of the damage you've done to have anyone blink thrice once you die.
When you're finally alone for a moment, which is a very rare thing in New York City for a lot of reasons, tiny things quickly become big things. The clicks and squeaks of your knees. Small shifts in your weight when you walk which you might normally be unaware of. Empty space in your fridge. Extra time in your day. The sound you make when you breathe. Quiet thoughts which seize their chance to speak up.
For me, the most potent is the minimization of ego-willpower. No one is watching, which means I am allowed to be simple. This is not a bad thing.
The similarities to an image you love, whether it is a film, painting, or memory, remind you of your own awareness of yourself. Solitude creates reflection which heightens one's sense of self for a short time. Strangely, there is a sharp drop in that self-awareness once too much time has elapsed. You become a stranger to yourself, your thoughts bouncing off of themselves in a swirl.