Hats Off

Disclaimer: This is a bit of a rant.

(Well, not really a rant. Perhaps more of a wistful call to arms.)

Remember the time when people only wore hats outside? Yes, I am dating myself. So I’m dating myself…

I was at a table read for a new play last month, and at a certain point, I looked around, and noted that 6 of the 11 people there had hats on.

Yes, it is a play written by a millennial and mainly contains of characters who are millennials, so it made sense that there were mainly millennial actors reading. And they were the ones wearing the hats.

You know the kind of hat I am talking about. Wool. Sort of a slouchy skull cap.

I just do not get it.

I have been in plays, in classes, in restaurants, and see people wearing their wool hats inside. Men, women. And not just millennial-aged adults. (Yikes. A 40-something-year-old man wearing a skull cap as fashion. Really?)

When did this become such an acceptable thing? Did it happen sometime after people started wearing their actual pajamas on airplanes? I still cannot believe that shift in social etiquette.

And going down to breakfast at hotels in your pjs and slippers. Is that really a thing? (I have seen it. So have others.) I mean, maybe for the toddlers and infants. But I am seeing teenagers and young adults.

Am I becoming and old f–t?

Sigh. I still dress up for the theatre. To go on an airplane. I don’t put my feet up on the backs of movie theater chairs. I hold doors open for people who are older than me.

Maybe I am just holding on to antiquated ways.

What are you wanting us as a society to hold on to? Any pet peeves you are carrying around in your bosom?

I do have a wool hat that I wear when it is cold, but I take that off when I get inside.

And I always will.

 

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Lessons of the Road

I have returned from an adventure.

A wonderful, yet challenging, adventure. With my family.

I am grateful for the abundance of time and energy to have been able to go on this adventure. I am so glad that we all took the time to be together and to explore new-to-us places and to experiences new sights, sounds, tastes and smells.

The challenges were all out of anyone’s control and totally unexpected.

They included outgoing flights that stole a day from the majority of our group. Record-breaking heat everywhere we went. An absence of air conditioning in these places because they usually have no need for it.

Two of our lodgings were not at all as they were represented, which was disappointing and uncomfortable. A space markedly smaller than the photos appeared. A stairwell so steep under a ceiling so low leading to the one common space and second bathroom that it was unusable. A stove with no manual that we could not figure out — no way to heat water for coffee. Another place having no window coverings, infested with bees and flies.

(I suppose these could be considered “luxury” problems if you look at it. For me, as I had been the one to book the lodging, they were challenging, and disappointing. It also really enlightened me to my own “Americanism” – to how used I am to traveling with and to all the comforts of home. Take a way some of those, and I felt uncomfortable. But isn’t the point of travel to leave home behind?)

The real challenge came when one member of our group (the person whose trip it was) got very sick for two days. And then another of us got sick right after that one, requiring an emergency clinic visit and rendering them housebound for the last leg of the trip (three days.) This family member, I am sure, was counting down the seconds until they could get the hell back home. They were really sick and could not sleep due to the illness and the heat.

I cannot recall a trip from my life that had so many issues. Everyone valiantly moved through it all as well as they could. But there were moments of discomfort and when spirits waned and were tested to the limit.

Still. We had laughter. We saw some amazing parts of the world. And we were together.

I know that down the road, we will, for the most part, only recall the good parts. (Except for the really sick person, who, I am sure, will never forget how bad it was for them.)

I struggled mostly with just giving space for everyone to have their response to the challenges. To not feel totally responsible for everyone’s happiness. I was, after all, the instigator of the whole trip. For a recovering perfectionist and people-pleaser, this was daunting.

As a result, I was stretched in ways that I did not at all expect. Perhaps that is the very nature of travel: to go beyond one’s known terrain into foreign territories.

So as I leave the trip behind and reenter everyday life, I let whatever lessons were contained in this journey sort of simmer, low-level, trusting that some day I will look back and realize the gifts contained within the turbulence that the trip presented.

I trust that my memories of the difficulties of the trip will fade in comparison to the joys.

And I refill my spiritual well for the next adventure.

New World Order

It’s happening. Slowly but surely, people are being phased out of more and more jobs, replaced by tablets or machines.

I don’t like it. When I was traveling this past summer, I saw it everywhere. The latest? The airport tablet trend. It’s the brainchild of OTG Management, and it is the bane of travel as far as I am concerned.

Airports have always held the promise of connections. Plane connections, yes, but connections of other kinds as well. Conversations at the airport bar or while waiting for your flight and grabbing a coffee, or at the gate, have sparked romances, dalliances, business opportunities. People-watching at airports has inspired films, writers and artists of all kinds because airports hold so many real-life stories unfolding before our eyes. Stories of reunited loved ones, people traveling for funerals, weddings, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.  Airports have been the way station between adventures. A part of the experience of travel. They’ve held the potential for adventure, the unknown, new experiences.

Now, airports are looking more and more like, well, a sea of i-Pad stations. Every restaurant has them in front of every chair on every table. If you are with someone, there are two i-Pads standing upright between you, separating you like the plexiglass at the bank teller. There are still some employees, but your contact with them is minimal. (Yet you still are expected to tip them.)

It is supposed to be more efficient and reduce the travelers’ stress at airports. Every time my husband and I ordered through them, there were errors and it ended up taking twice as long as it should have. Our meals were comp’d twice due to error. I had to take rebel action and un-dock our i-Pads so we could actually be together while we ate. I found it all incredibly annoying. And disturbing, in a Hal-creepy kind of way (the software for the OTG system is named Flo.)

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We’ve had self-service convenience lanes for years now at stores where you can ring yourself up. (I have to admit I do like those when I am in a hurry.) But at least they have installed them in addition to still having people to ring you up.

Even the people who hawk the free daily papers are being replaced by metal iron bins. Somebody figured out you can just leave the stacked papers in the metal bins for people to grab and forego paying whatever small amount they must have paid those people who would try to get you to take one on your morning commute. I am going to miss those people. Some of them were quite inventive. Like the way some of the subway announcers add a personal touch in the way they give out the usual informational announcements. Some of those people create a moment of connection in the subway with their wit or their exceptional voice — fellow commuters look around and catch eyes and smile in a moment of shared appreciation. More and more, those announcements are becoming automated as well. I will miss that, too.

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The opportunities we have to connect with people on a daily basis are becoming less and less as a result of all of this technological advancement and replacement. Interactions between strangers, once commonplace, is lessoning. Sometimes I look around on the streets, and in the buses and subways, and we all look like strange robot-people, plugged into “the source”…our various electronic devices…all looking down into our palms.

Even if you wanted to make a passing remark to someone, they wouldn’t hear you. (Ever try to get off the train, saying “Excuse me!” over and over only to realize that the person you were trying to pass was plugged in and couldn’t hear you?)

I really worry about how this will affect us over time. We’ve begun to notice that young children no longer know how to interact socially. Can it really be that big of a surprise?

It’s as if we all bring the comfort of our living rooms and our offices with us now everywhere we go. We can create our own soundtrack to play as we move through our lives. Sounds cool, right? But when we do that, we miss the actual live music of the actual world around us. Yes, there is a kind of music to the world of daily life around us. We don’t even recognize it anymore.

We now can watch our favorite shows as we move from one place to another. Those in-between times of transition between Point A and Point B used to be opportunities to process what has just occurred, to daydream, or to connect randomly with the world around us. Now it is a way to plug back into what we already know, what we will find at home when we get there. It’s as if we are constantly trying to get back to the state we know best…the state we recognize most. To spend as little time as possible being affected by and living in the actual world as we live in the actual world.

I have a 1.15 hour commute both ways to and from work each day. I often use it as a time to get certain things done. So I get it. I utilize that time, too, using the train as my temporary office. I type, I learn lines, I listen to workshop lessons, audiobooks, read on my Kindle, too.

But I do make a conscious effort to not be plugged in all of the time. I don’t run around the city with my music playing in my ears anymore. I purposefully start up conversations when at a checkout register with the person ringing me up, or the person selling me tea, or the person in line with me at the store. It is amazing how surprised some people are at it. It is not the norm anymore, it is the exception. Before I began to make this effort, I, too, would feel sort of jarred if a stranger tried to have a moment of connection with me out in the world. Sort of annoyed. Like, why are you interrupting my connection with my music or my show or my whatever-I-am-connected-to-at-the-time? Can’t you just leave me alone?

What? Wow. That floored me, when I caught myself feeling that way out in the world. That is when I had to take a hard look at what was happening in the world around me. And at my behavior in it. I had to ask myself what I was doing in the world in the first place.

Are we all here to remain the same as much as possible? To only connect with the known and to stay safely in control of what we are exposed to as we move through the world? Do I really want to try to maintain the world of my home and take it with me as I go out into the world?

Or do I want to go out into the world and be affected by it? Interact with it and communicate with people and allow myself to move through the world and connect to it? Be moved and changed by the interactions I have with real people?

So I started weening myself off of my smartphone. It was tough at first…to go back to just walking down a street without looking down and doing something on my phone felt, well, anxiety-provoking at first. My system was no longer used to the simple, naked action of moving through space with just me and my thoughts and the world around me. But in time, I learned again how to just enjoy the sunlight on my face, or to take in the street scene, to exchange a smile with a passer-by. Have a short exchange with someone on an elevator. Spark up a conversation in a line. There ARE still others out there happy to connect like that. You just won’t even see them unless you are available to it.

Just as I set office hours for myself as a self-employed person, I also now set boundaries for my time on my phone when out in the world. It makes a huge difference in the quality of my day.

I love my smartphone, I really do. But I love people too. I don’t want to forget how to have an exchange with a stranger. Some of the most memorable conversations I have had were in airports with strangers. I wouldn’t be the same without having had them.

#reallife #intheworldandoftheworld