Last week I was in Starbucks and someone called me a Communist. At first, I was upset because I thought she had called me a "columnist," a jab aimed at insulting the information I was providing to another person in line about the high-fat content of the soy latte. (A soy latte, by the way, is no better than a non-soy latte. In fact, I have praised the Starbucks where I live for investing in almond milk as a substitute after three letters I wrote their manager.) So, I thought, she was calling me by the nickname I had only previously imagined people called me. But no, this person, who happened to be a woman, was calling me a Communist.
"Why are you calling me a Communist?" I asked, rather politely.
The woman was teary eyed and nodded. When she put her head down, I took the opportunity to look at her chest again. The woman pointed her non-essentialized finger at me and said, "Because you're telling that lady what to do! Just like all the other men in this town!"
"Whoa whoa whoa!" I said, holding up my open palms to indicate that I had no firearms. "I was providing useful advice."
But this woman, who was very equal to me by the way, refused my explanation. She said that I was forcing my opinion on the other woman (also equal to myself in every way, although differing from me slightly in that my genitalia were masculine and hers were not).
"This is just another instance of the white man being the white man! Telling people what to do!"
I looked in front of me and I could see that the employees behind the counter, no less equal to me in any way, were having an issue with the espresso machine. So, the order in front of me would take time. Therefore, I knew I would have time for an argument before I needed to perform my obligatory service to those behind me and order my coffee in an orderly manner.
"I resent that you are saying that in two ways," I said, referring back to my time as an English major in order to correctly formulate my argument in a coherent manner with no sense of vagueness. "One, I am not ‘white.' Don't essentialize me like that. I am one sixty-fourth Creole Native American and I am very proud of that heritage and I'm upset that you called me a ‘white' man. Listen, white woman, I am not white!"
I raised my voice slightly at that point to indicate I was serious, just like I do with my nieces when they're playing too rough with my Enya record collection. The woman's chest, which I had only briefly glanced at and then quickly made a note to chastise myself over later, fell.
"Oh…I'm sorry…I didn't realize you were one sixty-four Native American—"
"Creole," I said. "Don't gloss over my heritage. We've already endured too much of that from your people."
"I'm sorry that I—"
"Excuse me," I said, "but I need to continue on to my second point: the fact that you called me a Communist…because I was giving someone advice on high-fat content? Ma'am. The corporate industry impresses false and elides true information about the salt, sugar, and fat content within processed foods. It's a fact. Go to Wikipedia." I stopped to take a breath and mentally congratulate myself on using the word "elides" in what technically qualified as casual conversation.
"I feel no better than anyone else telling others about this fact and I feel it is my duty as a Communist, yes, I used that DIRTY word ladies and gentlemen but I am not ashamed…" I let that sink in: I was not ashamed. "As a Communist, it is my duty to tell people about these things. Now, I know Starbucks does great things for its employees and makes real efforts to be nice and Communist, but they still have things to improve. Why? Because they are still a corporation." I directed my finger at the woman. "YOU'RE a corporation. I'm sorry to say it, but you are. You have to stop being a corporation and start becoming a Communist."
The woman was teary eyed and she nodded. She knew. When she put her head down, I took the opportunity to look at her chest again. Then, I decided I would double chastise myself later.
"I don't want to be a corporation," she said. "I want to be a Communist."
I nodded thoughtfully, as if I had a lot of thoughts inside me and they filled me up so much that whenever I did anything like nod I could only do it in that way your head looks when it's filled with thoughts.
I placed my hand on her shoulder, looked her into her eye, and said, "You already are. You always have been. You just need to realize you are. That's the thing." She nodded and thanked me. After I ordered my coffee, she gave me her business card—she teaches Mahayana meditative yoga classes.
"Thank you," I said, "that was very Communist of you."
"You're welcome. And hey, my class is fun. Come on by. I think you'll like it…we're all Communists."
I smiled and left. I realized that we all are truly Communists but sometimes we lose sight of that and accidentally become corporations. Corporations are people, too, I know. But they should become Communists.
I think Karl Marx, although I've never read him personally, would've stood and applauded me in that Starbucks. "You've done it!" he would have said, and I would have stopped and pointed a finger at him.
"No…" I would've said, "YOU did it."