Sunday, August 14, 2011

Don’t Feed The Stalkers

You see a face on the street. Or maybe it's on the train. It’s a guy. Or a girl. A mutual friend. A perfect stranger. But the face is not new. No, it's imminently familiar. Just like their first name. Their hometown. Their surname too. You have never been formally introduced. Never spoken a word- verbal or written- to them. Nonetheless, you feel as though you know them. Intimately. And it makes you feel strange inside.

You try to hide this as best you could. If you meet them you inquire their name. Nonchalantly. As though you have never heard of them in your life. The truth is, courtesy of Facebook, you know more about them than you would ever care to admit. Information like their relationship status, political views, taste in music and other intel you suspect you should not know.

As you interrogate them further, asking about their interests and other things you’ve already read about in their profile, you begin to feel like a fraud. The entire conversation is a verbal obstacle course where you must dodge select topics, crawl around certain matters and jump over familiar territory. It's a skill, really, since the entire duration you speak in constant fear that you will accidentally slip their self-written quote and give yourself away.

It’s terribly exhausting. Yet few of us are confident enough to admit how we got into this awkward dance to begin with. We’re so afraid of coming off stalker-ish when the real ludicrousness of if all is- and here’s where it gets fun- people obviously like getting stalked. Dare I suggest, they actually solicit it. How else to account for the millions of Facebook accounts and Twitters and blogs; all networks dedicated to documenting every random wave that surfaces in our brains.

It all begins with that narcissistic bone in our bodies that quietly asks to be fed. She starts in a whisper. A harmless status. An innocent note. Her voice grows louder with photo uploads and video links. She’s often hungry. Riddled with cravings for designer clothing, luxury cars and shameless self-promotion on the internet. Things that make us appear genius and awesome. You can pick up munchies for your inner narcissist at your nearest shopping mall or if you're feeling splurgey, take her out for a five star dinner at the car dealership. For a quick fix, though, Facebook is your man.

But thou shalt not be greedy. After all, stalkers need to eat too. Throw your adoring fans a bone with note, tease them with a mysterious status hors d'ouevre and if they're really good, upload a delicious photo album. Mmm.

I do not wish to imply that everything we do is done for the sake of an audience, nor would I suggest that it isn't. But I invite you to think. Consider how much info swapping we do in only 24 hours.
Even if you aren't posting on the hour, chances are you are "liking" the posts of people who are.

Is it terribly damaging, impossibly self-indulgent and ruining our lives? I'm not ready to get that condemnatory. Mostly because I will be posting this on my Facebook and then hurling sheep at random FB friends.

And I'd like to blame Zukerberg for the ramifications, whatever they may be. Or Tom, if you want to get chronological. These guys took those of us that might have been unassuming, flung us in the social network sphere, and coughed us up all attention-seeking and "like" happy. As I scroll through unfiltered brainwaves on my news feed, I can't but wonder... In time, will we learn portion control or will we perpetually overfeed our stalkers?

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Cult of Starbucks

Do you remember the first time you ordered at Starbucks?

I do.

The memory is rich in my conscious...

I am 14. For months I have been rehearsing the Starbucks dialogue in the mirror and today I finally muster the courage to walk into one of the green awnings lined up and down Broadway. 'This is it', I silently coach myself. Here goes nothing.

“I’ll have a Venti soy vanilla latte,” I tell the barista in the forest green visor. My voice starts off a little shaky but I grow confident halfway through it.

So much so, that I boldly add, “and no whip cream” for good measure.

Then I casually hold out my credit card, like I do this all the time. I smile. I am proud. I have just successfully ordered in calm, sophisticated Starbucks code.

But he doesn’t take it, he lets my arm dangle, and that's when I know I've said something wrong`. Oh, but what? It could be so many things. Word placement. Order of preferences. Did I say small instead of tall? [Did I even order small? I mean tall.] He is just standing there, looking at me awkwardly, as though I have just suggested that there are 52 states in the U.S.

I can see his thoughts churning in his head as he contemplates how to tactfully arrange his words. “Um, lattes don’t come with whip cream…” he says uneasily.

There is no easy way to tell someone that they don’t know which drinks are served with whip cream and which aren’t. There is no good way to break the news to me. How do you tell someone that the are Starbucks illiterate?

I’m still smiling, but I feel like an idiot. Obviously I have not practiced enough. I leave with my venti soy latte sans whip cream, but I have left my pride in the barista's gaping mouth.

I won’t make the same mistake twice. Now when I order, I say it real slow, pausing in between preferences, and finishing each with a high note, like a question.

“I’ll have a tall?”







I want to add “sugar-free” but I’d rather drink sugar than risk coming off uneducated. I wait for the nod, and then I can breathe right knowing I’ve said it correctly. Sometimes I won’t even order the drink I want because I’m not sure how to order it.

And then I get mad.

Who gives people in green aprons and visors the right to make me feel dumb? For one, they look stupid. And for another the names for the sizes don’t even make sense. Tall, for example, leads one to believe that the cup will, in fact be,tall, when in reality, the cup is sized more like a stumpy midget. Grande is not English and is therefore equally conniving.