Monday, February 4, 2008

Paying Attention.

Ah, Monday after the Super Bowl. There's always a certain feeling of loss and the passage of time after the Super Bowl is over; this has been something that I've noticed since I was a teenager, and even though I haven't really cared about any teams that have played in the Super Bowl since I can remember (I was really pulling for the '85 Bears because Jim McMahon wore Oakley Razors and there was a guy named Refrigerator on the team. Also, I was seven). I suppose that, even if I'm not even close to being emotionally invested in either team playing, I always jump at the opportunity to kill some brain cells, and the Super Bowl is an excellent reason, right up there with the NBA finals, St. Patrick's Day, and the passage of another Friday afternoon.

That being said, there are consequences to the actions that we take, and I do make an effort these days to avoid being hung over at work, and if anybody reading this ever worked with me for Kaman's, you'll know that this is a relatively new concept for me, and I hope you're proud. I had sort of an epiphany a couple of years ago, when I had to fake a phone call from my brother at the first KAS @ King's Island 2006 management meeting to go to the secret bathroom behind the Fudge shop to throw up. Sure, I'm Irish, and sure, it was the morning after St. Patrick's Day, and sure, tequila and Jager have nothing to do with Ireland or driving snakes out of Ireland, but I felt insurmountably guilty about it. And yes, I missed ten good minutes of a team-building exercise where your biggest enemies are the weight of a tennis ball and the structural integrity of a garbage bag, and yes, I and everyone else on my team had done this same exercise at least four times in previous years. It doesn't make any difference, because I'm not Jim Morrison and I shouldn't drink like him when I know I'm going to have to give a short presentation about the interesting idiosyncrasies that accompany handling guest complaints from rednecks the next morning. I digress.

So, I kept myself in check for the most part last night, but helping my girlfriend move this weekend and the constant, slow ingestion of beer that accompanies any move took more of a toll than I expected, so I was moving a little slow when I got to work this morning. I decided to take out the garbage while I was waiting for the caffeine in my coffee to kick in, and on my way back from the dumpster, a Buick Century pulled up to me. The window rolled down to reveal some kid with a chinstrap beard and giant zirconium earrings, and a guy in the driver's seat that looked like he was probably his dad. The kid asked,

"Hey man, do you know if there are any lawyers around here?"

I replied that I was pretty sure that there was one on the corner, but that I didn't know what kind of law he/she practiced. He said thanks, and they went on their way. On the rest of the way back to my office, I looked at the other doors in the office condo complex, and sure enough, a full 90% of them had placards right next to the door that had names followed by "Attorney at Law." So, this kid's question struck me as being odd for two reasons:

Reason #1: If you have some sort of run-in with the law, I'm not sure that making your dad drive you around until you happen to find an office with a lawyer in it is the best method of securing defense for your case. When I'm cooking spaghetti and find out that I need to buy sauce for it, I don't wander door to door in my neighborhood, assuming that the odds of eventually ending up in the International Foods aisle at the grocery store are in my favor. It isn't hard to find lawyers. You can use the internet. You can open a phone book. You can even sit on the couch and watch World's Strongest Man reruns until a poorly edited television commercial featuring a lawyer pops up. The lawyer is the one who isn't a Scandinavian giant with a semi-truck tied to his ass.  

Reason #2: I work in an office complex where I'm one of the ten people who actually aren't lawyers, and reading the signs next to the door will a) tell you which of the people that aren't me are lawyers, and b) save you the trouble of admitting to me, a complete asshole stranger, that you've done something stupid requiring the services of a non state-appointed lawyer. I know that the word "attorney" is confusing because it doesn't specify what the occupant is an attorney of. Oh, wait, I forgot that all attorneys are attorneys at law. Guess that fires that reason out the window.

This situation, like pretty much everything else I come across in life these days, is perfectly exemplified by the sociological microcosm that is the modern amusement park. I realize that people don't come to amusement parks to read and/or pay attention, but as I, as stated above, was usually fighting off the diuretic effects of alcohol from the previous night, I probably didn't show the patience with the American public that I could have, and therefore was less tolerant when they said or did something idiotic in front of me, which was about once every ten minutes. When you're making rounds on International Street and someone asks you where the Eiffel Tower is, and you don't really have a choice but to say, "Uh, it's the big blue tower dead ahead that's shaped like the Eiffel Tower. You can look at it on the map that you're already staring at right now, and that tower that you're pointing directly to is actually a fairly accurate drawing of the tower right in front of you," you start losing faith in your fellow man. When you're busy trying to fix an exploded cash register at an Airbrushed Tattoo stand, and someone is pointing straight to the sign that says "Temporary Tattoos" and asks you if they're permanent, you're going to reluctantly chalk up another negative point for Social Darwinism. When you're sitting at an easel at a caricature stand covered with pictures of caricature sketches, and you're drawing a caricature of a person sitting in front of you, directly underneath a sign that has more pictures of caricatures with their prices next to them, and someone asks you if you sell ice cream--you get the point.

People are developing shorter and shorter attention spans, and I'm not sure I want to live in a world where every sign is a pictogram with an arrow pointing in a direction that you can find the crudely drawn action in question. Maybe it's early exposure to television and internet browsing, like the psychologists on TV and the internet say. Maybe getting by in society is getting to be too easy because the lowest common denominator keeps accidentally driving off of cliffs because they don't know what the squiggly arrow on the yellow sign means. Maybe it's because people assume that they can maintain the same ignorance of the world around them as the self-absorbed idiots on reality television shows. Maybe I'm the idiot because people have always been like this, and not only do I not know any better, I actually behave in the same manner and fail to recognize it. Maybe.

But then again, maybe people have to look around and find things without assistance once in a while. We can only hold each other's hands for so long before no one knows how to read anymore.

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