Saturday, October 21, 2006

Am I bothering you?

Lately I have been taking pictures of strangers in public places (check it out). Some people call them candids or streetshots. Some other people call them voyeuristic and creepy. There's no law against it or anything and no one has come up to me to say hey knock it off except for when I do it in certain commercial establishments with rules against this sort of thing. Shopping malls, Pottery Barn Kids, Barnes & Noble, Whole Foods. I look the person in the eye when they tell me I can't take pictures and say, "I'm sorry, I didn't know you had that policy." Note that the person telling me not to take pictures is not a person whose picture am I trying to take. And these policies aren't to protect customers from being surreptitiously recorded. The commercial spaces themselves do that with video cameras hanging from the ceiling. These policies apparently are supposed to protect businesses from spying by competitors. That kind of cracks me up. Also, since there are now all kinds of cameras that don't look like cameras in people's blueberries and phones and spyrings, there's all kinds of picture-taking going on that the bosses can't do much about. My sense is that eventually these policies will be so unenforceable as to be withdrawn, but who knows.

There are some other things I do that I know technically aren't nice or right. When someone in a car behind me seems to be in a hurry I like to slow down to piss them off. I would never do this in the passing lane of the interstate or even on a main road, but on quiet residential streets where the limit is 25 or 30 I do it all the time. It gives me so much pleasure, and people trying to go 40 on these streets should slow down anyway.

Also, in bookstores, at the magazine rack, when an issue of a magazine I want to browse through is wrapped in plastic, I go into a quiet corner and tear off the wrapping so that I can check out what I want to see without paying for the magazine. I know that this means they're not likely to sell the issue, but so what? It's like a store giving free samples. Every store should give you samples of things you might want to buy if it's feasible to do so, and the fact that bookstores are organized so that you can read the books, with comfy chairs or a cafe where you do just that, makes these establishments the very epitome of the free samples environment. The plastic-wrapped magazine violates the spirit of the bookstore so I don't mind tearing it off.

And then there is table etiquette. It's often seen as boorish to eat with your hands, but the hands are such excellent utensils. Take sushi. The term "nigiri" itself means hand (referring to how the clumps of rice are formed, I believe) and this tells me that sushi are finger food. I like chopsticks just fine, especially for eating noodles. But they are nowhere near as effective when it comes to eating sushi (or dumplings for that matter). And when taking from a communal dish many Emily Gilmore types would look askance at someone extending their naked fingers, but if they are clean why not? The cooks used their hands in preparing the food. Have you ever seen a sushi chef waving a pair of tongs around?

Similarly, on Top Chef once I saw a cook get kicked off for dipping his finger into a pot to taste something. Tom Colicchio was all huffy about it, like he's the only one standing between civilization and an onslaught of unsanitary barbarians. But I take it that finger-tasting is not unusual behavior in many professional kitchens. I do it all the time myself. What gives? If the food in the pot is at a high simmer or a boil, any bacteria on the finger (or spoon) will be killed.

Finally, for the sake of balance and fairness, here are some things that do bother me:
-the phrase "x is the new y," as in this article on $40 restaurant entrees: "Forty is the new 30." Please everyone stop. Also, why the hell does the Times write out "forty" but not "30"?
-the term "sucks." There is no less interesting thing to say about something than that it sucks. (sucks, suck)
-people who don't know how to use apostrophes. I'm grading papers this weekend, can you tell?
-TV lovers' enthusiasm for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. (for instance)
-the proposed amendment to my state's constitution that would ban gay marriage and civil unions. (more)

And you?


Blogger zoe p. said...

I'm so glad you asked.

"When someone in a car behind me seems to be in a hurry I like to slow down to piss them off. [...] on quiet residential streets where the limit is 25 or 30 I do it all the time. It gives me so much pleasure, and people trying to go 40 on these streets should slow down anyway."

I do this all the time too. I've been known to yell merrily, "I hope you hit a kid!"

I should have blog called "Fights in Pulbic" because I am almost always in one. Verbal fights, I mean.

7:31 PM  
Blogger Pyewacket said...

Ooh, I can answer the "forty" versus 30 question. You always write out a number if it starts a sentence.

As for the pictures, I hate having my picture taken, so I would happily ban all small cameras. If we could go back to those nice, enormous 19th century cameras, so easy to notice, so easily avoided, I would not live in perpetual fear of having my soul stolen.

I love eating with my fingers. Have you read John Thorne's Outlaw Cook? He talks about how people used to eat spaghetti with their fingers, and that sounds very appealing. I've never done it, though. But when I bring home take-out sushi and I'm all alone, I don't bother with chopsticks.

3:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am bothered by people that defend Jan Pieter Balkenende, the former Minister President of the Netherlands. The extreme right wing Christian Democrat (and his party) was elected TWICE in elections in which 78% of the Dutch population voted.

Today I discovered that I actually know some people that are planning on voting left of centre in the upcoming election. This doesn't just BOTHER me, I find it deeply and painfully, heartwrenchingly disturbing.

I am also equally bothered and deeply distrubed by people that are planning on voting on Mark Rutte.

I know that you and your readers are not familiar with the details of Dutch politics, but you asked what was bothering us, and this is what is bothering me right now.

6:29 PM  
Blogger V'ron said...

"Awesome" as an adjective. I'm sorry, but that pizza you had last night from DeMarini's was not awesome. As DeMarini's consistently puts out good pizzas, it is NOT awe-inspiring that they did so tonight. It was simply good. I'm sorry, but the fact that I can give you a ride home instead of you having to wait for the bus is not AWESOME. It is simply convenient and worthy of a heartfelt, "Thank you. That's nice of you."

Autumn sunsets in West Virginia are awesome. Sightings of the Virgin Mary are awesome. Childbirth is awesome. Tommy Lee Jones' performance in Coal Miner's Daughter was NOT awesome -- it was simply Oscar-worthy. But I was not jaw-droppingly speechless, in awe, over it.

I will blog this in detail further. But that's the thing driving me nuts these days. Awesome.

9:29 AM  
Blogger Rosa said...

i also like to take pictures of people i don't know, and some of my favorite pictures of japan are of pedestrians in crosswalks. i don't think most people pay the least bit of attention--but if i saw someone surreptitiously take my picture, i'd be either pissed off or amused. (and it did happen in tokyo!)

i also slow down for fast drivers!

you didn't know that "forty" thing and you're grading papers?? shame!

5:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those are seriously some of the best Milwaukee pics I've seen recently.

What bothers me lately:
-the amendment you mentioned
-Tom Reynolds
-having to scrape tons of frost off my car every morning, making me late for work
-Courtny Gerrish on WTMJ
-those inflatable 'snow globe' things that people have on their lawns for Halloween and are bloody ugly

11:49 PM  
Blogger Vanessa said...

Ah, you must be my evil twin. I too love to take pictures of people. I do the drive slow on residential streets just to foil those who won't otherwise do so. The only thing worse than Studio 60 is Brothers and Sisters. As for those inflatable lawn ornaments...I have an inexplicable urge to set them on fire.

10:15 AM  
Blogger mzn said...

Vanessa, perhaps you are the evil twin and I am the good twin?

I wanted so badly to like Brothers and Sisters but it is godawful.

There's a "Save Studio 60" website trying to organize a netroots campaign. If I had extra spare time (!) I would start a "Kill Studio 60" website to foil those tasteless m*f*ers.

11:21 AM  

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