I am a specimen of frugality and as such have frugal needs. I suppose one could hazard to call my needs ‘Spartan’ if not for the strange connotations that word implies, largely due to internet geek fuckery. At any rate, my penchant for prudence on how I spend my money is probably something I got from my father, a man who keeps the thrifty Ilocano stereotype alive whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Being frugal, however, doesn’t necessarily mean I am a miser. I enjoy creature comforts to a practical limit and so reward myself once in a while-- often when I believe I’ve done a job well. After all, what’s the point in working hard if you don’t plan to spend your money?
Take coffee, for instance. I am not a connoisseur of this drink. I take my coffee the way I take my cheap liquor-- hard and fast and nasty since I’m only after the chemical effects. Yet I do appreciate the occasional Starbucks Iced Mochafrappewhatthefuckingever. It may be ridiculously overpriced for the yuppie with pretensions of sophistication (or even worse, the student with pretensions of being all grown up); still I will concede that I enjoy the drink’s taste with my Marlboro Lights Gold. There are those of you who will argue that even the vilest machine-brewed coffee tastes great with cigarettes, of course, but even I must have my own pretensions of sophistication.
And so I found myself in ABS-CBN’s Starbucks branch one morning, nursing a Tall order of said brew in one hand and a cigarette in the other. I was early for a meeting and had about twenty minutes to kill so I decided to spend it catching up on my reading. Because I want to make the impression that I’m a cultured sonofabitch, I’ll just say I was reading Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum. No, really, I was. And I understood about ninety percent of the occult references. Because I’m a cultured sonofabitch.
Anyway, some yuppie bloke took the table opposite mine, whipped out his ridiculous Black Bat cigarettes, and lit up. By the ID hanging around his neck I knew he was one of those irritating call center agents working in ABS-CBN’s ELJ Building. By his demeanor I knew he was some utterly pedestrian fucktard just out of college and having a taste of what he thinks is big bucks for the first time in his life.
Now I don’t hate call center people in general. My wife and most of my college friends are call center trainers, fercrissakes. I reserve my loathing mainly for those assholes I find around ABS-CBN who think they’re somehow more special than other agents and who harbor the illusion that they are privy to juicy TV gossip just because they see TV celebrities on cigarette breaks. But I digress.
Back to Mr. Black Bat, then. There he was with his imported cigarettes and his cup of joe, looking at me and (I imagine) sizing up the girth of my paycheck through my appearance. Long hair, a single earring, a rock and roll T-shirt, beads, a spiked bracelet, ratty jeans, and weathered boots: in Mr. Black Bat’s alphabet that probably spelled HUNGRY ARTIST-- especially since I wasn’t wearing the mighty totem of my media ID. I didn’t mind that slight much. I’ve been used to being judged by my appearance ever since I grew my hair long more than a decade ago. What irritated me was the way he looked at my boots, at his own snazzy loafers, back at my boots, and then sneered.
He fucking sneered.
You must know that I don’t own a lot of shoes. I have a pair of leather shoes that I wore at my wedding, a similar pair I wear at formal occasions (like other people’s weddings), comfortable sneakers that I use around my hometown, and these big ole Caterpillar construction boots. These boots are what I’ve worn almost daily for a handful of years now. They are so damn sturdy I believe they’re going to outlast my lifetime. Scarred by years of pursuing strange stories in even stranger places, they probably look less impressive than they did when they were new. Nevertheless, these boots are far more awesome than most people I know.
And the damn fuck sneered at it.
Of course, I let it go. I let him finish his Black Bat and his coffee. I let him walk away thinking his shoes are way better than mine… that his life is more interesting than mine because he’s got new shoes that look right in a corporate office. If he asked me, though-- if he went up to me and asked me why my boots look like they’ve been in the trenches and why I wear such horrid things in Starbucks-- I would have told him this:
My boots have trod ancient paths, mister. They have been to places most people will never see in their entire lives. They have been to caves and tunnels and tombs. They have been sprinkled with the dust of human bones. They’ve tasted salt water and putrid man-flesh and spilt blood. The have stood upon holy mountains and diabolical temples. I have slept in these boots, I’ve retched on them, and I’ve stomped on a snake in some God-forsaken jungle with them.
So, where have YOUR sissy-assed loafers been, asshole?