Some time ago, when I was discussing why I had yet to see a dentist after part of my tooth crumbled and dissolved on a Greyhound bus, I replied, in jest, "Oh, I don't know about dentists---they are for the bourgeois." As a matter of fact, I indeed don't know about dentists, not having visited one since 1987 or so, but the line about the bourgeois somehow stuck with me, and it grew as sort of an urban myth amongst my acquaintances in Portland until finally I gave in and started using it seriously. I have to use some word to describe the things that don't interest me, such as bicycles and tattoos and expensive alcohol, and bourgeois is as good as any other.

And yet, the word that I use as a joke to describe a disparate set of seemingly unrelated behaviors seems to fit. And the other day, I saw something that I could only describe as ultra-bourgeois, and something that made me think about what all these behaviors have in common. The thing I saw, the behavior that only makes sense to those who are ingrained in the bourgeois, was a man talking on a cell phone while riding his bicycle across Broadway Street, right where traffic comes around in a blind turn. Now, this is obviously stupid, but to me it speaks of something else. To me, it speaks of someone who is not aware that there is a possibility that there tools will fail them. The bicycle and the cell phone (or the laptop) are the two biggest tools of the hipster contingent of the bourgeois, and they speak of autonomy and information, and the ability to always have them. Once these tools are mastered, all outside intrusions into the toolsphere can be ignored. That there might be some outside object that is not controlled by these tools, and that the tools could fail, is not something that the bourgeois will comprehend. They won't argue the matter, because their tools are so seamlessly integrated into their lives that they can not be questioned.

These tools, of course, are not merely physical tools, although the bourgeois are fond of those, as well. The social toolbox is also secure and handy for every encounter. At a bar, the right alcohol and the right opinions or platitudes will quickly purchase the right to social interaction. At an airport, there is no chance of being pulled into a back room and questioned for hours just because you don't look right. At a job interview, as long as your application and credentials are good, you will be considered. These tools may be hard to use, but they are never questioned, as such. This is something I have never mastered, the idea that when I enter a restaraunt, I am a guest, and not an intruder, and that I really don't need to casually put my money on the table to show that I can pay. I don't take it for granted that my social tools work, so I mentally take them out and test them in my mind, just the same as I nervously click a pen open and closed.

What is also strange about me is that this obliviousness to the idea that the world is trouble is shared at other levels of society, About a year ago, I was waiting in line at a Greyhound bus stations, which are more often then not relatively peaceful places. This time, it was not, because a young African-American woman was yelling into a pay phone repeatedly about n**** this and n**** that, and all the pretend violence she was going to do against whoever. I don't remember the details, even if they were clear at the time, but they were what the kids call "drama" these days. Another woman behind me, also African-American, (and perhaps feeling some referred embarrassment, although that is both speculation and off-topic) murmured to herself "Honey, its time to stop arguing and do what your mother says" (or words to that effect). That was the voice of someone who knew consequence. One might think that those who live the street life, even the pretend one, would be aware of consequence, but it is often not the case. While hearing the girl go on, loudly, I was amazed that she didn't know that she was drawing attention to herself, and that meant it was possible she could get asked to leave, and if that happened, she would end up outside in a strange city overnight. This is one example, I know of many others, people who are just used to doing dangerous, illegal things and not that they can, indeed, get caught. To bring it back to my tool metaphor, I think that people may act like this because this is the tool kit they have, and they don't consider the fact that these tools may not be what they want to use. If the only tool you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail, and often it seems like a very apt metaphor. That the hammer is not helping, but hurting, is something that is very hard to bring to people's attention, because they don't even know if they have a hammer.

I hope that this shed some light on a complicated and individual subject. What has started as a rant for me has hopefully grown into an actual analysis, and hopefully makes sense to someone outside of my idiosyncratic worldview.

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