The Cool

by Nic Olson

I am intimidated by people that are younger and greater than me. Or the same age. My elders do not intimidate me, they’ve had more time, but it is by the younger that I am frightened. Not threatened, but struck. Their confidence and sociability and stability contrasts so deeply with the uncertainty and introversion and shakiness that defines myself. It causes my being to cower and shrink as it instinctively compares itself to a being of control and coolness. I wonder if these attributes can be shared. Is ‘cool’ a transferable commodity? Is it contagious, like if someone cooler than me spit in my mouth, would I come down with a bout of streptocooloccus? If someone spits in my face with the intention of insult, do I become cooler from the act of humiliation? Making out with someone that is cooler than you are makes you look cooler, but once the swapping of saliva is done, have you actually risen in excellence? Is it hereditary, passed on through strands of DNA?

California and Mexico have a large number of exceptional people. Whether it is the higher population that makes it seem like excellence abounds, or whether the culture here breeds outstanding people, or whether a regimen of tacos, beaches and marijuana is the recipe for excellence, there is a certain distinction that characterizes people I’ve recently met.

Other people’s abilities rub off on you. The negatives more than the positives. The alcoholisms and the curse words are usually first. The dietary habits are often second. Good hygiene and real ambition often comes last, if at all. Product of the environment, or a variation of the monkey-see-monkey-do playground psychology, but habits and actions are transferable with time and exposure. If I spent enough time with young professionals, taking in the ambition and success, I would naturally shed my bushman appearance and talk about how to earn figures. If I spent time with the dealers in the Tenderloin of San Francisco, I would naturally learn the names of the drugs that they shout out at me when I walk down street. But is excellence, more than just knowledge or ambition, is the ‘cool’ transferable?

I am proof that it is not. Exposure to excellence has simply inhibited my ability to respect it. Being around selflessness has only given me the shame of my growing selfishness. Being around the ‘cool’ my entire life has done nothing but open my eyes to what cool is and how I do not qualify. Even if I spend the rest of my life in California, I will never reach ‘cool’.

I have warmed up to that idea.