OFFER UNSOLICITED ADVICE: PRESENT CVS MANAGER WITH A LIST OF WAYS TO MAKE EAST HAMPTON STORE MORE USER-FRIENDLY
Okay, that’s a polite way of saying make the store less awful. Did an informal poll of friends and family, and it seems everyone hates CVS drugstores for one reason or another. Apparently universal dislike crosses state lines, as well as urban, suburban and ex-urban boundaries.
So I type up a list of grievances and ask to speak with the manager of the East Hampton store. It’s early on a Sunday morning, and he seems to have time on his hands, so we have a nice sitdown in the back office. I notice an eavesdropper lurking in the doorway, who turns out to be the assistant manager, clearly intrigued to hear how his boss responds.
Basically this boss has earned his job. He’s a master of diplomacy, answering all questions respectfully while pointing out that they have already addressed all of my complaints. What he can’t handle is beyond his control: the store is smaller than most, yet does more business than any other store on Long Island. (Bragging rights accepted.) They’d love to have a seating area for the prescription line . . . but there’s no square footage to spare. My suggestion to cut back on the useless holiday goods that clog the aisles near checkout, are probably produced by under-aged children in Chinese sweatshops, and end up in landfill the day after the holiday, gets the most resistance. Turns out the stuff usually sells out. The assistant manager couldn’t even get a chocolate heart for his honey on Valentine’s Day. The only unsatisfactory answer: Why are crackers not on the same aisle with chips and pretzels, but over with things like cereal and Pop Tarts? Lame, irrational, off-the-cuff reply, “probably lack of space . . .”
Manager suggests I write a note to headquarters on his behalf, explaining how pleased I was with his performance. The two of them pose for a photo shoot. Maybe this guy should run for office.
Two weeks later I practically trip over an employee stocking the shelves. Far from ignoring me (usual response), he pops up and asks if he can lead me to what I’m looking for. Can’t help but wonder if we’re being watched on the backroom video surveillance cameras. Who knows, his job could be on the line. (Rejections: murky, as clearly he thinks he’s already met my demands. Acceptances: ditto.)
RETREAD: TRADE SESSIONS WITH A PT
Find the guy at work one morning. Ask if he’d be willing to exchange sessions. No problem, but he’s going on vacation for 10 days, so will have to be after that. (Acceptances: 1, deferred; Rejections: 0).
GIVE A PUBLIC READING IN AN NYC SUBWAY STATION
Position myself in Union Square subway station midway between the gospel singers and the 7th Day Adventists, equipped with Xeroxed copies of the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution. Not sure why this is one of the hardest challenges yet.
I start reading, but no one stops to listen. I also discover that neither text is as catchy or provocative as you might expect (did I ever read either before?). Also, everyone’s in a hurry to get where they are going. Will have to try this out somewhere else with better material. (Acceptances: 0, Rejections: dozens).
PART ONE: photograph all my yoga students that day doing kickass poses. (Rejections: none; Acceptances: 3—although I didn’t really ask and didn’t mention they might end up on social media).
DAY TWENTY: PART TWO:
PLAY “GUESS WHAT I’M READING” IN WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK
Okay, much better this time around. Turn the reading into an interactive game, with a little sign that asks, “GUESS WHAT I’M READING?” Position myself in a park right near a university (so lots of students and professors proud of what they’ve read) and known as a hub of downtown activism back in the day. Also spruce up my reading list.
Stiff competition: break dancer/street gymnasts have monopolized the central fountain space, and they’re doing some dramatic stunts. A child-sized person painted all white is standing on a pillar doing weird mime movements with an enormous white egg. Several guitarists are drowning each other out. Someone is doing card tricks. Someone else is blowing room-sized bubbles with an enormous wand.
I’ve just gotten set up, sign posted, pages pulled out, but haven’t started reading, when some guy goes buy with a young boy in a stroller and calls out, “Kennedy’s speech on secrecy!” Huh? Guess he didn’t understand. So I lure him over and start in on the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, and Constitution.
He nails all 3. So I say, let’s move on to literature. “Oh no, I won’t get that,” he demurs.
“So what is your field?” I ask.
“Great. Let’s trade song lyrics.” I quote a line from Tracy Chapman. He tanks. Thinks it’s Joni Mitchell. “Damn, my wife would have gotten that—she loves Tracy Chapman!”
Next up: Buffalo Springfield Vietnam War protest song. Nails the lyrics (in fact corrects me!) but can’t name song or band.
Then he offers me one, which I can’t name.
So far: Rejections: 0, Acceptance: 1.
No one else stops, so I move closer to the university, hoping to loop in some students or professors on their way to or from classes. It works. One guys stops, all excited to play, but his friends have run on ahead and won’t stop for this nonsense.
Then the guy who broke my heart. He listened to T.S. Eliot’s “J. Alfred Prufrock” and “The Waste Land.” Couldn’t get either. So I tried Dylan Thomas (“Do Not Go Gentle”). He was really pained that he couldn’t guess right. I’m afraid he wandered off with diminished self-esteem (I’m not supposed to make people feel bad about themselves.)
Forgot to mention that I ran a few poems by one of my students at the Hebrew Union College yoga class beforehand, and she got them all. Turns out she loves literature, but also that she’s a professional singer, and many poems are converted to song lyrics, so she has them memorized.
PART THREE: ASK TO REGISTER FOR A PERSONAL SHOPPER WITH CHRISTOPHER STREET CVS.
Told they don’t offer that service, even tho I’m ready with my typed list of regular and occasional purchases to steer them in the right direction. Instead (of course), manager Maria suggests I download the CVS app for updates on weekly specials. If it functions at the same level as the stores, I’m probably better off without it. Ask to take her photo but she tells me store policy forbids it. Tow-the-line kinda girl. (Rejection: 1, Acceptance: 0)
PART ONE: EMAIL PT TO SET UP SESSION EXCHANGE
Awaiting response. (Acceptance/Rejection pending)
PART TWO: ASK PEOPLE WHAT THEY FEAR MOST AND WHAT THEY HOPE FOR MOST (OR ARE MOST HOPEFUL/OPTIMISTIC ABOUT).
Try this out on two friends who work at my volunteer job. Audio recording attached here. Surprisingly personal responses. I went straight for climate change, which is just about the scariest thing I can contemplate, since it impacts all of us in unfathomable ways. What am I most hopeful about? My own longevity and resilience.
ASK FOR HELP WITH MY ART BUSINESS
Out for my morning walk in East Hampton, I peer in the window of 55 Main Street, a swimsuit store that a student has converted to an off-season popup gallery. Surprised to see her sitting at the desk. Go in to chat, ask if she’d like to see my own artwork. Drop off my card, and to my surprise hear back from her a few days later that she finds my collages “beautiful and original” and would like to see more. Yay! (Acceptance: 1, Rejection: 0)
DAY TWENTY-THREE (SATURDAY): Piling up Rejections so take the day off.
DAY TWENTY-FOUR (SUNDAY):
FOLLOW UP WITH STUDENT ABOUT THE “BUSINESS PROPOSITION” HE MENTIONED.
We agree to talk later in the week. This could be interesting: someone is now approaching me, which places me in the position of potentially rejecting him. So the tables have turned. (Acceptance: yes, Rejection: -1 (meaning unsolicited request from someone else.)
DAY TWENTY-FIVE (MONDAY)
Offer reading material to people waiting on line at Hudson Street Post Office.
Seven or eight rejections, despite the fact that the line is really long, it’s late afternoon, and everyone looks bored and tired. Maybe it’s just too weird to sidle up to people with a satchel full of stuff. Too bad—I was ready to part with current Wall Street Journals, Vanity Fair, unread fashion magazines, paperback fiction and nonfiction for all tastes. Just relieved post office is close to my apartment, as lugging hard copies around is a bit of a drag. (Acceptances: 0; Rejections: 7 or 8) Note: the smart cookies in the group were busy at the self-service machines, in and out of there in a flash.)
Surprised to hear back from the art dealer that she finds my collages “beautiful and original” and would like to see more. Yay! (Acceptance: 1, Rejection: 0)
DAY TWENTY-SEVEN: Take the day off for backlog of past rejections.
DAY TWENTY- EIGHT:
FOLLOW UP WITH STUDENT ABOUT THE “BUSINESS PROPOSITION” HE HAS FOR ME.
DAY TWENTY-NINE: TRAVEL DAY. NO REQUESTS.
DAY THIRTY (EASTER):
ASK MY SISTER TO WRITE A LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION FOR ME TO DAR.
I don’t need a letter, but figure it will be worth a laugh, as no one in my family seems clear about why I want to join the DAR in the first place (probably because I’m not too clear myself). Since I’m pretty sure she won’t have a clue what to write, I give her some (not totally truthful) suggestions:
State that I’m of good character
Mention that I always get sentimental about veterans
She asks if we should mention flags. “Oh yes, they love flags. Definitely something about flags.”
Since we’re both getting into the swing of it, I propose that she also say I always showed interest in visiting historic battlefields like Gettysburg. Here my brother-in-law interjects that that’s from the wrong war . . . Oops! He suggests Yorktown, which gets both my sister and me thinking about all the trips my family made to Williamsburg, the colonial town reconstructed by the Rockefeller family. “You can say that I considered King George III as a tyrant from whom our people definitely needed to be freed.
By this time, I’ve messed with the facts so much the truth is getting really blurry. Anyway, still in hopes of rejection, I tell my sister that since the letter was actually due a week ago, it would be best if she could write and sign it for me today.
“Why don’t you just write something and I’ll sign it,” she responds. Drat, foiled again! Just as I turn off the video she finally queries, “Is this part of your rejection thing?” (Rejections: 0, Acceptances: 1)
Stay tuned. Rejection continues...