Saturday, June 13, 2009

Coffee, Tea, or Validation

The arson at that topless coffee shop in Vassalboro has become the story that won’t go away.

Even national media outlets are making sure the world stays abreast of the situation.

Apparently, they want every detail of the owner’s hardship permanently implanted in our brains, along with his plans to erect a bigger and better shop on the site, even though he’s practically broke.

The news organizations have nursed the original controversy, focusing on the tit-for-tat arguments that have cleaved neighbors since the Grand View Coffee Shop opened last winter.

Meanwhile, we know very little about the arson investigation, and even less about potential suspects. What about those who attended a meeting that night at which the owner announced plans to expand?

And no one has bothered to try to explain why people would have a problem with such a wholesome presence in their town.

What harm can a few topless waitresses do? The “Grand View” is nothing to get excited about.

For one thing, the same “View” is readily available on the Internet. Why bother to go out and pay for something you can get freely in the privacy of your own home?

The answer to this question points to a monumental fact that all these news outlets, even the big-city newspapers and cable TV networks, failed to notice: this coffee shop offered a critical public service not available on cyberspace: the chance to use someone else to feel better about yourself.

If you go to a normal restaurant, someone serves you. Being served lets you feel in control. The waiter or waitress pretty much has to do what you say, within reason.

This is why going out to eat remains popular, even in a poor economy. The convenience of not having to cook and clean up after your own meal enters into it. A serve-yourself, cafeteria-style eatery can accomplish that, and more cheaply, too, but generally people will choose the sit-down-and-be-served experience, instead.
Everyone needs to feel superior to someone else from time to time.

Now, imagine yourself at your favorite restaurant. Then, subtract essential clothing from the waitress that would cover up what would commonly be considered a private area. Not only does she have to do what you say, but you are free to make visual use of her body for your entertainment.

Meanwhile, your clothes stay on (thank God), meaning you, unlike your server, don’t have to feel any vulnerability or fear of judgment and rejection (I’m sure they get used to it).

Visiting a topless eating or drinking establishment must be such a boon for the self-esteem! Wouldn’t the world be a better place if everyone could have this experience from time to time?

In fact, I think Vassalboro should have passed an ordinance requiring each resident to visit Grand View Coffee Shop at least once a year. Wouldn’t they all feel more confident, content, and self-assured?

Except for the waitresses, I suppose, but hey, nobody forced them into the job, and I’m sure they’d be happy to milk it for all it’s worth.

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