They say you should get a Cool test annually, but it had been six years since my last checkup.
Cool doctors make me nervous. I don’t like anyone poking around my fashion sense and pop culture knowledge, determining how hip I am. Besides, the Cool doctor is just something you put off. Especially when you think your Cool is perfectly fine. Which I totally did. I mean, I listen to several popular podcasts.
But last week, when a young colleague said “GOAT” in a meeting and it had to be explained to me that she didn’t mean the animal, I knew it was time to have my Cool examined.
The Cool doctor’s office was in a WeWork in Bed Stuy. Several other patients were milling about the waiting area when I arrived. I counted three Patagonia vests. Four, if you count mine.
As I listened for my name, I leafed through a pamphlet about the Best New Artist nominees from this year’s Grammy Awards, which is when I learned Kacey Musgraves was not a NASCAR driver. I was halfway through a section titled “How to Spot Dua Lipa Before It’s Too Late” when I heard a nurse call out my name.
“Howard Finkelstein huh,” she said, checking out my vest. “Good luck in there.”
She led me into an exam room and instructed me to put on a fanny pack, which I definitely don’t remember from my Cool test back in 2013. I clasped it around my waist and waited for the doctor. I passed the time by studying a diagram on the wall that showed all the parts of the ASAP Mob.
After what felt like forever, the door opened. A youth entered and introduced himself as “Dr. Zack.” He couldn’t have been older than 22, though I didn’t ask his age. Not because it was rude, but because I truly didn’t want to know.
He wore baggy jeans and a salmon-colored hoodie that seemed three sizes too big for him. Honestly, I thought he looked pretty uncool, but I’m not a doctor.
Dr. Zack looked me up and down, then adjusted my fanny pack, correcting it (his words) so that it was now draped diagonally across my chest.
He then directed me to look at a placard on the wall: the 2019 Coachella poster.
“It’s the perfect tool for measuring your Cool levels. It works just like an eye chart,” Dr. Zack said. “We’ll start with the large type at the top, the headlining acts, then move down to the more obscure bands in small type.”
I covered one eye.
“You don’t need to do that,” he said.
I put my hand down, resting it inside the fanny pack on my chest.
“Let’s begin with Friday Night,” Dr. Zack, said. “Starting from the top line, how far can you read before things look fuzzy?”
The first line was easy. It only had one artist on it, in real big type, and I knew him.
“Childish Gambino. I loved him in Community,” I said.
I moved down to the second line, which featured several artists in slightly smaller type. Luckily, I knew the first one.
“Janelle Monae,” I said. “I loved her in Hidden Figures.”
As long as Dr. Zack didn’t ask me to name any songs these actors sang, I’d be fine.
“Do you recognize any other artists on the second line?” he asked me skeptically.
The next act was a band called The 1975. At least, I was pretty sure it was a band and not some solo artist named after a year. I know a few years back there was a guy named after the weekend.
“I know The 1975,” I said in my most confident voice.
“Are you asking me or telling me?” he grilled.
“Telling you?” I asked.
Dr. Zack took a deep sigh and asked if I knew the next artist. I could barely hide my excitement.
“DJ Snake,” I shouted. “He did that song with Run the Jewels!”
I knew all this because the pharmaceutical company I work for used their song in a promo video for our new blood pressure medication Calmatol. This was before the cease and desist.
“You’re thinking of DJ Shadow,” Dr. Zack said.
“Oh right, of course,” I lied.
I scanned the Coachella poster, hoping for a miracle. There were names like Gorgon City. Mon Laferte. Kayzo. Khruangbin. Names that sounded like the runners up to Calmatol or places in Westeros, but none like a band or artist I had ever heard of before.
“Are you sure this is the real poster?” I asked. “It’s not one of those photoshopped gag ones?”
Dr. Zack picked up a fancy magic marker from his desk. Then he brought it to his lips, sucked in, and blew out smoke.
I looked back at the poster, but unfortunately, the same words were there.
“Am I being Punk’d?” I asked.
Dr. Zack was unfamiliar with the term.
My self-image starting to crumble, I asked if I could try the Saturday or Sunday lineups. I thought maybe they were saving the more well-known bands for the weekend. But Dr. Zack didn’t think it was necessary. He had a pretty good gauge of my Cool.
In the end, he diagnosed with me 2020 Cool.
“2020? Wow!” I exclaimed. “I was right about the poster being photoshopped, wasn’t I?”
But Dr. Zack explained 2020 Cool meant that 2020 will be the year when I officially recognize ZERO artists at Coachella.
Not even the actors.
He prescribed me a Spotify account and told me to follow someone named Billie Ellish on Instagram, but I can’t figure out how to get either app on my phone.
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