Glossy-eyed and heavy-shouldered, I stumble into the Starbucks. A washed-up seventies soft rocker bellows out a tune, unable to recognize that it’s early. He doesn’t have to compete with the muffled sound of a blender. Right now, I get Seventies Soft Rocker Man. I want to feel relevant.
“What’s your update?” the barista (or is it baristo if it’s a guy?) asks.
“I’m at the Starbucks on Peoria Avenue,” I tell him.
“Can I be mayor of this place?”
He pauses for a moment and says, “I think there might be a real mayor badge on Four Square. How about Deputy Chancelor?”
“Of all Starbuckses?”
“No, just this one.”
* * *
I call a casual acquaintance, but when his sexy-voiced answering machine asks me if I would please leave a message, I get intimidated. So instead I start calling Javi the Hippie to let him know that I’m in my classroom and I’m in the staff lounge and if I could just find a way to move around a bit more, I might be declared mayor of this school.
At 11:50, I call him up again. “Hey Javi, just calling to say that I’m going to QT. I forgot my lunch.”
“Are you going to be doing this all day?” he asks me.
“Yeah. I asked the guy at Starbucks this morning if I could be mayor. He told me I could be Deputy Chancelor, which sounds very European.”
“He probably spit in your coffee.”
“The last thing he needs is a new boss.”
“Wow, he was pretty nice to me. That would be pretty passive-agressive.”
“Most people are passive agressive. Unless you’re Republican. Then you’re just agressive.”
I choose the geekiest-looking guy at the QT, figuring that if I’m taking a shot at in-person Four Square, I might as well hedge my bets.
“I’m at QT,” I tell him.
“That’s right,” he says.
“Can I be mayor of this place?” I watch his pained expression and so I admit the gimmick. “I’m doing an in-person version of Facebook. This is my version of Four Square.”
“Oh,” he says.
“So, can I be mayor?” I ask.
“How about a figurehead president?”
“How about figurehead dictator of QT’s shadow government?”
“Okay,” he says.
As I walk away, the lady behind me shakes her head in disapproval of our inefficient interaction. I get it. Just let me pay for my goddam sandwich wrap and Diet Coke.
* * *
“Nobody returned my calls when I left messages,” Christy explains.
“So they ignored you. It sounds just like real Four Square, where people send updates that nobody reads.”
“I’m thinking about the whole Four Square concept. You know, I think it meets a need that we don’t reach in our urban, fragmented society. I listened to this seventies pop star trying to sound important. You know, he wants to be relevant. He wants to matter. He wants to have a place. And that’s me sometimes. I want community. I want to be known. I want fame, even, as dangerous as it might be. I wonder if Four Square meets these deep human needs on a real superficial level.”
“I wouldn’t use that term ‘superficial.’ It’s more limited, more online and it comes with a little extra space. But I don’t think it’s superficial.”