Much of suburban and rural America long ago said farewell to the corner store or local watering hole. People gather instead to buy their dry goods at Wal-mart and meet for drinks at Applebee’s. But a few of the nation’s more densely populated cities have continued to provide a healthy environment for small independent retail stores, restaurants, cafés and bars, establishments that function as essential and beloved links in the community.
These establishments aren’t just window dressing. They’re a big part of the reason that living in the city feels different and exciting. They’re the amenities that make neighborhoods attractive and valuable, touted by real-estate agents looking to close the condo sale or make the high-end apartment rental. And they’re in danger.
“There’s this enormous sentiment across the city, a massive coalition of advocacy groups, who are really upset about what’s happening to our city,” says Kirsten Theodos, an organizer with the grassroots group Take Back NYC. “The overall theme is displacement. Displacement of our residents, displacement of our small businesses.”
I’ve always resisted the phrase ‘guilty pleasure’, because that misses the point. It’s not, after all, guilt that’s at stake, but rather shame. We do no wrong by consuming the storylines starring these would-be celebrities, for haven’t they themselves asked to become part of a ridiculous spectacle for our amusement? But the fact that we commit no moral offence by indulging in these franchises fails to explain the greater mystery, which is the pleasure this experience offers, a pleasure that stymies even as it delights. Over and over, I find myself asking, in the manner of an 18th-century professor of rhetoric and Belles Lettres, how could the suffering of others bring me so much joy?
You decide to leave HubSpot for another job. You exact your revenge the old-fashioned way, by writing this coolly observant book.
You get to add a splendidly weird coda to your book, too. Before “Disrupted” goes to press, one of its central characters, HubSpot’s longtime chief marketing officer, is fired for trying to procure an advance manuscript of your book, presumably by hacking.
How did we get here? Who is to blame? Why isn’t there a place in airports for not traveling? Not moving? Yawning a bit, slowing down? Catching some shut-eye maybe, or at least a little peace and quiet?
Why are airports built for everyone — the city, the airlines, the retailers — except for the very people who use them the most: the passengers?