Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Modern Day Etiquette: Above The Table Texting

I saw the above picture on reddit the other day and it got me thinking about how our generation uses their phone all the time.

This picture is from an AT&T commercial where the guy is on a date and checks his phone for the score multiple times. I think most people would agree that he is being pretty rude. But... What about texting above or below the table? What about using your smartphone to play Words With Friends when you’re hanging out at a coffee shop? The lines start the gray a little bit. In some social circles it might be perfectly fine and in others you might come across as a self-important douchebag.

A couple months ago a friend of mine introduced the Phone Stack to our group for when we went out for lunch or dinner. The Phone Stack is basically putting your phones on the table (in a stack) and if anyone grabs their phone while we are hanging out they have to pay the bill. (If no one grabs their phone we split the check as normal.) I think it's an interesting concept and I like the fact that it was brought up because now we call people out when they spend too much time with their phone. However, we stopped doing it after a while because there were some inherent problems with the Phone Stack: easy target for theft and potentially missing truly important phone calls to name a couple. But doing it a few times was all our group needed, we now overly berate people for using their phones ever. It was annoying at first but now I kind of like it. Outside of our group I'm starting to notice other people do it.

Instead of doing a Phone Stack, my rule of thumb for using a smartphone at the table is that I treat the phone as another person. A quick glance down at your phone is like looking at the person who just came into the room. So if you're on a first date, how do you feel about your date looking at the person who just walked in the door? My vote is that it's not okay (your date should have your full attention). Following the "treat as a person" rule, texting or fiddling with an App is the equivalent of starting up a conversation with someone else. I don't care if it's on your lap or not, if you're at dinner you aren't fooling anyone when you stare at your crotch.

So that's my rule. If you're in a big group and there are tons of things going on or if there are breaks in the conversation (or maybe it's a party with a whole bunch of side conversations), then I think it's perfectly fine to be on your phone. However, if someone is talking directly to you... put down your phone.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The first time I went to the movies alone

Nowadays I go to the movies alone quite often. In the past it wasn’t always so easy for me...

I had to psyche myself up to get out of the car. C’mon you can do this! I almost chickened out again. I had thought about doing this in the last couple weeks, but each time I decided to go I’d make an excuse. This time I made it as far as the parking lot.

After what seemed like an eternity (probably only 2 minutes in real time), I got out of my car and walked up to the ticket lady. I could feel my entire body getting warm. I managed to swallow my angst and calmly say, "One ticket for Kickass please." I’d normally use a credit card in this situation but I had already planned this out carefully, I used cash and exact change to minimize interaction. As she slid the single ticket under the window she looked up at me and opened her mouth to speak. My imagination had already braced myself for her to say something like, "What? Only one ticket? How does it feel to be alone in this world with no one to love you?"

Instead she flatly said, "Enjoy your movie." Not expecting this, I awkwardly replied, "Uhhhh… you too!" I winced as I walked away. She's at work stupid, she's not seeing a movie right now. Shaking my head in lamentation, I avoided making eye contact with the ticket-ripper-guy. He grabbed the ticket from my sweaty palm, "Theater 1 on your left. Enjoy."

Theater 1 on my left would be where the magic happened. I lost my seeing-a-movie-by-myself virginity that day. It was a mid-day on a Wednesday and after doing a quick scan of the room I realized that the theater was completely empty. I was so happy. I finally made it. I started geeking out. The next couple minutes I ran up and down the isles doing stupid parkour tricks off the handicap railing and over the seats. I ran out of breath and took my seat as the previews began. Very center of the center row, awesome. Throughout the movie I was being a complete dumbass. I laughed obnoxiously loud and screamed at the screen, "HAHAHAHA!!!!" "YOU IDIOT!"

About three quarters of the way through the movie a quiet scene involved a joke being told that I didn't quite understand. It was at this time that I heard a couple laughing behind me. Shit. It's not empty after all. I quickly remembered all the geeking out I just did in the theater before the movie started. Oh God Why. That nervous-heat from before quickly came back as a shame-heat. I thought about leaving right then and there but I decided it was too late now, the damage was already done. The movie finished and I bolted for the exit. I really had to pee but there was no way I could ever look those people in the eye. Well, never going back there again...

So yes, it was an embarrassing moment but not my worst. All in all I'd say it was a success. It was quite a liberating experience and it helped me get over the stigma of seeing-a-movie-by-yourself. If you've never done it before I'd highly suggest trying it, there are plenty of good reasons. Bonus points for going in an empty theater! ... Just make sure it's actually empty first.