the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The Password

I sat in an upscale coffee bar on Fifth Avenue, drinking a cup of coffee, killing some time before my therapy appointment. I noticed on my iPhone that the establishment had wi-fi, but it required a password. I looked up towards the front counter, where the bearded barista was creating a little foam heart in a latte, and saw a little sign tacked onto the front counter that read “password on receipt.” Ten minutes earlier, when I went to add some milk to my coffee, I tossed my receipt into the swinging door of the metallic garbage receptacle.

The hipster barista had a friendly face, even a nicely-trimmed beard, and he was only a few feet away. The cafe wasn’t crowded, with only two giggly private school girls on line, probably playing hooky during the afternoon. All I had to do was stand up from my plastic chair, go over to the barista at the front counter, smile at him, and say, “Oh, I threw away my receipt. Can I have the password?”

But my mind started playing tricks on me. In quick succession, these are my actual thoughts, “Oh, he seems busy. Nah, why bother. I can just use data rather than wi-fi. I have unlimited data so it doesn’t matter. I don’t want to bother him. Maybe he will have to print out another receipt, and then everyone will have to wait longer for their orders. Maybe the password WASN’T on my receipt, and only given to those who order a pastry or a sandwich, and the barista will have to say — in front of everyone — “I’m sorry, Sir. You only had a cup of coffee. And not even a fancy cup of coffee, just a regular American cup of coffee. You don’t DESERVE the password to the wi-fi.”

I never asked for the password, and I got so pissed at myself for how my thoughts took something incredibly unimportant and escalated it into a battle of wills.

I will be posting something on this blog each day, for the entire month of March.


  1. Shannon akaMonty

    I’m happy to know that my brain isn’t the only one having those kinds of conversations with itself. I dither so long that the time has come and gone and I just give up and live with the regret. 🙂

  2. Lisse

    Oh, that word DESERVE, how it haunts so many of us! It goes along with that voice in our heads (my mother’s voice, in my case) that says “Who do you think you are?” on repeat. It’s only been within the last couple of years that I have given myself permission to ask for things. I’m a generous person, as I think you are, and the people in my life benefit from the good that happens to me.

    You deserve to be happy, or at least get what you need in an establishment that you patronize. Would the barista begrudge you the password? Probably not. You wouldn’t.

  3. Suebob

    Your brain works like my brain. Now I am scared.

    • Kizz

      Our minds are a collective. Terrifying.

  4. The Animated Woman

    It’s hard to ask for stuff. But the good news is that you can get into the ‘habit’ just by practicing.

  5. Mel

    That was a good story to kick off a month of posting. (Are you doing NaBlo? Just to make it official? So I can bother you with cheering?) Never in a trillion years would I have asked for the password. But I would have sit and fretted. I wouldn’t have even gotten to using my data.

    • Neil

      Funny, but I always fail when I try Nablo. I think I have a better chance of accomplishing this if I don’t think about it.

  6. erin margolin

    Such a loaded word.
    One that I keep using on MYSELF lately, and it stinks.
    It keeps me from so much.

    And I love the idea of blogging every day in March.
    I want to try to do the same, but if I make that promise and don’t
    fulfill it…or I have one post that might just actually be seven words, just to count as posting something…I’ll hate myself.

    I think you should check out the party tomorrow.
    you can always sneak out if you want? or you might have a good time.

  7. Faiqa

    I have this conversation in my head every time I have to ask for anything. But I do ask eventually. That wasn’t always the case, though.

  8. Marinka

    and then there’s the whole having to get up and walk up to the counter. I don’t blame you for staying put. This isn’t Sochi, after all.

  9. Roxanne

    I have thoughts so similar to this that I’m not even sure you’re not completely made up in my mind.

  10. leila

    i felt like this for a long time: shuttled between countries growing up; a brown girl in a white country with an foreign (american) accent/a brown girl in a brown country not speaking its language even though i looked native and my alien white father spoke it: shameful for me. a girl in this patriarchal world. religious education teaching me to sacrifice and be meek and always of service which exacerbated my already self-deprecating tendencies to the point of pathology. that feeling of being the only one to have missed the day at school when all important instruction about how to do the right things and ask the right questions and know the right information was given out. i probably should have been diagnosed with anomie ulcers at the age of nine.

    no matter where i am in the world today, people ask me “where are you from?” and so i have no home in this world, no womblike touchstone of centredness. instead of raging against this any more (well, kind of) i’ve decided to assume my own incompetence at all times and under all conditions and realize that i’m probably always doing something wrong according to whichever culture or room i’m in. and in fact a hegemony needs people like me to validate its monolithism. but my point is, it’s very freeing to be “distruptive” (according to your definition of deservedness, that is) because it’s like Beyonce saying she’s a feminist—other people may mention Walmart and internalized objectification, but deep down i think we should take people at face value and give them credit for choosing their own identity.

    • Neil

      That was beautiful and poetic what you said

  11. leila

    … that last paragraph was like word soup. but i know what i meant! and you can take it as meta-evidence of my point 🙂

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