It’s eight thirty and I don’t know if I just needed a hyphen. One might be required between eight and thirty. But some will say, “who the hell cares?”

I see a lady right now. Sitting four feet away. About 40. She’s with two middle aged (hyphen?) men. She seems flirty. Wearing a black dress thing. Kind of tight. Cuts off at her knees. No, at her thighs. Wearing a scarf, draped over her shoulders. Burberry knock off (hyphen?) I think. Looks like she used curlers this morning. Super thick mascara. Not that pretty. Seems needy, maybe.

Those who claim to not care about proper hyphen usage miss something. Because we all live in a world of unspoken contracts, of which philosophers refer to as conventions. We say thank you. We don’t cut in line. A friend asks, “how are you?” and we rarely tell the truth. Unspoken contracts. Rules.

But, you say, those who care too much about hyphens probably have too much time on their hands.

You might be right.

Why I’m writing about conventions right now, on a Thursday morning, at eight thirty-three, hyphen included this time, is because I have time this morning to think about hyphens and conventions. I’m in this emotionally tantalizing season of which many refer to as unemployed. That’s not exactly the case. I have work, but not employment. I take on (hyphen?) various consulting roles in writing, marketing, business development, and even tutoring college philosophy students. The students pay me way too much, especially the Saudis.

But there are gaps in between those jobs, and the myriad of interviews. And I drop off (hyphen?) Elliot at 7:30. Then take an hour or so to write. I sometimes I write at Kéan Coffee.

I usually try to perch in the back. I get to observe all the people while I type. I don’t need to look at the keypad while I stare, either; I bought a floppy disc typing program for my Apple IIe in the late 1980’s. Green letters fell from the black sky and you got points based on accuracy and speed. And I learned how to type without looking.

The guy across the way. Shaved head. Skin damage from sunburn. At least 6 or 7 ear rings, 24 carat gold rings that would fit my left thumb, up and down each of his ears. Black silk screen t-shirt (yes, hyphen) with cutoff sleeves. It says Aproador and has a beach scene on the back. Something about Brazil. Swim trunks with floral design in black and shiny silver finish. New Balance running shoes. No socks. Super bright tattoos of God knows what, orange and green and blue, all over his arms and legs. Belly. Ew. He just leaned forward and I saw both his butt and all these green and orange and blue colors of what appeared to be a dragon.

He must be in his mid fifties. I don’t know if I just needed another hyphen. His name could be “Duke.”

I judge Duke. I don’t know why. I do that. I have these thoughts:

“Geez.” (I don’t know if “geez” is a thought, but it’s what I say in my mind.)

“Please.” (I don’t know if “please” is a thought, but it’s what I say in my mind.)

“Get a life.” (That’s a judgment, as it assumes he has no life.)

“I bet he doesn’t care about hyphens.”

Gliding up behind him, about the slickest looking corporate dude you’ve ever seen. Even the few wrinkles on that shirt, THAT SHIRT, appear intentional. Monogramed cuff links, beautiful black loafers, and not a hair out of place. It’s all working for him, from head to toe. And he seems to know it.

He must be in his mid-fifties, too. His name might be “Preston.”

And my eyes jump between them, between Duke and Preston, back and forth and back and forth.

I study and I am asking myself this question right now: Why are these men so different?

Is Duke merely “irresponsible” or “lazy”? Did Preston simply “decide” to study hard and go to college? Republicans would say so.

I want to ask them about their respective families of origin. My bet. Duke: abusive home. Preston: nurturing home.

Life doesn’t look as if it’s been fair to Duke. Because life isn’t fair. Democrats would agree.

Every time I see Duke here at Kéan, he appears content.

He never checks his flip phone.

Preston just left. But he was alone. He rushed in, stood in line with his practiced perfect posture, working his iPhone, got his coffee, then bolted away in his pristine Audi SUV, winking to a mom in Lululemon on his way out. He seemed empty.

I judged Preston, too. I had these thoughts:



“Get a life.”

“I bet he doesn’t care about hyphens either.”


I WONDER WHAT DUKE AND PRESTON WOULD THINK OF ME. Sitting here at 8:55 a.m. At a table with today’s New York Times. With my slick hair style, my MacBook Pro, my Hurley black button-up shirt. Tucked into my J-Crew skinny jeans. My brown belt that match my brown boot shoes, or boot-shoes.

I wonder what Duke and Preston would think of me. Probably this:




I’m sure they’d each, respectively, care less about hyphens.