He wakes up to the sound of thunder and rain. He walks over to the balcony, opens the sliding door, and takes a deep breath with a broad smile on his face. From there he goes to feed his dog, which he never forgets. After finishing his coffee in the fresh air, Man turns to Dog.

    “Dog, finish up. It’s beautiful beach weather. We can play catch, such a great game. Hopefully there won’t be a single soul on the sand and we’ll have the beach all to ourselves.”

He waits for Dog to finish up, then grabs the leash, puts it on Dog and exits his apartment. He walks down eight flights of stairs. On the ground floor, Man checks his mailbox. Inside there is a newsletter which he has tried numerous times to cancel, as well as some sort of cleaning service advertisement, a drug advertisement, a clothing company advertisement, and some advertisement for a product which Man can’t decipher. He hears footsteps, turns around, and when he sees that it’s Neighbor-Man, gives him a nod and turns back toward his mail.  Neighbor-Man inserts his key into his mailbox and while turning it looks at Man and says,

    “Hey, Man.”

Sometimes the nod tactic backfires, because some people interpret it as an opening for small talk.

    “Hey,” Man responds.
    “I haven’t seen you around lately,” Neighbor-Man says.
    “I’ve been around.”
    “Listen, I’m glad I caught you - I’m hosting a party tonight and there might be some noise, so…”
    “Sure, I’d love to come,” Man says, well aware that Neighbor-Man had no intention of inviting him.
    “No, uh…actually I just wanted to tell you that there might be some noise.”
    “OK sure, no problem, don't worry about it. If it gets too loud I’ll just call the cops.”

    After an uneasy pause during which Neighbor-Man tries to gauge how serious Man's intentions are, he says,

    “Very funny.” And smiles conspiratorially.
    “You think I’m joking?”
    Neighbor smiles cockily. “Pretty sure."

    As the silence continues Neighbor’s smile begins to fade, and after another short pause, he musters another smile and adds,
    "You know what, if you wanted to just drop by, that would be great.”
    “Or I can simply call the cops,” Man says.
    “Yeah,” Neighbor sighs, giving up. “That could also work. You’ll never change, will you?”
    “I am already past change.”
    “Whatever that means. See you around, Man,” Neighbor-Man says.

I don’t think he was serious about calling the cops, but then again you never know with Man.
Man walks towards the exit of the building, preparing to welcome the rain. Just as he is about to push the door open, using his foot, Neighbor-Girl walks in.

    “Hey Man, looking good!” she says.
    “Just as usual.”
    “It’s pouring out there! I would take an umbrella if I were you. Do you have one?” She asks.
    “Do you see one?”
    She works up a smile. “So here. Take mine.” She hands him her umbrella.
    “No. I’m OK.”
    “Come on, take it, it’s not a big deal!”
    “I don’t want it,” Man says.
    “Fine!” She says with an indulgent smile, “Fine!”

    Man pushes the door open using his foot once again, but to his displeasure he hears the voice of Neighbor-Girl once more.

    “Oh, what a lovely dog - is he yours? He is just adorable” she bends down and pets him. “How long have you had him?”
    “I got him a few days ago.”
    “What’s his name?” she asks.
    “That’s original.”
    “Is it?” Man asks.
    “Tell me, you coming to this party tonight?”
    “Which party?”
    “Neighbor-Man is hosting a party tonight. He didn’t invite you?” she asks.
    “He did.”
    “So why did you ask me which party?”
    “Why not?”
    Neighbor-Girl seems confused. “So come, we haven't talked in ages.”
    “OK, I’ll see. Or I’ll call the cops”
    “You heard me,” Man says.
    “Yes I heard you, but I don’t get it.”
    “That’s the problem.”
    “What’s the problem?” she asks.
    “You heard me.”
    “You know, you’re lucky that I know you, otherwise I would have stopped talking to you ages ago.”
    “Now that would have been a shame, wouldn’t it?” Man says.
    “Very funny. Have a good day. Enjoy the rain.”
    “That’s what I’m trying to do.”

    Man finally kicks the building door open. He walks for a few minutes before entering the local cafe. He heads towards the cashier to place his order.

    “How can I help you today, Sir?” Cashier asks.
    “Medium cappuccino and a banana walnut muffin.”
    “Sorry Sir, is that your dog?”
    “Which one?” Man asks.
    “The one you’re holding on a leash.”
    “This one? No, that’s just a coincidence.”
    “I’m terribly sorry, but I’m going to have to ask you to leave the dog outside.”
    “Why? What’s the problem?” Man asks, although he already knows the answer.”
    “It’s the policy here, no pets are allowed inside the cafe. There is a clear sign next to the entrance.”
    “Just blame it on me in case someone asks. In the meantime, can I get that coffee and the muffin? How much do I owe?”
    Cashier raises his voice slightly. “What don’t you understand Sir? Did you hear what I just said?”
    Man casually replies, “Look at yourself. Instead of arguing with me for the last few minutes, you could have given me ten times what I ordered, but instead you decided to make a scene. Now in addition to an unsatisfied customer, I’m pretty sure your boss won’t appreciate how you handled the situation. Look around you, everyone is staring at us, and for what? Because you decided to play the tough guy. ‘Against our policy…’ well done! Can you simply give me my order?”

    Supervisor appears, dressed in casual clothes to distinguish himself from those lower than him still in uniform. This way he ensures no one will think, even for a brief moment, that he’s the same as them and that three years slaving away in the coffeehouse was all in vain.

    “Is everything OK?” Supervisor asks Cashier.
    “Sure,” Cashier answers. “I just explained to this gentleman that our store policy prohibits dogs inside, so I asked him kindly to leave the dog outside, but he continued to argue with me and demand his order.”
    “I see.”

    Supervisor turns and faces Man.

    “Hello Sir, is that your dog?”
    “I covered this part already with Cashier,” Man answers.
    Supervisor chuckles, although he tries his best to disguise it. “I am very sorry, Sir, but dogs aren’t allowed in here.”
    “Why not?” Man asks.
    “It disturbs other customers, and my job is to create maximum customer satisfaction. Needless to say, they also make a mess.”
    By this point, Man wasn’t surprised by a single sentence he heard. “I am a customer and I am not satisfied. Show me one person that my dog is disturbing. A mess? Are you kidding me? This whole place is soaking wet. You really think that the dog will cause more mess?”
    Supervisor takes a deep breath. “Listen Sir, we try to provide the greatest good for the greatest number, and I won’t argue with you - it is store policy and you simply will have to accept it. If not, I’m afraid I will have to ask you to leave.” As Man fails to react and he realizes the futility of insisting, Supervisor becomes steadily more annoyed. “What did you order?” he demands.
    “Ask Cashier.”
    The supervisor almost visibly loses his cool, but controlling himself he replies, “Wait for me outside, I’ll bring it to you.”
    Before exiting Man has the urge to ask one more question. “How proud are you of yourself at this very moment?”
    “What do you mean?”
    “You heard me. You probably feel quite impressed with yourself that you have the power to kick me out. So give yourself a score between 0 and 10 of how pleased you are with yourself at this very moment.”
    “Just do it.”
    Supervisor thinks for a moment whether to respond or not. Deciding to play along he eventually replies “All right, 7.”   
    “Not bad, not bad.”

    From outside the café, Man sees Supervisor ask Worker to pack him a coffee and muffin to go, and then walk outside to hand it over. The bag has the name of the store written on the front of it in huge letters. Why give up an opportunity for free advertising after all?

    “Here you go, Sir,” Supervisor says.
    “How much do I owe?” Man asks.
    “On the house.”
    “Can you do that? Don’t you need permission from a higher “supervisor”?”
    “You’re pushing your luck. Next time I might call the cops,” Supervisor says.
    “I only need them tonight.”
    “You heard me,” Man says.
    “Enjoy the day, Sir.”
    “That’s what I’m trying to do.”

    Man finally has what he wanted. It didn’t go as smoothly as he planned, but that’s what makes life more interesting - when things deviate from the original plan and he gets to have a bit of fun needling people. The rain is still pouring, though not as heavily as before, and he pauses a moment to watch the scurrying people scrunch up their faces against the falling water. It's kind of ironic how annoying people find it when you consider that the human body consists of between forty to seventy-five percent water, depending on the age and sex of the individual. Man crosses the street to the boardwalk, which leads toward the beach. He walks along the boardwalk, finishes his coffee and muffin, and finally reaches his immediate goal - the beach. As he anticipated, there isn’t a single person out there; Dog and Man have the beach all to themselves. After a few minutes in which both of them simply enjoy the fresh air and play fetch, Man says,

    “Why do people have to be so annoying? All I wanted to do was get myself a coffee and walk to the beach undisturbed. Did I ask for too much? Of course neighbors start talking to me just for the sake of talking.  And if I cut the conversation short they get insulted. You know why, Dog? Because each biped thinks that everything revolves around him. So, if I cut a conversation short, they take it as a sign that I think they’re boring or not important enough. This might be the case, but what they don’t get is that they are the ones who force me to do something against my will. I simply want to remain in my thoughts, undisturbed. It would be great if I could be like an online chat program. I would be able to change my status to “away” or “unavailable” and then hopefully bipeds would avoid me. I don’t think that it would really do the trick though; the correct status for me would be ‘appear invisible.’”

    For the next fifty minutes or so, Man doesn’t say a single word. He simply walks along the coastline, enjoying the scenery whilst engaged in thought. What he’s actually thinking is hard to say. It would be reasonable to assume that he is analyzing the people and situations that he has just encountered. He might be thinking about the philosophical texts he’s read over the past few days. He might be thinking how nice it is that he can finally spend time with a companion who simply likes him the way he is. He might be thinking about his conversation yesterday with Friend and maybe considering calling Set-up-Girl to give relationships another shot. But those are all just my speculations, and as far as I’m concerned, he could be somewhere else entirely.

    As he walks up the eight flights of stairs on the way to his apartment, Man remembers that he said he would call Friend. He enters the apartment. He takes off his shoes. He washes his hands. He calls Friend’s cell using his landline. He uses the landline whenever possible to avoid radiation. The phone rings. No one picks up, so he calls the office next. Secretary picks up saying,

    “Hello, Mr. Friend’s office.”
    “Hi, can I speak to Friend?” Man asks.
    “You mean Mr. Friend?”
    “No, I mean Friend.”
    “Mr. Friend is busy, he told me to hold all his calls.”
    Man looks over to Dog and shakes his head. “What is he busy with? What could be so urgent that he can’t talk for thirty seconds? He is expecting a call from me. Can you tell him it’s me? This could be an emergency!”
    “Would you like to leave a message, Sir?” Secretary asks.
    “What is your problem? I know you are probably disappointed with your life, but you don’t need to take it out on me. I also know that this is about the only thing you can do to feel self-important. I get it! I think you’re cool. And I think you are a person in possession of a significant amount of power. OK! I am really impressed with you. Now can you transfer me to Friend? He is expecting a call and this is an emergency!”
    “What’s your name, Sir?”
    “Mr. Man?”
    “No, just Man.”
    “One moment please.”

    Man suspects that he heard the word “asshole” in the background, but he’s not certain and it wouldn’t matter anyway. Eventually Friend picks up the phone.

    “Hey Man,” Friend says.
    “So, you’re a big shot now? You have your own secretary? Well done, I’m proud of you, you’ve really achieved something.”
    “You know about this. I told you they promoted me and decided to give me a secretary.”
    “That’s great! So now you can finally say to people, ‘I have to check with my secretary’ or ‘Call up my secretary and have her arrange a meeting,’ which really means, ‘Listen, I am a big shot now, I have so many people who want to meet me that I simply can’t keep track of them all, so why don’t you call my secretary, who my company assigned to me, because I am such an important asset to them, and arrange it with her.’”
    “You are spot on,” Friend says.
    “I see you are also using the, ‘Don’t let anyone bother me, I am too busy, so take a message and when I have a few free minutes to spare from my busy big-shot schedule, I’ll call back’. What were you doing? Playing solitaire?”
    “No! Are you kidding? I have a prestigious job. I was playing minesweeper.”
    “How happy are you that you have a secretary now?” Man asks.
    “I think like an 8.1.”
    “That’s what I thought.”
    “Tell me, how’s your skin discoloration?” Friend asks.
    “This morning it started to itch. I’ll set up an appointment as soon as I get off the phone with you.”
    “That’s a good idea.”
    “Yeah, I know it’s a good idea. That’s why I’m doing it,” Man says.
    “I’m just giving you my approval.”
    “I didn’t ask for your approval.”
    “Well, I decided to give you my approval anyway.”
    “I’m glad we clarified that. So, are we having lunch?” Man asks.
    “Sure, let’s meet at the Coffee Place at one-thirty.”
    “What’s fine?” Friend asks.
    “Fine, I’ll come.”
    “Don’t do me any favors.”
    “I didn’t say I was,” Man says.
    “Yeah, but you implied it by using the word “fine.””
    “No, “fine” simply means I agree.”
    “Yeah, but it means you felt forced to agree. I understood it as ‘Fine, I’ll do you a favor and meet you for lunch.’”
    “That isn’t my problem is it? I am simply confirming something we discussed yesterday, so I think “fine” is more than sufficient.”

    This conversation continued for another two or three minutes, revolving around who’s doing whom a favor. The meeting was almost cancelled, but it managed to survive.
    Man searches for Doctor’s number in his cell, but can’t find it. Then he looks through his pile of business cards, located in the drawers beside his fridge in the kitchen. He finds the number of the Medical Center and calls it. Three minutes later, during which according to the automated message they were “dealing with other customers,” Receptionist picks up.

    “Hello, Medical Center,” she says.
    “I would like to set up an appointment with Doctor today,” Man says.
    “OK, just let me check his schedule. I’m sorry, but we have no available space today. In fact, we are booked throughout the entire week. The first available appointment we have would be this coming Monday.”
    “I can’t wait till then. It’s an emergency. Can you ask Doctor if he can squeeze me in somewhere? I’m probably his oldest customer; I’ve been going to him for like twenty years. He’ll be happy to see me. And if I have to wait till Monday, I might be dead by the time the appointment comes around.”
    Receptionist doesn’t know how to respond. “What’s your name, Sir?”
    “Mr. Man?”
    “No, just Man.”
    “One moment please.”

    While Man waits on the line, Receptionist puts him on hold and the background music begins again.

    Man faces Dog. “Why do they have to put this annoying music in the background?”

    After a few minutes, Receptionist gets back on the line.

    “Thank you for waiting, Sir. Doctor said he’ll see you Friday at noon,” she says.
    “Perfect. See, that wasn’t that hard. Can I ask you one more favor?”
    Man can tell Receptionist really wants to get off the line. “Sure,” she answers.
    “If you see there is going to be a delay, will you call me up and let me know?”
    Receptionist knew she shouldn’t have said “sure”. “I’m sorry Sir, we don’t do that.”
    “Why not? For you it’s a five second phone call, but for me it could be a few hours wasted. I’ll even carry my cell phone for this purpose,” Man says.
    “I’m terribly sorry, Sir.”
    “Here’s what we’ll do. I’ll give you my number and if it’s too hard for you to dial those nine digits, then leave it.”

    Man gives Receptionist his number and hangs up. He looks over at Dog.

    “Why do bipeds make everything so fucking difficult?”

    There is still a little time left before lunch with Friend, so he decides to pay a visit to his ice cream shop, which is conveniently on the way to Coffee Shop.
    He exits his front door, using a tissue to press the elevator button. Luckily enough the elevator is empty, so no meaningless small talk. He uses his elbow to press the button for the ground floor and eventually uses his foot to push open the building door.
    He enters his car, drives to his store, and parks in his private parking space. He enters the shop. As he anticipated on such a beautiful rainy day the store is empty of customers.

    “How’s the business?” Man asks.
    “2,” Worker answers.
    “More than I expected.”
    “I guess.”
    “Anything unusual?”

    After five minutes in which Man and Worker don’t exchange a single word, two customers enter the store. They both look like businessmen in their mid-thirties. They are wearing elegant suits with fancy ties and shiny shoes, and talking about the pros and cons of taking over a certain company.
    “Can I try the coconut?” Businessman asks.
    “Can I try the coffee?” Businessman requests.

    Man hands each a small spoon of the flavor they requested - you know those small spoons that were specially created for the purpose of ice cream tasting. As Businessman tastes, he looks at Businessman with his face puckered. The other businessman does likewise. Both seem as though they are putting deep thought into this major decision. After the businessmen spend a few minutes discussing whether they like the flavor they had chosen or not, they look at Man again.

    “Can I try the lemon?” Businessman says.
    “Can I try the walnut?” Businessman says.
    Man is losing patience. “All right, but this is the final sample, OK? And I’m only going to give it on the condition that you don’t make those stupid faces while tasting. You’re choosing an ice cream flavor! I doubt that you put as much effort into deciding what stock to buy.”

    The businessmen look at Man in disbelief. They don’t know if he is serious or not, but they are amused. Man hands them the flavors they requested, and to his satisfaction they simply put the spoons in their mouths, with no discussion thereafter.

    “I’ll have a scoop of coconut.”
    “I’ll have a scoop of coffee.”

    They hand Man a bill, which he takes. He gives them their change and hands them their desired flavors. A short while later the businessmen leave the store.

    “I’m considering canceling those tasting spoons,” Man says. “What do you think about that?”
    “Isn’t it how all places like this work?” Worker asks.
    “So what? How did they come up with those spoons in the first place? In a steakhouse you don’t get a taste of the rib-eye. In an Italian restaurant you don’t get a taste of the ravioli. So why do people expect a taste here?”
    “But you’ll lose customers.”
    “You know sometimes it’s better to be sorry than safe. We can’t let them do whatever they want.”
    Worker sighs in resignation.
    “All right,” says Man, “I think I’ve worked enough for today.”
    Worker watches Man leave the store with a mixture of amusement and disbelief.

    He walks along the street and through the park to Coffee Shop, enters through the front door - using his shoulder to push it open - and immediately sees Friend waiting in line to order. Man joins him in the line overtaking some irritated people, who give Man a dirty look for cutting in front of them.

    Obviously Man decides to challenge Someone.

    “So it’s gonna take you one minute longer to order, so what?”
    “I didn’t say anything,” Someone replies.
    “I saw the face you made.”
    Someone doesn’t respond, and Man and Friend reach the front of the line and order.  Fortunately, there are no specials.

    Taking a seat in the armchairs of the busy coffee shop Friend asks Man about his latest manuscript.

    “Did you hear anything from your agent?” Friend asks Man.
    “Nope. She tells me she loves it. And that many publishers are showing interest, but they are hesitating over how to market such a book. She says that if I’d be willing to change things around and put things into a more standard format, she’d have an easier time finding a publisher. She tells me they find it confusing. It’s not my fault that they don’t get the analogies or understand the subtext. She also says that many publishers don’t like the fact that I’m mocking the readers. They don’t get that I’m doing them a favor. I tell you, I’d rather the book not get published, than change things around just for the sake of making it more commercially viable. Publishing companies don’t care about art; they care about profit.”
    Taking a sip of his coffee Man continues, “You know what’s funny?”
    “No, what’s funny?” Friend asks.
    “It’s funny that if your name happens to be John Grisham or Dan Brown, you can write the biggest piece of shit and it will get published and be received positively. After one bestseller they have a brand and a formula that they can carry on repeating, and people will just lap it up. It’s not that I’m saying it’s shit, but I’m not denying it either. If they took the same exact text and submitted it as the work of an unknown writer, no one would even look at it. And what is perceived as a “winner” submitted by a famous writer would be perceived as unworthy if submitted by an unknown.”
    “What can you do? That’s life,” Friend says.

    Friend unwraps his organic tortilla wrap and passes Man’s salmon bagel to him.

    “You know, I also want to write a book some day,” Friend says.
    “Good luck with that.”

    A silence falls between them as both take a sip of their cappuccinos. Man looks around him at the people assembled in the coffee shop, variously chatting over hot drinks, hunched over laptops or talking into cell phones.
    “Look at all these mass-produced-creatures around you. Everybody is pretending to be so important. Everybody wearing suits and shirts with the “right” labels stitched on - alligator, horse, eagle - you name it. It’s like a showdown, where the winner comes up with the best combination of car keys, cell phone and sunglasses appearing next to their macchiato. I call it the CCS showdown.”
    “Tell me, did you hear that the vice president had an affair with his secretary? It’s unbelievable” Friend says.
    “Who gives a shit?”
    “The whole country. All the newspapers are full of it.”
    “Let me guess – the first eight pages are full of articles about the affair.”
    “Sounds about right.”
     “The media always takes one story and cuts it into the smallest pieces. It doesn’t matter how superficial, prosaic or irrelevant the story is, the moment it’s in the media, bipeds think it must be significant – otherwise why would it have made the papers? On top of this, papers bring in the opinion of “experts” who are supposed to make the story seem even more legitimate and worth reading. The media displays itself as acting in the public interest and in order to disseminate information, but the only thing it cares about is its metaphorical pocket. Suddenly nothing else is happening in the world except this stupid political scandal.”
    “You have a point there, but what can you do about it? You have to stay up to date with what is going on.”
    “Something has got to change. You can brainwash mass-produced-creatures about anything. Bipeds are more gullible these days than in the past. And if in the past bipeds elected Hitler, Stalin and leaders like them, then it’s only a matter of time before it happens again. If people had been a bit more encouraged to use their brains throughout life, such things would never have occurred. Can you put some salt on my bagel?”
    “Do it yourself.”
    “Come on. I can’t touch the salt; it’s about the most disgusting thing in a restaurant. The salt shaker probably hasn’t been washed from the day the restaurant opened. Can you imagine how much bacteria there is on it?”
    “What’s wrong with you?”
    “No one really knows, I’ve been to a few shrinks but no one has figured it out.”

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