But what I really want to do is direct

The barista thinks I might be a director, and I think I can work with that

Hi! Welcome to another edition of Situation Normal, my weekly newsletter of slice of life stories. We have a barista story today. I love baristas because they make coffee and they’re usually up for zany chats. Basically, baristas are like non-alcoholic bartenders, but instead of telling the bartender your story over booze, the barista gives YOU a story and coffee. That’s a win in my book. Speaking of books, you should pick up my story collection Ride / Share: Micro Stories of Soul, Wit and Wisdom from the Backseat. The book is just like this newsletter, only it’s not battery-powered.

“Are you a director?” the barista asks.

The question is out of left field, but in my experience, most baristas play left field.

“No, I’m not a director.”

The barista looks disappointed. For a moment, I consider telling her that sometimes people say I look like Francis Ford Coppola. Once, a poll worker told me I was “the spitting image” of a young Francis Ford Coppola. Another time, a friend who is a film archivist sent me a picture of a young Coppola talking to a young Robert De Niro on the set of The Godfather Part II. Looking at the photo, I did a double-take, and I actually thought, how could you forget the time you spoke to De Niro about young Vito Corleone’s motivation as he begins a life of crime? But the closest I came to directing was the time a security guard at NBC insisted that I was Francis Ford Coppola, even going as far as to write the director’s name on my visitor’s pass. Not one to let an opportunity go to waste, I greenlit a project, but the movie went to shit. Casting Harvey Keitel was a mistake, Marlon Brando was difficult to work with, and the Filipino army double-booked the helicopters we rented. On the upside, my wife made a documentary about everything that went wrong on that picture. It’s called Heart of Awkwardness: A Bullshit Artist’s Apocalypse.

“You just look like a director,” the barista says. “It’s the Dodgers hat. And the glasses. And the beard. With a beard like that, you look like you should be directing. That beard has real cinematic authority.”

Real cinematic authority from facial hair!? The scene has jumped the shark.

“Cut!”

“Cut?”

“Yeah, I think we need a rewrite here. These lines don’t make any sense. Since when do beards convey cinematic authority?”

The barista looks confused. Maybe she’s not used to people yelling cut right there in the middle of an order.

“Think about it,” I continue. “I’m in charge because of a beard? That makes zero sense.”

“It’s an epic beard,” the barista insists.

“Sure. But they don’t just put you in the director’s chair because you look the part.”

“Are you kidding?” the barista says. “That’s how Hollywood works. It’s all superficial bullshit. You’ve got the look, you should embrace it, make it work for you.”

Stroking my beard, I consider the barista’s point. Maybe I can make it work for me.

“OK,” I say. “Let’s take this scene from the top. Only this time, you aren’t wondering if I’m a director, you’re positive that I am a director, and that I made your favorite movie, except you’re so star-struck that you can’t remember my name, or the name of the film. It’s on the tip of your tongue.”

“What’s my motivation? Am I trying to get a part in your next movie? Do I have a script I want you to read? Or, am I just a hardcore fan-girl?”

“On one level, you just want to remember the name of the movie, but on a deeper level, this scene is really about feeling like an imposter.”

“An imposter?”

“Sure! You’re a big fan. And that fandom can mean anything. Maybe it’s about fandom for the sake of fandom, or maybe it’s about getting a job in the industry, or whatever. But in this moment you don’t feel like a real fan.”

“I don’t?”

“No. You feel like an imposter. Because a fan would know the name of the director and the name of the movie. And you do know those things, but that knowledge is just outside your grasp at the moment you need it most. So, you feel like an imposter.”

“Do I say any of that?”

“No. It’s all subtext.”

“That’s a lot for a humble barista to pull off in one scene,” she says.

“You’re not a humble barista. You’re a world-class actor playing the part of a barista super-fan who, at a critical moment, cannot summon their super-fan powers.”

“I dig it. But how does the scene end? Do I remember your name, or the movie? What’s the resolution?”

“Eventually, you remember my name and the movie. But that happens later, when you tell this story to friends over mango pudding at French plantation.”

“Mango pudding at French plantation. What’s that all about?”

“It’s a commentary on colonialism. Honestly, that scene probably won’t make it into the theatrical release, but you can bet your bottom-dollar it’ll be in the director’s cut.”

“Cool!”

“But in this scene you’re excited to meet your favorite director, and simultaneously upset that you can’t remember his name or his movies. You’re so upset that you feel like an imposter.”

“And what do I do about that?”

“You comp him an oat milk latte.”

“Is that realistic?” she asks.

“Stick to the script,” I say.

“But…”

“Action!”

Thanks for reading! I’ll be back next Sunday with another story. Make sure to subscribe (it’s free) so you’ll never miss a story.

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