CHICAGO, IL—In a bold move that shook the city to its core, a typically well-mannered Chicago man declined an invitation to dinner with acquaintances yesterday without even attempting to make up a plausible excuse. As news of the incident spread across social media, a rash of copycat “No-Scuse” refusals followed, threatening to throw an already fragile urban social system into full-blown collapse during the peak of holiday party season.
Eyewitnesses in the produce section of the Whole Foods where it happened were stunned by the harsh rejection. “My hands are still shaking,” said Dylan Chandler, 25, a mustachioed grocer who’d been stocking a nearby bin with organic honeycrisp apples. “The guy looked harmless, but then he was just like, ‘no thanks bye’ when the lady invited him and his wife to dinner. I wanted to say, dude, haven’t you ever heard of ‘hey sorry no we have plans that night’? It was like he had zero fucks to give about basic human decency. Honestly, though, a little part of me thought, man, I’d like to do something like that one day.”
Tameka Harris of Bronzeville nearly fainted. “I seen some shit in my time, but that was straight cold blooded,” Harris said. “I mean, homeboy ain’t even say why he couldn’t eat dinner with the bitch. He was just like, kapooyah!, nah bitch, and bounced like she ain’t nothin’. She just stood there holdin’ her lil’ fruit like, the fuck just happened? Man, that joker was cold as ice!”
In an effort to limit the damage, Whole Foods announced this morning that it would provide complimentary buffet dinners and trauma counseling for affected shoppers and employees through the end of the week.
Perhaps as shocking as the epic brush-off itself is the identity of the unlikely man responsible for it. He is South Loop resident Mark Miller, 35, an estate planning attorney and upstate Michigan native with a long history of near-pathological politeness. Even a cursory examination of Miller’s past reveals nothing like the embittered reprobate one might think, but rather, in a friend’s words, “a garden-variety nice guy.” Often the first person to arrive at parties, Miller is notable for maintaining eye contact and nodding empathetically during conversation, and he hasn’t interrupted anyone since 2009 when his own mother went on a 20-minute tirade about how none of her sewing circle friends knew how to properly perform a half-double crochet. A former love interest who asked to remain anonymous went so far as to describe Miller as “probably the best listener of any guy I know,” although she broke off their brief tryst after a handful of dates, noting that the relationship lacked a certain “passion.”
At work, Miller is chronically focused on accommodating everybody else. Most coworkers know him as the guy who holds the door open for people for awkwardly long periods, and he frequently picks up his group’s Starbucks orders without any expectation of reimbursement. “He’s really just the sweetest guy,” said paralegal Margaret Cox, stressing that she is not sexually attracted to him whatsoever.
The only mark on Miller’s record came in 2011, when he gently confronted a fellow customer at an area Jewel-Osco for cutting in line, but when the man claimed that he had been there first, Miller immediately backed off, going so far as to apologize for his mistake even though the man was obviously lying. According to excerpts from Miller’s diary obtained by this publication, he really beat himself up in the days that followed, and hasn’t spoken up for himself since.
Among family, Miller is regarded as a quintessential “momma’s boy” who calls home at least three times a week on his way to work. “My son has always been such a kind and gentle boy,” Miller’s mother, Nancy Miller, said when reached for comment by phone, her voice quavering as she held back tears. “I never thought he’d be capable of something like this.”
A Perfect Storm
So why the sudden break from character? Apologists are quick to point to a “perfect storm” of agitating variables that ultimately led to Miller’s rebuff. He woke up that morning with a moderate hangover having consumed three beers the night before, and dragged himself to the store at his wife’s insistence to pick up blueberries for a tart she planned to bring to a social gathering that afternoon, one that Miller was reportedly dreading. Insult was promptly added to injury in the parking garage when some asshole in an Audi Q5, the very vehicle that Miller has wanted since 2013 but that his wife insists is “Euro-trashy,” bogarted the parking spot he’d attempted to claim with a blinker. But rather than protest and potentially relive the ignominy of the 2011 Jewel-Osco clash, Miller simply drove on without comment, a quiet, corrosive rage roiling just under the surface as he staggered into Whole Foods.
It was in this inflamed state of mind that Miller was approached by Rebeka Stahl, a former law school acquaintance notable for introducing herself as “Beka with a K” and widely regarded as obnoxious, possibly even “on the spectrum.” As Miller blearily surveyed the produce options, Stahl approached from the rear and greeted him with a jarring “Well, it’s Mr. Miller!” so unnecessarily forceful that it startled an old woman inspecting a navel orange nearby.
Dread washed over Miller when he heard the screech of Stahl’s inimitably penetrating speaking voice, and he barely had time to turn around before she assaulted him with commentary on how the blueberries he’d been perusing were subpar, that she much prefers to get hers from the farmer’s market near her office on Thursdays, but that she herself had been forced to “slum it” at Whole Foods to pick up a kumquat for a “secret recipe” marmalade. Stahl then unleashed a torrent of self-referential verbal diarrhea for upwards of seven minutes that included her analysis of the 2016 presidential election and that her and her husband who, she reminded Miller, works for a “Big Four” consulting firm recently closed on a “600 K three-bed” West Loop condo. Sources confirmed that at no point in the exchange did Stahl ask Miller anything about himself.
Stahl then insisted that the two couples get together for dinner or drinks in the near future. Miller managed to remain polite but neutral, deflecting weakly by citing a generally busy holiday schedule. But as Stahl, not to be deterred, scrolled through her iPhone calendar and began suggesting actual dates, Miller had what he would later describe as a “weird flash of spiritual clarity” and did the unthinkable: overcome with a sensation of confidence, he casually tossed the nearest tub of blueberries into his basket, looked Beka dead in her squinty little eyes, and said, “No thanks, I’m good. Later.” Miller then strode off to audible gasps and one “Oh hell nah!” from shoppers close enough to bear witness to the seismic shut down, leaving a gobsmacked Stahl to finger her kumquat as the hiss of a vegetable mister kicked on in the background.
Stahl has since been hospitalized for shock. She is not expected to make a full recovery.
Even as Internet pundits churned out indictments of Miller’s bad behavior in the hours following the incident, anecdotal reports surfaced throughout the city of other so-called “No-Scuse” refusals to attend office Christmas parties and other holiday functions. A vocal group of millennials have even taken to Twitter to pledge allegiance to the trend and express outrage at the “historical normalization of functionally non-consensual event invitations” at the hashtag #KThanxBye.
“We’ve seen an alarming uptick in No-Scuse rejections around downtown and in some areas of Lincoln Park,” a Chicago Police spokesman said at an emergency press conference, pointing to pockets of the city on a projector screen. “We are calling on the citizens of Chicago to ‘Just Say Yes’ to all holiday events, no matter how inconvenient or cringe worthy. We must all do our part to contain this menace. If this thing continues to spread, we could be facing the largest epidemic of sulky, butt-hurt white people since the end of the Civil War.”
But some experts fear the damage is already done. “This is the beginning of the end of polite society,” said Dr. Stanley McCaulkin, a professor of sociology at Loyola University Chicago and one of Miller’s most ardent critics. “The guiding principle of the modern bourgeoisie social contract is that no one ever expressly reveals that they don’t like one of their peers. You just avoid the people you don’t like, engage in elaborate, apologetic excuse-making when faced with an actual invitation to interact with them, and, if all else fails, you suffer through the occasional painful dinner or birthday party or whatever it is so that the folks in question are never able to confirm that you don’t actually like them.” According to Dr. McCaulkin, it’s taken the species generations of hard-earned evolution to develop a sense of civility under threat of unwanted social obligation. He warns that Miller’s subversive act could roll that progress back a thousand years.
In any event, whether Miller’s accidental revolution has any real staying power remains to be seen, but in the meantime the man himself has developed quite a following. At press time, as many as 40 women were camped outside of his townhome just to get a look at the newly minted legend in the flesh.
Among the legion of admirers is Tameka Harris, the shopper who saw it all go down. “Man, I ain’t been able to get that lil’ man out my head since yesterday,” Harris said, pointing her camera phone at one of Miller’s windows hoping for a walk-by. “The way he was just like, ‘Bye Felicia’ and whatnot. Oooh child! He done lit a fire up under me. Tell you what, he goin’ have to No-Scuse my ass direct ‘cause I’m tryin’ to get me a piece of that!”♦