Sunday, January 22, 2012

To Tech or Not To Tech...

Recently, I had to wait about twenty minutes for a table at a restaurant (not an uncommon practice in Charlotte). We instituted the age old "there's a wait" practice by going to the bar for a round of drinks before the last remaining pager on Earth (the restaurant pager) buzzed.  As I looked around the bar, which was pretty packed, I noticed a group of single girls, a group of single guys (I'm no Patti Stanger, but Hello!), a family or two, etc. all huddled around the bar.  These people were different heights, races, and ages, but they had one thing in common: the iPhone.  I used to think that only rich people had the iPhone.  Then, I thought only young professionals had it.  Then, my friend Melissa joined the ranks.  This blog isn't about the popularity of the iPhone, though.  It's about people who don't have one: namely, my friends Tara, Mike, and I.  Are we the last early thirtysomethings without this nugget of technology?

As Tara, her husband Mike, and I chatted about movies, and even placed a bet after arguing about a scene in a TV show, my future flashed before me at a glance.  That sounds whimsical and cliche, but it's true.  I glanced up to wipe the frost off my glass, and realized that the hordes around us were not talking, laughing, or even watching the multiple TV screens surrounding the bar.  They were texting, checking Facebook, tweeting, and I imagine looking up some kind of senseless fact on Wikipedia.  No one seemed to say, "Found it!" and return to the conversation.  Everyone's eyes remained glued to the iPhone screen, ignoring their present company as they waited.

This raised the question in my head: Should I get an iPhone and join the masses, or be left behind?  Or should I look at the question entirely differently?  Maybe not having an iPhone was keeping the conversation going, and keeping good, old-fashioned human interaction a priority.  Everyone says that I am addicted to Facebook and Twitter, since I tend to log on at friends' houses to check my feed or retweet a funny comment.  I often look at this stuff as conversation starters.  My boyfriend is on a really tedious work schedule, and I rely on Facebook and Twitter to lend me newsworthy topics to entertain him at night on his 40 minute drive back home.  So, I'm not anti-technology by any means.  But do I need it in the palm of my hand?

When we returned back to my friend Tara's house, we settled the bet by pulling up the TV episode in question, and of course, Mike won, so now we have to go see a  'man' movie :(  But was it such a big deal to wait?  Is it ever that much of an inconvenience to wait for information?  Do we really need to know that Bob is engaged during dinner, or that Whitney broke a crown on her tooth eating a Baby Ruth (Dr. Suess for Facebook)?  

I think inevitably, I will get the iPhone 5 when it is released this spring/summer.  My argument about old-time communication is valid, though.  I know people have "cell phones on the counter" and "turn it off at dinner" rules.  But I'm talking about the bar wait right now.  That was "time to kill", and people were taking advantage.  Aren't those moments some of the few and fleeting empty ones that still exist today?  

Enough with the hypothetical questions, and the pros and cons of travel-size technology.  My point is this: In future scenarios of waiting for a table, I hope to still hear laughter from a bad joke shared to fill a silence or see a couple share a kiss and exchange "I Love You" when they're backed into a corner of the bar.  I don't think that kind of time is wasted.  As Carrie Bradshaw says in one of my favorite SATC episodes, "Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda", "Life is what happens when you're waiting for a table."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Holding on to the past?

When should someone let go of the past?  More importantly, when should you let go of past stuff?  It may mean the difference between a calm, clean home setting and an appearance on the show Hoarders.  I've been lucky enough to move twice (uhh, did I say lucky?) in the past two years, and I have purged a great deal of stuff.  However, I am currently left with a quandary: Should it stay or should it go?  I have several items in the attic at my former rental house, and luckily my former roommate has been kind enough to let said stuff stay.  I need to decide to dump it or keep it.

Back in the stone age, or even the pioneer days, too much stuff was never an issue that plagued the average person.  I don't think cavemen were complaining about animal skins piling up by the dozens like, say, the greeting cards I've kept and collected over time.  And I seriously doubt that when Papa Ingalls was loading the wagon, Laura's massive collection of folded notes from high school had to tag along.  My point is that as time has skipped along, we as humans have accumulated more and more stuff.  And not just stuff.  I'm not really referring to the glasses or the afghan or even the edible underwear (hey, I don't judge) that you bought yesterday.  I'm talking about mementos.  When should they hit the pavement, on your allotted trash or recycle day?  Or better yet, or better for the environment, donate it.

This draws up a larger question as well...when should a gal get rid of the stuff from her ex? I have to admit that I kept certain things I'd become attached to after my split.  Purses, namely.  Although, I did manage to part with a few at a yard sale.  I had three phases: dump it, keep it, dump it.  In phase one, I was packing up the house we shared and I was ready for everything to go.  I gave a porch, that's right a porch, full of stuff to a donation center, which they graciously picked up for me!  After my initial move, I was in minimalist heaven, or so it felt, until more and more items with ties to the ex surfaced.  A Christmas ornament here, a t-shirt there.  Before I knew it, I was treasuring a past that wasn't so shiny as if it were wrapping paper on Christmas morning (still on the boxes).  When I "came to", I realized that that stuff had to go too.  And so it did.  I actually sold a pair of earrings and my wedding bands (I paid for the rings themselves) at a second-hand antique shop while I was in Palm Springs on a trip.  It felt like a lot of closure, and a lot of relief.  Thus, the third cyclical 'dump it' phase.

I have more questions than I have answers, and from time to time, I still stumble across items that "we" purchased, but I usually find a justification for keeping them...seeing as how they made it this long, and outlasted all three phases.  So, I usually don't feel bad about them.  Men are just as prone to hang on to mementos as women are, in my personal belief system, that is.  I think there are probably pieces here and there creeping around his closet, his bureau drawer, or even his bathroom.

How I Met Your Mother did an episode about this early on, when Ted discovered that Robin's dogs were all gifts from exes.  He argued that his ex stuff was just stuff, materials, but could he really ask Robin to get rid of her living, breathing reminders of past relationships?  This was a really thought-provoking episode.

I guess the long and short of it is this...hang on to what you need, but don't live your everyday life like you're looking at a photo album of the past.  Toss it.  That's my personal standpoint.