Tommy is located close to where I labor and spend my precious time, in the Old Port on rue Notre Dame. Tommy is a cool place to be. It has a giant ivy hanging from the centre of the ceiling, plays a mishmash of hip hop and new wave music, and most importantly of all, has an impeccable interior design. Even more most importantly - no doubt because of this grand design - Tommy is a very, very photographed coffee shop. Seth Godin says: no matter what we're doing, we're in the fashion business; Tommy is no exception to that rule.
I stopped going a few months after it opened. At first, I too was taken in by the beauty, its veneer of class. But there is something about consistently bad service and discovering that your water glass is dirty and the coffee just alright, that makes the prettiness seem petty. Not to mention the icky feeling you get when you realize most people are there just to be seen. Is it the small town in me that cannot adapt to being somewhere for the scene, not the substance?
Either way, I'm clearly maladapted to the modern world. Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter; welcome to 2018.
Not long ago, I was lucky enough to go on vacation to the DR with not only one rad lady my own age, but a group of her hyper intelligent colleagues, some of them a decade or more younger. Now, I've hung out with the kids, don't get me wrong. I have a niece and a nephew and I know what is going on in their worlds alright, sort of. But the twenty year olds, now that is a real generation gap.
These twenty somethings were either some kind of an anomaly, or kids have grown smarter then we were in my 'hey day' (ahem, not so long ago, I might add!). They're more nuanced, less attracted to danger (ok, maybe a little too afraid of it), sharper. The point is, I'm not about to get on my soapbox to bash any generation, young or old, because I know we all have a lot to learn from each other.
But I am going to tell you about something that surprised me, troubled me, scares me. On said vacation, my friend and I organized a day trip for us all to pierce the resort bubble (recommended for anybody going to a bubble made environment) and experience a little taste of real life in the DR. Just across the basin, where the security checkpoint ended and it wasn't safe to walk on the beach because something horrible happened to tourists a few years ago -nobody explained what that was, exactly - was a restaurant where they literally fish for your order of the day before. We pre-ordered our langosta, pulpo, and other delicious land based foods. Since it was so dangerous to walk, we had to take the boat there (yes, we walked back, but that is clearly beside the point), and once on that side, the view and atmosphere did not disappoint (though the bathrooms may have).
Being a local place, it took about two hours for the food to arrive on our table. When it did, it came out in style. Large plates containing our exquisitely prepared cuisine lined the elongated mesa and we were starving, ready to rip it apart. So my friend and I take out our forks and dive in ...
"Waaaaiiiitt!!" every single one of the twenty something's cry, "we neeeeeed a piiiicture." Alright, I get it. I do. One of my nearest and dearest cannot see a beautifully prepared dish without snapping the required Instagram pic. I don't use Instagram (just don't tell Montreal Murmurs that) but I understand. I no longer worry that in doing so, you might miss the moment; I agree that maybe by taking these pictures they may be enjoying the moment even more. Who am I to say? But still, we were starving and they just could not get the angle right!
"Are you guys serious?" I moan like an old lady.
"Yeah, this is what 2018 is all about," one of them says.
"I'm gonna make my friends so jealous," another one says.
What hits me then is an ah ha, but the worst kind, like a cold concrete wall.
"No, that's what 2018 is all about! Making people jealous!" I exclaim. Then, I wait for a response, a disagreement, a negation. But no, not a single one of those ultra bright twenty year old's disagrees with my sad proposition.
Their honesty does impress me, but still, I laugh when I want to cry. It used to be, I think, that intentionally making others jealous was seen to be unkind and unattractive. But the truth is - and nobody seems to be denying it - in 2018, where selfie sticks rule and the self is reflected back to the world in every little thing done and seen, we are constructing an industry of envy.
That's likely what brings many people to Tommy. Not the service (gawd no), not the coffee (unless they are coming for a cubano, one of the few hidden gems on the menu); it's the fact that, whether they even like coffee or not, they can put their Instagram pic up and revel in the dopamine high when the "likes" roll in; a steady stream of support from others wishing they were there, taking that cool pic, in that cool place.