Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tech Lunch

The trainer’s hand slapped the horse’s backside and we were off. Scotty went from a trot to a canter in two strides. How was I supposed to stay on him at this gait? I suddenly forgot everything I had learned as my knees burrowed into the horse’s side. I knew if I fell off this beast at the current pace, I would break my neck. I tugged on the reins and… 

“Hi, can I join you?” my coworker asked.

I looked up from my Kindle and saw my colleague standing there with his lunch tray in one hand and his iPad in the other. Impressive. I would never be able to balance both at once, especially with that huge glass of soda positioned in the left-hand corner.

“Yes, of course,” I said, sitting up a bit straighter. “I was just reading. I’m in the middle of a gripping scene.”

“No worries. My friends are visiting from D.C. this weekend and I have to figure out where to take them for dinner,” he informed me as he set his tray down and turned on his device.

“Oh good, you are preoccupied, perfect,” I said with a smile. He laughed, taking a sip of his drink and started what looked like finger painting on his iPad.

Now, where was I…tugged on the reins and

“Hey guys, is this where we are having lunch?” another coworker asked.

I looked up again to find another colleague of mine standing next to us while staring at her smart phone. It was just as well that she wasn’t regarding me at that moment since my eyebrows were lowered and my mouth pinched. I wasn’t frowning because of her.  She was lovely, but I did want to finish reading this sentence at some point during my lunch hour.

“Yep, we’re both just finishing up some things over lunch,” I said.

“Cool, a tech lunch,” she said, taking a seat.

Is that what this was? I was about to ask her if that was a real term, but she had already started chuckling at whatever she was responding to on her phone. I bent my head to resume reading when I heard another coworker’s voice.

“Are all of you working during lunch?” a third colleague asked.

“No, we are just…having a tech lunch,” I said.

“Oh, I have some emails to respond to, do you mind if I join you?” she asked with a BlackBerry held at her side.

“No, please,” I said waving my arm like Vanna White, inviting her to take a seat. “Hey, where did you get the apple crumble?”

Before she could answer, the male colleague at our table had a more pertinent question.

“Does anyone know of a cheap, but good place for dinner in the Village?” he asked without averting his eyes or his fingers from his iPad.

“Try MenuPages,” was the unanimous reply.

After glancing around and taking a bite of our food, we settled in. We were enjoying our lunch hour together with our heads bowed. Or was it the illusion of being together while really having lunch with our devices? Is it out of habit and conditioning that we sit down with others during lunch? Do we merely seek warm bodies in order to disguise ourselves among the collective? Or do we crave both cyber and reality fixes? Speaking of craving, I’m finding myself concentrating more on that apple crumble than on my eBook. Please excuse me while I find some, reality beckons.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Networking Apps - Love Quest or Jest?

We have all been on the receiving end of a relationship set-up of some form or another. Usually a well-meaning friend, a colleague, a parent, crazy Aunt Bessie or sometimes even the nosey neighbor next door wants to meddle with your lovelife. However, I have never heard of your own cell phone getting involved until now – (traitor). They call themselves “smart” phones and I think these phones are starting to believe their own press.
Your phone’s only request is that you download the correct social networking App and it will take the reins from there. Of course, it will be inquisitive and ask you all sorts of prying questions… get to know how tall is too tall, how inactive is too inactive and if having Sarah Palin’s book Going Rogue on the nightstand is a deal breaker.
It all seems innocent, so you start to enjoy engaging with your phone on this level. You relish the idea that it takes an interest in whether you are attractive, smart, well-travelled and if you plan on paying your phone bill on time next month. It promises to let you know when your soulmate comes within 75 feet of you. In fact, you even agree on a code wherein it will start flashing, vibrating and ringing when it has found your perfect match. A weight has been lifted now that you have a trusted pocket friend that is scanning the streets for you.
Since you are making progress in your love quest, it is time to make some headway with your laundry. You painstakingly shove every last item of dirty clothing into your laundry bag, wipe your brow, and throw on some old sweats and torn T-shirt. You are not deterred by the slight drizzle while heading to the nearest laundromat a few blocks away. You don’t even fret that you were waiting too close to the curb for the signal to change and the car racing by splashed you with a wave of water. Being a bit sullied is nothing new while washing clothes. What is new is that while searching for coins in your pockets, your phone starts ringing and vibrating like a 1970’s motel bed gone turbo. You grab your flashing cohort and decipher that your heart’s desire is approaching. “Wait…what?” “Not now, not like this!” Your own panic prevents you from figuring out how to shut your phone down. A quick scan of the laundry room dispenses no hope of hiding. Your only option is to stuff your phone into your pile of clothing and act natural. The target in question pops their head into the establishment while holding their own flashing and ringing phone. You instantly understand why the two phones are in agreement that you would make a perfect match. You even start to smile until you catch your reflection in the opposing washing machine’s door. After a cursory glance around, your soul mate retreats and heads off down the street. Who cares if the lady next to you is staring at your vibrating socks on the table, you just lost out on your very own meet-cute.
Still not convinced by the not prepared and/or looking your best scenario? Okay, how about this? Discouraged about the laundry room incident, you are determined to never leave the apartment again without looking amazing. You spend an extra 20 minutes in the morning prepping before work. This in turn is why you are late and the reason you make a mad dash for the crowded elevator once you reach your office building. An attractive stranger holds the doors open and a few moments later your phone begins beeping and vibrating. What luck, theirs is also. You feel bold enough to say, “Your phone says that you like me.” The response is not what you expect, “What?” Then, “Hey Bob…no, I’m in the elevator…” as they answer their phone call turning slightly away from you. There’s no time to feel the full weight of your embarrassment since you just caught the eye of a fellow co-worker that is now desperately trying to cover up the racket their phone is generating. Referring to him as your “fellow co-worker” is being generous. This is your boss’s boss who can never remember your name. You don’t blame him for attempting to hide between two other people. Although, the squishing of his body into the corner like a trapped animal is a bit much. The thought that your phone could think this was a proper choice is confounding. While you are both desperate to silence your phones, you hear people clearing their throats. One even mumbles, “I thought there wasn’t reception in elevators.” And someone else replies with, “aw, the good ole days.”
Still feeling warm and fuzzy about all this? Fine, then, let’s explore one more possibility. Your first day back at work since enlisting your trusty phone hasn’t gone to plan. You were certain that your phone would signal you as you passed by the accounting department. In fact, you shake it a bit and double check that it is still on. Surely it knows that you would be well-suited for the accountant that periodically helps you with your expense reports. Nope. The rest of your day is uneventful, apparently there is no love lost at your firm. You can’t help but feel a bit let down as you descend into the congested subway station. Just then, out of nowhere your phone begins blinking and buzzing. Way off into the distance you see a tall man with his arm lifted high and his phone flashing also. He can’t see you yet since you are lost in a sea of bodies, but his raised arm is a beacon to follow. And what a herald he is! You give your phone a quick squeeze and thank it profusely. It does know what it is doing, it is smart! But wait, what’s this? Another arm has gone up. This one has a charm bracelet and manicured nails. The tall man sees her and makes his way through the crowd in her direction. Hey, wait a minute, this is your match! You promptly start pushing your way through the mass of commuters. An elbow to the chest and a stepped on toe means nothing if you can just cut him off in time. You are a mere 10 feet away when the unthinkable happens. Your cell phone’s battery dies. “Are you joking right now, he’s getting away,” you scream at your phone. You look up to find that the two flashing phones have met and so have the man and woman. You frantically yell, “I can’t believe this!” The two compatibles glance in your direction with an incredulous look usually reserved for crazy people before being swallowed up into a swarm of New Yorkers.
You slink off discouraged and grumbling about a charger. It’s not until you are tapped on your shoulder that you realize someone is trying to get your attention. This someone has an arresting smile and striking eyes. He mentions that you have dropped your book back there and that Ignatius Reilly is his favorite fictional character also. You decide to have coffee with him to discuss this further. The conversation turns into drinks and then dinner. When you finally take out your phone to see what time it is, you remember that it’s down for the count. That’s okay. You’ll let it know later that you no longer require its services and come to think of it, maybe you should let Aunt Bessie know also.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Hot in the city, hot in the city, that's right!

You know you are overheated and not thinking straight when you try to call your brother and instead dial your own number into your cell phone.  None of this registers until you hear a woman’s voice laying out options for your voicemail settings.  Even then it takes you a few seconds staring blankly at your phone to figure out what’s happening.  Yes, this is what a New York heat wave can do to you.
Outside the air is so thick with humidity, you feel as though you are choking on it.  Down in the subway it becomes a sauna.  You feel a burning sensation as the hot vapors enter your air passage ways.  Each breath carries less oxygen than the one before.  The heat circling your respiratory track leaves your esophagus inflamed.  The perspiration is pouring from you now.  In fact, calling it perspiration is a joke.  There’s no delicate beading of water forming on your forehead.  Sweat is literally dripping from your hairline as though someone poured a bottle of water on your head.  You look around to see women with Chinese fans and men with hand towels.  You are secretly praying that the blouse you are wearing is not stuck to your back in dampness.  The train arrives and you push in against sweaty limbs and shirts trying to position yourself near the air conditioned vent.
By the time you reach your office building and sit down at your desk, you are completely red-faced and drenched.  Your co-workers that have arrived a half hour before look refreshed and comfortable and always manage to stop by your desk as you are trying to compose yourself.  Giving up and going to the bathroom is your sole mission.  Wetting paper towels with cold water and placing them on the back of your neck helps a bit.  Meanwhile you are trying to wipe off the smeared mascara that was supposed to be water-proof.  You come out of the ladies room sans make-up, but feeling more at ease. You swing by the kitchen to grab a cold water bottle before heading back to your desk, cursing to yourself that you will have to wait until you cool down before having your first cup of coffee.
After work is no better, all the humidity has collected and it is now pouring with rain.  You come out from the subway getting poked in the head by people opening their umbrellas before they even exit.  A vendor has parked himself at the exit/entrance and is shouting, “umbrellas!”  You stop to ask how much only to realize you don’t have any cash on you.  You run carefully without slipping to the next awning and huddle with the masses.  You can only assume they didn’t have any cash either.  Five minutes go by…ten…a few have made a break for it to the next inlet, but you know better.  The massive downpour will let up any minute now.  In fact, it is only drizzling.  
Tentatively, you leave your dry haven in search of the bar where your friend will be playing bass with his band.  The spots on your glasses are a hindrance, but you still make your way dodging deep puddles that have accumulated at every curb.  You can’t believe that all this rain didn’t cut the humidity. 
You enter the establishment with wet hair and soggy shoes, but your friend is at the bar ordering drinks and you scurry over to partake.  The first Cosmo slides down too easily.  You are still hot, but now a feeling of calm has taken over.  In fact, you and your friend feel a bit giggly.  The jazz that is blaring from the stage has a relaxing effect on you.  You have timed the finishing of your drink with the end of the song perfectly.  You are having thoughts of ordering another when the lead saxophone player grabs the microphone and asks if there are any “Bix Beiderbecke fans” in the room.  You jump up enthusiastically shouting, “Yes!”  Of course you are a “big Spiderman fan.”  It isn’t until they start playing again that you question what this has to do with Spiderman.  Maybe a second Cosmo isn’t in the cards.  In fact, that first one has hit you harder than usual.  Your friend agrees that you are both a bit dehydrated and tipsy.  However, the thought of the long, stifling trip home has you both downing another.  Hey, this is New York.  You can always catch an air conditioned taxi!     
**Tip of the week:
When it is over 90 degrees outside, carry a bottle of water, handkerchief and an umbrella…er…at least have cash on hand to buy one.  Good news: you can consume half the amount of alcohol to achieve the same affect.  Bad news: you will feel as sticky as your drink.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Taxicab Etiquette

First of all, let's set the scene.  Hot, muggy and late for a brunch with the girls... you know the drill:  flying off the front stoop of your building, hustling to the nearest main cross streets while frantically waving your arm at any large and yellow fast moving object, not bothering to check if the taxi number light is on before darting into traffic for a more aggressive approach...

That was me just a few days ago.  Only this time as I was getting into the cab that stopped for me, I heard the most incredulous statement.  A guy that was crossing the street from the opposite corner to mine was saying to someone on his phone, "it's not fair, I have been standing out here for 20 minutes!"

Let's forget for a moment that someone from New York had just said, "It’s not fair."  The part that grabbed my attention was the second half of his complaint.  Did I really just steal someone's cab?  Was it possible that I was so caught up in panicking about being late that I committed one of the most infamous taboos?  All I could think of in response to my own questions was "yes, finally!"

Before you find me harsh and unreasonable, you should know that my usual scenario when running late consists more along the following lines. 

1) Standing at the nearest intersection of a series of one-way streets;
2) scanning the oncoming traffic for the first available cab;
3) raising my arm to hail it from blocks away;
3) watching the driver of the vehicle noticing my summons and start to merge to my side of the curb;
4) recognizing the familiar smile on the cabbie's face as he eagerly pulls over to collect his next fare; and
5) blankly staring as the cab stops short by a few meters and has its door tugged open by some arm that doesn't belong to me.

Road rage has nothing on the feeling of getting a taxi swiped out from under you by a newcomer that is usually on a cell phone chatting and laughing away.  You tell yourself that the next one is yours and you feel pretty confident about it.  That is until you notice that the guy that turned up a few minutes ago and was waiting patiently behind you just crossed the street ahead of you and has his eye on the next beacon of light.  Before you can get your glare on, another woman has just entered the intersection from the other side and is angling herself a few meters ahead of the cross street.

While you are weighing the odds of getting a cab before the next stampede of people hit, you squint against the sun to see the worst bully of all.  The tourist with a suitcase!  No matter where they position themselves, any taxi within a 2 block radius will be crashing into each other to pick up this cash cow.  An airport run is branded as the ultimate tag.  With a heavy sigh and thoughts of bringing an empty suitcase with you next time, you tread off to the following intersection hoping the next roundup will include you.

Now, when we are idly standing on the escalator, we keep to the right so traffic can still flow unhindered to the left.  When we are waiting in line at a counter, no one tries to cut in.  And even when we hear someone approaching the elevator doors as they are closing, we press the button to keep them open.  Why is it we have no etiquette when it comes to hailing a cab?  And what would it involve to implement taxicab etiquette?

**Tip of the week:
During summer months, try to hail cabs with their windows rolled up.  They are more likely to have working air conditioning and/or drivers willing to utilize their a/c.  Although, keep in mind that they must turn on the a/c upon request.