Being alone in a crowd

Long time readers of mine will know I much prefer being in a partnership or relationship to being alone. I’ve often said I fell co dependant without the co when alone, and the happiness of others gives me purpose. Having said that, I will also admit that being alone, and staying happy has been something I’ve worked at.  You can lean a lot by sitting alone at lunch in a cried and just watching and listening to life around you.

I have always been great at overhearing. At eavesdropping on the lives of those beside me, or even across the room, and this is something you just don’t do when seated with friends. The lives of the people you know and see regularly are far less educational than strangers… and an office food court in urban Toronto is always full of strangers.

Food courts traditionally have more singles than traditional restaurants, and I use that term for individuals dining or seated alone, not relating to their social or marital status.  People who don’t have friends to eat lunch with.

I try not to stare to long in any one direction or at any one person, bit its fun to browse the tables and guestimste histories for these people. Some are easy; the tie wearing, blackberry typing middle age businessmen who est fast, type fast, and leave. Others linger and eat slowly as they read a newspaper or just look around at everyone as I do.

I remember the days when I was obligated to take a full hour for lunch, and had time to kill. I think I can see a difference on they way people who are here for an hour everyday and those just killing time. Of course, its all in my head at this point, so I just make believe I am right.

The smartphone has changed single lunch life. It has given us something to look at in solo times, and not only ignore life, but to be ignored. I don’t give those computer thumb typist much thought. They don’t talk, or look around or give me any enjoyment. They are alone in their world, Facebooking, tweeting or whatever… occasionally smiling or laughing.

Now of course I realise – so am I. My lunch time flew by, and I hardly looked up or listened at all. Back to work.

I read it somewhere

During a commercial break, I pause the playback and return to the keyboard.

I started rethinking about something I mentioned in passing in a previous blog entry. I used an old saying fragment; “I read somewhere” before stating some supportive fact.  It’s an innocent enough thing to say.  We all have memories from things we’ve read or seen or heard previously without any real knowledge of it’s source.  We all say this, or similar lines during conversation before we interject some rumour or wisper or article or TV segment we’ve seen.

This got me thinking a bit about how those sources have changed over the past decade.

Before the Internet, or at least before daily feeds came into mass popularity, a good percentage of our society didn’t use print media much for news and current events.  We didn’t read our news.  Some did, but many of us either got their news, POP culture, and social cues from TV, or real world social interaction. Although they say the days of the newspaper are fading, I know a great percentage of the world never used newspapers for news.  We’ve always heard or seen more than we’ve read to keep pace with the world.

In my found adulthood before the Internet, I once asked a friend; “what war?”  I was shamed at the time, and it changed my life a little.  In my teens and 20’s, I knew little of politics or news in general.

If I had heard of wars, the environment, local news, the economy, or natural disasters, it would have been from my top news source, Saturday Night Live and morning radio.  If it was important enough to know about; they’d be making fun of it.

As I grew, I added late night talk host monologues and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to my news sources. In Canada, This Hour has 22 Minutes and Air Farce spoofed the top stories.  Howard Stern was my morning man.

However, in today’s world, the internet sites like Facebook have quickly become the new source for social awareness.  We are reading again. Lots.  More than ever. Not only am I informed of upcoming weather, horoscope, movies, and the passing of Leslie Nelson, this news is all presented by my peers and friends I trust, often delivered to my morning ritual with a smiling photo and comments and commentary.

As a nation, we have become even more informed of everything our friends think is important. We have become the news source, and sharing gives u a personal pride in being first – or being a news provider.  When people die, we feel good telling our friends before they tel us. It’s almost a race. I get a bit upset when I have news, and as I am going to post it for others, I see a friend has beaten me to it.

Although we have no proof of many of the facts we spread, because it comes from friends, we trust it anyway. It’s all new.

As I evaluate this concept in detail for this blog, I remember the quote that inspired the whole thing.  I was watching The Mentalist, and was remembering seeing some article that Police departments did not use civilians in their investigations like they did in this show.  It was absurd to the Policeman interviewed that the public thinks it’s something real.  I don’t really remember anything about the article itself, including where it may have come from.  I just have a general feeling I saw it somewhere.  The police talk about The Mentalist the same way CSI agents talk about those shows, or doctors talk about Hospital shows.  Reality is far from TV fiction.  In truth of course, I don’t know this to be the case… I only have a vague memory of reading it was said.  It could have been a skit on Saturday Night Live.

Facts are irrelevant in society.  All of existence is just the story we tell.

Unpause

Ask yourself whether this is the right moment for humor. (humour)

“Ask yourself whether this is the right moment for humor.”

The Mentalist: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1196946/

That line made me pause, literally. While watching Kendall Cho, a character on TV’s “The Mentalist”  interrogate a witness.  The witness makes a joke, and that is his reply.  You have to imagine the speedy flat monotone delivery Cho uses to give the line, almost a tribute to Jack Friday.

Recently, I’ve seen some celebrities gaining popularity through live tweeting tv shows and movies.  I watch all my TV via PVR, often weeks later, and my opinions and stories are worthy of more than 140 characters, so I blog here. I’ve been blogging while pausing TV for decades, but never really sharing my thoughts.

While watching this show today, I hit PAUSE  when I heard that line, and wanted to evaluate my reaction more than just a quick 140 character one liner.  I thought tom myself, and now, through the power of the blog, to you;  How would I would react in an interrogation room.

Of course, a lot would depend on whether I was guilty or not.

I know I don’t lie well in a situation like that. I crumble at the first signs of discipline or disapproval, but during straight questions, I believe I would be as light hearted as my nerves would allow. I know for a fact my inside voice would be creating f a lot of funny things to say. In realty, I would probably speak few out loud. Knowing the way my brain works, I would almost certainly filter the wrong ones, and say the wrong thing.

I don’t even have confidence in my own fictional spontaneity.

Un-pause.

The Consultant Did It.

Patrick Jane

Image via Wikipedia

I pause the PVR and blog because I live alone, and don’t have any TV watching partners.

I watch TV on multiple levels. I think about how what I am watching relates to the real world, and what I can learn from shows. While I watch shows alone these days, I try my best to let myself “think” at least half as much as I would if I was watching it with somebody, and started a conversation.

The consultant did it.

He solved the crime.  Again and again.  This statement could apply to any number of crime shows on the air today, or in the past few years. It’s the current fad. We used to have Private Detective shows solving crimes. Now the Police do it – but with the help of some expert civilian sidekick.

I was watching The Mentalist episode this week. The one where Patrick Jane was working with his Boss’s boos instead of Lisbin, who was on desk duty due to an injury. he was explaining to the chief, why he was abusive to a woman suspect during questioning.

I paused.

If you don’t know The Mentalist, substitute it with Castle, Bones, 11th Hour, or any otherwise where a private citizen is a special consultant to the law, solving crimes. There are dozens of shows with the same premise.  A police team of detectives has non police experts or otherwise smart people helping them catch the bad guys.

I remember reading somewhere(*), that this is hogwash, and police don’t work with consultants in anyway similar to these TV shows.

Today, it occurs to me; why not?

Mr. Monk, and Sherlock Holmes, and Shawn Spencer are all fictional, but they solve creative mysteries in ways the Police can’t. Even before this new rash of sidekick sleuths, there were psychic crime solvers like Medium before them.  On TV, police have almost always had somebody smarter helping them.  I can see why the police would prefer to expose this rumour.  Cops have always had a bad image on TV.

On TV at least, thee partnerships always work. The police have rules to follow, and a specific mentality and personality that make them good cops.  Detectives evolve from the police ranks, but the experts used on TV as sidekicks have obvious skills that could help solve crimes.  Murder Mystery authors do have a different mindset, and Bone specialists can see things in a skull we can’t.  In my mind, I think I’d like to know that police do consult for the better good.  For the end result – criminals caught. I think the force just may complain in the style of a weekly show where the expert consultants are always there, on the case from start tio finish asking questions and doing the work the police department really is respnsible for.

However – there would be advantages to that. Civilians could be abusive and break some of the rules the police can’t. They are built in scapegoats when something goes wrong.  That could be a great advantage. Today I watched Patrick Jane offend and be downright mean to somebody who’s loved one was just killed.  His question got the results he needed, and the police officer who could not have asked the same questions was able to reprimand him and apologize.  If they’d asked the same questions, somebody would be fired and maybe a lawsuit would develop.  I fully realize TV is fiction, and scripts work the way you plan… but the idea still interests me.

Maybe the police could use a “Robin the boy wonder” kind of civilian sidekick standing by.

Unpause.

The Smartphone taught me to read.

Cover of the original UK paperback edition of ...

Image via Wikipedia

I had a smartphone before you did. Long before. It took me a lot of mental memory just now, but I figured out this is actually my sixth smartphone, and third format change.

My first, a black and white Kyocera was my entry into the hand held world of computing and my very first Palm Pilot. This was long before anyone imagined the Internet on a phone. Essentially it was a phone with a few basic apps and a very elaborate address book and calendar. Before this, I had tried to join the PDA world with a stand alone Palm Pilot but it just never worked for me. A device like that is only useful when you remember to have it with you, and a huge contact list is really only practical when it is connected to your dialing device.

From the first day, I loved the merging of the two. I got used to using a stylus and a tiny in screen keyboard, and all my business contacts and appointment dates in my phone changed my life. It was a natural but for me.

What I didn’t expect was how one app outside the usual smartphone concept would change it even more. I tried the book reader app one day, and never looked back.

I have never been a great reader. I read in short spurts for reference, but socially for pleasure, I really hadn’t picked up and finished a book since I was 16 and really can’t remember more than 6 in my life.

With the ebook format, everything changed. Suddenly, books were formatted in a different way, with four or five words to a single line, more like a newspaper column than a book. The contrast was great, but best if all – I could carry the books electronically in my palm, on my phone, so I could read one anywhere – any time.

The first trial into this new world for me was; The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. A book that holds find memories for me, by an  author with an a.d d. Style of writing similar to how is like to write.

I was hooked. It took me three months to read, picking up a few pages each time, while sitting at lunch or between customer appointments. Following that, I eased into new titles slowly, starting with a few Star Trek novels because I already knew the characters.  Eventually, I picked time travel as a theme, and read a few books that were brand new to me. It was great. I was on a roll, enjoying lunches alone and literature.  I felt almost normal for a while, even though each book took me more than a month to read this way.

Recently, I figured out something had changed.  Facebook. The Internet had come to my smartphone in a way that was finally affordable, and book reading faded away. I didn’t even finish the last one. I downloaded the movie and saw how it ended.

Now, when I have a spare moment during lunch, or between appointments, or even while stopped at a stop light, I don’t open my ebook… I click the Facebook icon and see if somebody has poked me or clicked ‘like’ on a new photo of a kitten in a sink.

In a way, it makes my alone time more social. I gave 250+ friends that I didn’t have 5 years ago, and I still read a lot more than I ever did before smart phones, but my days of enjoying books has come and gone.

It’s a shame. I think I should start again. Bit I know I’ll miss the tweets and likes more.

I will try to make room for both in my life. Maybe I can give up TV.

Pizza Hut lunch. The End.

Image via Wikipedia

I was called in to work today when my plans ahead of time had been to stay in and catch up on old work I was behind on. Yesterday had also been a day when there was a big difference between what I expected and what actually happened.

When I fall behind, I tend to get a bit stressed, and that means I enjoy myself less, and fall behind even more. On days – no, weeks like this ie turning out ti be, I need a good lunch. Microwave a 99 cent pasta box or pizza pocket won’t return my mood to productivity like a good buffet will.

Back in the days when I lived in more populous cities, one of my favourites was the Pizza Hut buffet, perfect on so many levels.  I have been enjoying them, although in reduced frequency since they began the practice years ago at $5.99.

Since many of my friends prefer other “less greasy” pizza brands, and a $20 solo pizza lunch want practical price or portion wise, the buffet was perfect.

The variety wad also a great way to taste new ingredients without commitment, and was responsible for several flavour discoveries over the decades. Who knew I liked hot peppers.

My job finds ne all over the city, and over the years, I took some pride in locating,  testing, and personslly rating as manu Hits as I could find. Some favored poorly, and some, like the one I find myself in today, ranked well.

I can recall great stories in many Huts across the city. I have written quite a few journals from ny phone while enjoying Za @ Pepsi.  I remember the coming, going and return of the Mac and Cheese pasta side dish, a favourite item that brought me here today, far off my usual path.

Today however, I sit and write a sad story, not a happy one.  For a few years now, I have been witness to the decline of the all I can eat pizza lunch experience. One by one, locations on my various day routes have been closing or converting to delivery only locations. The numbers dwindled each year and it was actually starting to be a challenge. In my home city, Pizza Hut vanished completely, the week I moved in. I knew the end was coming, but I knew there were still some great locations I could count on. My weekly visits turned to monthly, or less.  Each return was now an event to blog and celebrate.  Pizza day!

Today was to be perfect. The timing was just right, Getting here before noon, so I can request the Orange pasta first, and less selections without onions or mushrooms – two pizza mainstay topics I ironically hate.  Ironic? Probably not the right usage.

As I walk in, I get that slump in my heart. The buffet table isn’t lit. The familiar sign with missing letters is gone. It looks refashioned as a salad bar… I know what this means inside, but ask with optimism anyway; Am I early?

No

They don’t do the buffet anymore.

But worse, she seems confident its chain wide. The experiment is over. People have moved on. Salad killed my favourite lunch.  TV tells is we ate too fat.

Sigh.

In memory, rather than go home weeping, I order a full medium deep rush, just the way I like it, pay the $20 bill and remember the past with this blog.

I’ll miss you Pizza Hut buffet.

Life might be insanity.

There is a famous saying I have often quoted as used in other writings,  “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.”  Today, it occurred to me that life itself, is a series of loops, and if we don’t learn and grow from our loops, we are effectively doing the same thing over and over again, not only expecting different results, but counting on it.

Life loops every hour, day, week, month and millennia into our future. If we let it, we will do the same things over and over. Many of us, if not all are prone to ruts unless we detect them and cause change. We wake, and loop through much of our lives, eating the same meals, performing the same tasks day by day.

Some are comforted by routine and others trapped. I am not insane, but I seem to do the same things every day expecting results. Luckily life provides enough curves that frequently I do get different results, thus making me content with the illusion of change, before the next loop and return to the rut.

As I write this note, on my cell phone direct to blog using a new app I just downloaded, I have no solutions. Each January, society asks soon us to evaluate our loops and see what we desire to change for the year ahead. They say that admitting you have a problem is the first step, so I big and share, and set a goal to be even less insane this year. To change what I do, expecting a different outcome. I pledge to break a few loops. 

All change is just life moving forward, and the makeing of new stories.  I can’t say there is mo wrong choice, except perhaps not changing. Doing the same thing over and over expecting a different outcome.