Sunday, October 2, 2011

Mr. Smith goes to Tampa

I tried not to like it.  It's a chain restaurant and it's in a mall.  In a mall, it may as well be a Houllihans or an Applebees.   With low spirits and lower expectations I approached the host desk and was greeted by not one but four.  "Uno." I stated as I held up an index finger.  I was greeted by four pleasant smiles and was lead from the large open foyer to the dining area near the bar.  The place was charming, with dark wood and a warm glow from the antique brass and glass lights.  But, I got an uncomfortable feeling as I looked around.  The place was deserted.  It was 7pm on a Wednesday night.  Where was everyone?

  The waiter approached and took my drink order.  I studied the menu:


  I decided on a cup of  Caribbean Pumpkin Crab Bisque "Rich and creamy, finished with
toasted almonds and a dollop of cream" for a starter and the Chimichurri Steak "Argentenian-style chimichurri skirt steak, grilled, basted and served with a spicy citrus parsley, fresh citrus and cilantro pesto" for an entree.  It came with two sides and I opted for the seasonal vegetables and the Au Gratin potatoes.
  The soup was perfect for a cool fall night.  Exactly as described, rich creamy sweet and a touch of spice.  I had a cup, wished for the bowl and mopped up every drop with the warm bread sticks that accompanied. The steak was a perfect medium and was tender and delicious.  The vegetables were medallions of  green and yellow squash, crisp and well seasoned, I finished them first.  The potatoes were excellent as well.  The meal salvaged an otherwise forgettable day.
  I passed on dessert though there were quite a few that sounded good and as I got up to leave the door next to the bar opened and I was embraced by live music.  Intrigued I investigated and found a lively bunch out on the terrace, eating and enjoying live jazz.  So that's where everyone was!

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The downward spiral...

I am not the primmest nor the properest, I am the first to admit it, but I am seeing the downward spiral of polite society and what concerns me is the total lack of self awareness.  What I am talking about is the latest social acceptances.

Social acceptance #1: Cell Phones
   It has become socially acceptable to talk in public on your cell phone.  Everywhere.  I have been subject to others conversations in airports and airplanes, restaurants, waiting rooms, lobbies, Dr. offices, malls, streets, parks and beaches.  I have had the displeasure of listening to verbal spousal abuse, custody battles and violent threats.  I have heard sensitive financial information both personal and corporate.  I have heard terms of endearment and listened to descriptions of intimate details of relationships.  I have heard discussions of medical conditions and procedures and insurance arrangements.
  I have been intrigued, disgusted, saddened and concerned but mostly I have been infringed upon.  Most of the time I am in a position where I cannot, should not or need not move and someone chooses to openly have a cellphone conversation where I am forced to participate.
  People functioned without cell phones.  They are a technological gift and they make our life easier but instead of utilizing them correctly we run around with them like cavemen finding fire and burning the forest down.  Do you really need to have that conversation? Right now? While I'm eating my steak? Yes?  Then get up and walk outside, or to the foyer or to your car and have your conversation.  Let me eat in peace.  I have witnessed people eat entire meals with a phone to their head.
  I wish that we would bring back phone booths, let people charge their phone and have a conversation in privacy.
Social acceptance #2: Blue tooth earpiece
  All of the above except now I think you're talking to me when you're behind me in line at Starbucks, or that you're crazy as you're walking down the the airport terminal ranting about spreadsheets.  Use it in your office, or your car if you don't have handsfree, but for god sake leave it at home the rest of the time.  How important are you?  Not as important as you think you are. You look like Lieutenant Uhura from Star Trek.

Social acceptance #3: T E X T I N G
  We settle into our seats,  20 min.s before the start.  Middle center, the perfect seats. Forty bucks for tickets another twenty for popcorn and soda.  I could buy three or four blue-rays for that...As usual they show up as the movie is starting and wander up and down the aisle looking for three seats together..."Hey!" one calls to the other two, "HEY!" he exclaims over the opening of the movie which is rudely interrupting his conversation.  "Here's three if these people skootch over." They make everyone in the row ahead of us stand up and move over to make room.  They settle down and I involve myself in the movie. 
  Then it starts.  My peripheral vision is disturbed by "the glow."  The entire side row is lit up and jamoke's significant other is texting.  The glow goes out.  My eyes focus on the movie.  The theater grows quiet.  It is a pivotal piece of dialog.  BUZZ BUZZ   The Glow. Tickety tickety tick. I try to focus on the movie. Five minutes later, BUZZ BUZZ The Glow.  This goes on for thirty minutes.

Social acceptance #3: TXT TLK

OMG Imma gnna b shrt n 2 da pnt.  dis gotta stop. U tlk like a rtrd. k?

Social acceptance #4: Smart Phones
When I attend meetings in person I try to leave my phone in my office, or i turn it off. not mute, off.  Because I know if i don't I will pick it up and habitually run thru it.  Missed calls, missed texts, work email, personal email, stock prices, let the apps begin...Some how people have decide that if it is not their turn to talk in a meeting it is okay to "multitask."  Where do we draw the line?  Check your email on break.  Answer it then too.  Again, you are in a meeting, if you have nothing of value to add, why attend?  Mark Zukerberg might be able to zone out and have a great idea and claim you are wasting his time but lets face it, you are not Mark Zukerberg, and even he has had only ONE GREAT idea.

Social acceptance #5: Facebook

Speaking of Mr. Zukerberg,  I'll close with his brainchild.  I am intrigued.  I am impressed.  I am concerned.  Just like I don't want to hear your private phone conversation, I don't want to become intimate with your life, nor yours mine.  I do not want to see behind the curtain Dorothy.  The beauty of the internet is interconectivity with anonymity.  An information super highway, let me on and let me off.  Why are you people posting your information, willingly.  The FBI and CIA spent years collecting information about people. That was part of what they were started for.  People lived in fear of what information was collected about them, or more importantly what misinformation was assembled.  Now people display their most intimate details and that of others. Real time.