The Earplug Cafe: An Introvert’s Nightmare


Why in a coffee shop am I always sitting next to the people who are talking the loudest? There are at least fifteen introverts in this coffee shop, mostly staring straight ahead but carefully employing side-eye from time to time; however I end up sitting next to all the fucking Chatty Cathy’s, which in this day of gender equality includes one man, granted he’s not saying much.

I’m wearing industrial strength, waxy, swimming earplugs to drown out whatever infernal music is pounding too loudly over the speaker—apparently coffee shops are required by law to play music at annoying decibels; silence or light flute music is a punishable offense, along with mindfulness.  Despite the plugs, I can still hear the sounds of those peoples’ inane conversation, plus their relative happiness. Relative to me. (Relative to the constant state of real happiness that undiscovered species living in a remote rain forest experience).

It all grates on my nerves. Don’t people know I do not go to cafes to relate to humanity? I go to cafes in order to get out of my living room and to remind myself that I’m not at work and that I should be happier. (I practiced smiling before I left the house.)

Finally the people leave. Unlike the Marines however, they left someone behind and I understand why in the next instance. She looks at me. I’m wearing earplugs. I have very short hair. She continues to try to catch my eye. I’m still wearing the earplugs. This is the point where I wish I had eye-plugs, or at least some kind of blinders, you know like a horse. In fact, as soon as this is over, I’m going to the horse store to buy some. Next time I come into the café, I will have earplugs and blinders, so I can only see my screen and what’s right ahead of me.

In fact, I’m going to create some designer Introvert Wear, including matching earplugs in various colors, like fuchsia, because even a blind person could see me wearing fuchsia earplugs. And maybe I will make the ear plugs blink. Evidently highway cone orange earplugs aren’t  bright enough because this woman is still trying to flag me down. I wonder if she’s having some kind of hidden emergency. Looking at my computer monitor, I hold very still, like a frozen bunny with orange earplugs in headlights.

I know she knows I have earplugs. Before her squad left her here, she had looked at me and pointed to my ear before turning back to her three buddies, all seniors, two women and one man, in bike shorts and other two-wheeling regalia. So she knew. Or at least that’s how I interpreted it at the time.

She turns out to not be very observant. Why is she trying to talk to me if it’s obvious I’m wearing earplugs? (Do I need to tattoo a Do Not Disturb sign on my forehead? Shave those words into my hair over my ears? (That would be disturbing!)

I’m a writer on a deadline. People are the last thing I need. This is why I live alone in the fucking desert twenty miles out of town in New Mexico. I know it’s my own fault for being in the café. But even I need a change of pace once in a while.

To assess the situation further, I use side eye, looking, I’m sure, a little bit like an insane thoroughbred. Horses give some crazy-ass side-eye.





She is gesticulating and talking.







“What?” I shout.  “Huh?” I say.  I type some more. “No,” I say responding randomly. Maybe she’ll think I’m talking to the voices in my head.

Now she’s talking louder like I’m deaf. Jesus fucking Christ.

Finally I pull out the left reverse-hearing aid (that’s techno speak in the earplug industry) and step fully into my martyrdom.  “What?”

She says, “Aren’t they sweet?” She’s referring to her missing squad of bicycling friends that left three minutes ago.

I pause. I know what she wants me to say, but I’m done being polite.  I say, “I have no idea. I don’t know them.”

She laughs a little, but looks a bit like a dentist just poked a sore tooth. Her half aborted smile hangs from one side of her face.

I grin widely. Misanthropy is fun.

She says, “Are you from here?”

I say, “I am, but I still don’t know them.”

She says, “I’ve lived here forever; I know lots of people and they are blah and blah and blah….talking about the opera and blah and blah and blah and they are totally nice and weren’t you impressed with their ability to converse and blah and blah and blah, so nice don’t you agree and blah blah fucking blah.”

I’m amazed. Does she not realize that not only do I not know those people, even if she does, I’ve been wearing earplugs and I have no fucking idea what they were all talking about, and if what they were talking about indicated a general niceness rather than some moderately elderly sociopathy? The only thing I was aware of was that one of the 32-speed-biker women was saying things very loudly and I kept wishing she would shut the hell up.

To hell with earplugs: I fucking need ear lids. Lids for the ears. Soundproof ear covers. The world is too goddamn loud. And stupid. I’m busy and it’s distracting. If they had coffee in the library I’d be there instead.

I’m on a deadline writing for a podcast and I have exactly zero ideas because I’m not used to writing only one half of a possible conversation instead of writing the whole thing. How can I possibly be funny spontaneously? I’m a Capricorn. Everything is planned. Even ignoring the plan is planned, a bit of deliberate, non-deliberateness. Purposive spontaneity. Being an introvert I know I can’t necessarily count on my interlocutory brilliance. Comments on demand. I am not that interesting. I am the most boring person I know in fact.

I am worried about podcasting because most human conversations are desultory which is why I usually write fiction. Fictional people are fascinating. Real people are usually boring pains-in-the-ass. I always end up comparing what they are saying with what they could be saying and after a while the conversation usually goes off the rails, as you can imagine. People complain that I don’t listen to them. I do though. I listen very carefully to what they should be saying

The woman has significant pigment discoloration covering both cheeks and I wonder if that’s a side effect of being oblivious of the needs of others around her. If so, maybe the discolored skin will soon cover her entire face and maybe grow upwards over her eyes, making her as physically blind as she is interpersonally.

Undaunted she asks, “What do you do?”

I said, “I’m a comedian.”

She laughs and says, “You’re not really….are you?”

“You’re laughing, aren’t you?” I said.

“I am, aren’t I?” she said wearing that sort of rueful, pained smile that looks like it’s been interrupted by a can opener.

I nod.

I am, of course, lying.

“Where are you performing?”

Right now in this chair. “Here in Santa Fe,” I said. Well it’s not exactly not true.


I dissemble again. I have no performances scheduled because I’m very new at this. I want to be paid to be a Professional Asshole, but not actually harm people, at least not physically. Not in a way that can be traced. There’s no x-ray for damaged cranial esteem. No liability either.

She’s saying, “Who’s that comedian who I don’t like him very much—who’s making a comeback?”

“That could be a lot of people,” I said wanting to ask her if she was aware that I do not live in her mind, know who she knows and why the fuck is she talking to me? What does she want? Is she afraid to be alone? I am not here to save people from themselves. I am here to wreck their lives.

“Jerry Seinfeld,” she said.

Jerry fucking Seinfeld? I was unaware Jerry needed to come back from anything. I nod, thinking I’d read something about him doing stand-up again.

“I used to like his show,” she says, “but the Comedians Having Coffee thing is not funny.”

Right. Like you are the Universal Declarer of All Things Amusing. I guess I’ll call Jerry and tell him to stop making me laugh. Comedians in Cars is funny.

I said, “Well humor is a matter of taste.”

“Whatever happened to Jim Carrey?”

How the fuck should I know?

          She says, “Now he was funny. Where has he been? I love Jim Carrey.”

I sigh. Although she’s obviously been trying very hard, we’re never going to be friends.

“Who do you like?” she asks.

“Louie CK,” I said, letting that land like an iron turd. “Despite his current problems.”

I want to call Louie and say, “Will you get your ass to a therapist, please? Fix your fucking problem with women. I cannot live without more of your hilarity and I don’t want you to be totally destroyed by your own demons. I don’t want this to be the last we see of you. Your films, writing, stand up. How painful must it have been to fall from being on top. Fix it, mother fucker, and come back.”

The woman doesn’t know who he is. I can tell from the fact she didn’t vomit “MeToo” all over me. Apparently I only like comedians and movie stars who abuse women. Al Franken. Kevin Spacey (okay that was dudes). Bill Burr (okay he has not been accused of harming any women, but you can tell he has got some hate going on). But it’s comedy. Everyone has some hate going on. I keep waiting to find out that Stephen Colbert wears diapers and lives in a closet lined with porn when he’s not on stage. I liked Bill Cosby too, who didn’t? But I draw the line with him. Al and Louie at least admitted their behavior and apologized and I can still watch their videos without feeling like I’m condoning Rape-hypnol.

To anyone who was awake for the last ten years, it’s been obvious that Louie has hated himself for a long time. That counts for something. Now we all know why. He just needs to hate himself more effectively and change his behavior. Mere hidden shame just isn’t enough anymore.

To be clear: I am all for the “MeToo” movement. I think men who abuse women should serve time, including Louie. I think they should have to serve time with the woman sitting next to me in fact.

The woman tells me she wants to come see my act. I stare at her unbelievingly this is my act.

          And it’s the only reason I just don’t tell her to get the fuck out of my face with her inanity and insensitivity. Being a mean, sarcastic liar is working! I have a fan!-who is too stupid to figure out that I hate her. Now I’m pissed at all the grown-ups, mainly women, who taught me to be nice to people as if that has ever worked, especially career-wise. I should have been bitingly aggressive and sarcastic from the get-go. Being compassionate and polite has made me so angry and frustrated and such a failure that I wake up with the taste of bile in my mouth every freaking day.

           So I give her a real location, and a fake time and date for my performance. Maybe it won’t be false by the time she gets there.  She then tells me she’s running a greenhouse. That she used to be a nurse. That life is hard, but she’s a survivor. I still want her to shut up.  This is so ironic. She wants to take my name down so she can spread the word because she’s really good with people.

“I can see that,” I say.  I bet you know what people need without them having to say a word.” I check my internal “love for humanity meter” which is hovering on the line between “use your words” and “AK-47.” I don’t have an AK, for reasons which should be painfully obvious, but I’m capable of standing in the middle of the room throwing furniture as if it were bullets. Let’s hope I can jam my earplugs back into my ears before it comes to that.

I forget exactly how she takes her leave. Maybe I melted her into a pile of oblivion with my baleful stare because I needed to get back to writing a podcast. Or maybe I paid Jim Carey to come beat her to death.  Or maybe I sent her out of the cafe to find me more dedicated fans.  I’m choking on the irony, knowing if she loves Jim Carey, she’s going to hate me.  The name of my act is: All My Passcodes Are Swear Words.

The only thing I do remember is thinking this: given the choice between sitting here and talking to Miss Impervious 5000 and talking to poor, perverted but absolutely hilarious Louis CK, I’d pick Louie every time.  He wouldn’t come on to me inappropriately in a café. He’d see I was wearing earplugs.

And as for “MeToo” equality…I can’t wait for the day a bunch of male comedians out me for sexually harassing them. Then we’ll truly all be on equal footing.


And suddenly I know what to write for the podcast Women Who Sarcast:

Introducing The Sarcast Compendium: New Words for Sarcastic Times.

Word #1: bothershite: a term coined last week in Episode 4, by Women Who Sarcast, is defined as a person who insists on an unwanted and comprehensive social interaction in a public place.

To hear more of the podcast, Women Who Sarcast, and Episode 104’s Sarcast Compendium go to  or go to Women Who Sarcast on Facebook.  It’s a real podcast. With two sarcastic women. Check us out!


Laughing Coyote

Categories: comedians, miscellaneous, psychology humor, Relationships, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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