Sometimes, new stories are based on old stories. Novelists, poets, short story writers, and songwriters might hear something on the news, or on a web site, and be inspired to write something completely new. Visual artists often take inspiration from the world around them as well. Cokeburg, Pennsylvania based artist Helen Toth created a series of dolls inspired by the Cabbage Patch Dolls popular in the early 1980’s. Helen was my grandmother, and I remember the particular doll that provided the pattern. Lou Santacroce’s song, “Connie and Carl,” is based on a news story about a prison escape several years ago. And of course, my own novels would not exist without the very real story of The Tram, and the impact it has on the lives of those who spend time there.
Often, the story that inspires a piece of art does not have a tangible object or place, or a verifiable news story to back it up. Yet many people will swear it’s true. These are known as urban legends. Re-telling these, or any, stories described as urban legends on Artist Cafe Utica is in no way a suggestion that it is true or untrue. It means it is just…an urban legend. Perhaps the two urban legends below will inspire your next work.
Urban Legend #1: Mattress stores are fronts for illegal operations
Many of us like to shop. Some people love the act of shopping, and even have fun getting the weekly groceries or stocking up on shampoo and soap for the month at Dollar Tree. Others enjoy shopping for gifts. Some like to shop for clothes or makeup or sporting goods or music and books. But even the person who seems to have five new outfits and a makeup haul or a new set of camping gear every time you talk to them probably doesn’t spend a lot of time browsing in the nearest mattress store.
Despite this lack of a steady customer base, mattress stores are everywhere. If you do an internet search for “mattress stores” in your ZIP Code you are likely to find anywhere from two to ten stores. Stop by these stores, and you are not likely to see a lot of people browsing inside.
Something else must be going on. There must be something else being sold from these stores for them to thrive without seeming to attract many customers. What could it be…..? Or…is there a completely reasonable explanation?
Urban Legend #2: Starbucks baristas misspell your name on purpose to get free advertising
My favorite coffee brands are Utica Coffee Roasting Company and Dunkin. I’m not a huge Starbucks fan. But if they’re the only thing around, and I really need coffee, I’ll grab a cup. If I were to order one, there is a good chance my name, Jess, would be written out as “Jace” or “Jass” or “Jazz” on my cup.
Misspelled names on Starbucks cups are so common, and often so silly, customers are left confused. Letters that would never even make sense in that particular name are added in. Common names like John or Darnell or Antonio or Jennie and Maria, are misspelled. People who go by initials receive cups with odd words scrawled across them, when all the barista needed to get right was two letters.
Posting the strangely mangled name on social media can be a fun way to lighten the mood of your day or your page overall. Darnell’s Facebook friends get a good laugh when he posts his cup with “Durrenelle” written across it. “T.J.’s contacts can’t believe the barista wrote “Tea Jaye” on the cup.
It happens so frequently, one would think the Starbucks baristas were doing it on purpose. Surely they are. Every time you post a Starbucks cup with your misspelled name on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social media site, you draw attention to the brand. This provides free advertising for Starbucks. Or…is there another reasonable explanation?
Hopefully, our first urban legends edition of Prompts gave you the idea for a character with a strangely spelled name who works in a mattress store. Or a mattress store owner who just wants kids to stop popping in looking for illegal activity that isn’t there. Or maybe your Starbucks employee reveals she just can’t hear her customers that well and doesn’t have time to ask them to spell their names.