Starbucks is a jungle

I’m sitting here like a prat in a coffee shop renowned throughout the modern world as the natural habitat of prats with laptops who, in their whole attitude and disposition, claim to be writers. I’m struggling to make sense of a world of my own design and construction. In fact, I grapple with an idea so arcane that previous science-fiction writers who entertained it had to be institutionalized.

I look up from my MacPro to gaze at the ceiling reflectively. On the way, I pause to smile, fondly enough, at a klatch of females with their young.

Then one of these young items screams. Piercingly and at length it shrieks, triggering a couple of its wee associates thereby.

What it sounds like: toddler shrieks.

This atavistic behavior, according to one theory, was originally meant to alert adults to the news that a leopard lurked nearby and steps needed to be taken. Maybe so. But I’m pretty sure there isn’t a leopard within a radius of many kilometers and, if there is, it should only eat this shrill young specimen who could alternatively be kept shielded from civil society in a lead-lined bunker.

Of course such behavior has lurked deep in primate genomes since our days as monkeys, and this may explain why we find scratching on blackboards so unpleasant (though this hypothesis has been questioned). I suppose it might be  forgiven on that account by genuine adults, which is something I don’t claim to be.

Mind you I had a late night, and this ms. isn’t going all that well even without 130-decibel assaults on my unsympathetic nervous system.

I’m something of a curmudgeon at the best of times, which these are not, and I turn a look on my fellow patrons designed to reduce them to quivering protoplasm. They mistake this for something benign, and smile at me in ways that suggest I’m adorable, though not as adorable as their screeching spawn, the shrillest pair of whom now toddle towards me trailing drool.

“Do you think they build these coffee shops only for you to write books in?” Sara asks me later. Then she adds, with little conviction: “Really, you thought those kids were cute, didn’t you?”

Useful notes:

* “The human threshold of pain is 120 [decibels], and at 160 your eardrum will rupture.” (Australian Geographic)

* Human babies, if they’re in good form, reportedly can do 130 dbls. That’s like listening to a jet plane rev its engines at 40 meters or so.

* “Former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova … has officially reached 101 decibels (a lion‘s roar is 110 decibels).” Wikipedia. So what? It gives me an excuse to post her photo. While I’m at it, here’s a link to all the things tennis is good for; maybe it’s an antidote to curmudgeonlyness:

* What high-pitched noises can do to the average urbanite’s brain.

* In Bangkok, both parking-lot attendants and traffic police labor under the misapprehension that cars move only if you keep blowing shrieky whistles at them. Quixotic Resistance Movement Award of the Decade goes to Quiet Bangkok.)

* Visit this site for a less interesting hypothesis than the one advanced above for why toddlers shriek this way, plus a viscerally less satisfying way of encouraging them not to.


10 thoughts on “Starbucks is a jungle”

  1. I don’t’ understand what you have against us young’uns. Anyhow, it’s irrelevant since we rool!

  2. You didn’t include Jim E. singing at Joy Luck, or Jim G. in the middle of the night in an Akha village, or Jim … well you get the idea.

    It’s not just kids, dude… they’re people, too, sort of, just in one helluva long developmental phase, which for some never seems to end.

    • That’s true. We are afflicted with Jims, as well as with toddler descendants of monkeys, and it’s a wonder we still have any hearing left for some Chopin of a gentle evening in spring.

      Your response tells me, as though I didn’t already know, that you are the father of young ‘uns, and their screeches are as music to your ears, eh?

  3. People under the age of 25 are classified as pre-human. After 65 we’re post-human. You misspelled “curmudgeon” and “attendant,” two sure signs of post-humanity. Loved the photo of Maria. Let’s have more of that. Also loved the cartoon, although not quite so much as Maria. Let’s also have more cartoons. It could give you a second career. Stephff, move over, make room for Colpip. Regarding our days as monkeys, you may have descended from monkeys, but I am descended from the great apes. At least, that’s what my father told me.

    • The spelling was only to test you.

      The great apes themselves descended from monkeys, so you, as a descendent of the apes (more clearly so than many of my acquaintance), are likewise a descendent of the monkeys, except at somewhat greater a remove and in no way that adds to your spiritual and moral stature, though I’ll grant you can spell better than a squirrel monkey.

  4. Later should be better, in terms of evolutionary progress, although in view of the current population I am beginning to have my doubts. In fact, I read a recent article that claimed our ancestors were smarter than we were, because evolution weeded out the weaker specimens, whereas nowadays we keep them alive through medicine, etc.

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