27 January 2014

hashtag, eavesdropping

It was one of those to-do list Saturdays—a day when I had scribbled a few thoughts for the day down on a little piece of paper with a very bold THINGS TO DO printed at the top. Maybe it was the boldness of that declaration or the bright sunniness of the day {January sun makes Midwesterners feel that they could take on the world}, but the more things I crossed off the list, the more things I added to it. My little piece of paper was covered front to back, and it was only 10:45.

Sitting in the parking lot at Target, I crossed off such exciting accomplishments as:
  • Buy kitchen towels
  • Get a haircut {actually, this one is for-real exciting, not sarcastic exciting: scalp massage and someone to tell you you look pretty. That is one perfect way to spend from 9 to 10 on a Saturday morning.}
  • Go to the dry cleaners

And then I realized that if I wanted to accomplish what was next on the list—run at the gym—I would need to add something to the list: Eat.

To-do lists, as a side note, should always include what you think of as obvious tasks. Then you get the benefit of crossing yet another thing off {you're so accomplished!}, plus you don't forget to make time for obvious things, like food.

I know, considering how much I talk about food, you're probably surprised that I would ever forget about it, but there were kitchen towels to buy and baseboards to be dusted; I can really lose myself in the face of a promising day of productivity.

Food. Yes. I needed some of that so that I could go burn it off on the treadmill. I added "Eat" to the list, and went to what I saw as the least bad of my options in the area: Einstein's Bagels.

Now, I'm not saying a thing against Einstein's. I'm just saying that given the option, I will always imagine myself in a local, quaint cafe, one that has a soupcon of France in it, and one where I could read an Elizabeth Gaskell novel in a paisley armchair or write things where soupcon seems like a natural word to use.

That dream cafe was nowhere near me, probably because it is a dream, and I do enjoy a good bagel sandwich. I was sure that the atmosphere at Einstein's—breezy brunch—would match well with the book I'd brought to read {no Elizabeth Gaskell; it was the biography of PL Travers, the woman who wrote Mary Poppins}, and besides, I was just using it as a means to crossing something else off my to-do list.

I sat at a corner table next to a group of older people—like, in their 70s or 80s old—who had pushed together 4 little tables to make one big table.

I immediately began making up stories about them, mostly involving how they'd been friends since elementary school and how they'd been meeting up for brunch for the past 25 years and how they'd just decided to try this Einstein's the other month because who doesn't like a good bagel?

But my stories were no match for their actual conversation, which went like this:

Older Guy Who Looks like Jack Lemmon: Does anyone here understand hashtags? I know they're used on Twitter and Facebook, but why?

Another Guy, Who Is Wearing a Sweatshirt from the Grand Canyon, One that He Probably Bought in 1983: I can't figure out if they're used to say something you want to draw attention to, but you don't want to come right out and say it. You look at some of them, they're practically secret messages, all those run together letters.

A Woman in a Sweater Vest: I think they're fine on Twitter—yes, I tweet—but what I don't understand is when they're used in conversation. As in: "Hashtag, I like this coffee."

Jack Lemmon: Hashtag, I do, too. And hashtag, free refills.

Sweater Vest: See? We could just communicate on Twitter right now in our hashtags! Maybe this is a sign that computers are taking over the world and language is breaking down.

[Much laughter, which isn't the normal response when pondering the effect of computers and social media on our language. Then again, these people were old, so I thought that if they could chortle at that, maybe the rest of us shouldn't be so worried about it.]

Grand Canyon: Well, I just have to say: "Hashtag, I don't understand hashtags."

And then, throughout the rest of their conversation, they would randomly insert hashtags.

"Hashtag, going to be cold on Monday."

"Hashtag, I'm going to get some more coffee. Does anyone need anything?"

"Hashtag, I still can't believe you tweet. What do you have to say?"

This is wonderful, I thought to myself, all thoughts of reading about Mary Poppins pushed aside. I want to join in their conversation with something witty, but I'm scared I would blurt out, "Hashtag, I love you all." Or worse: they might ask me to explain hashtags because I'm young, and I don't want to admit to them that I never use them. Hashtag, not cool.

I lingered in that Einstein's for longer than I needed to, just to see what else those old people would say. They discussed Syria {no hashtag silliness there}, the Grammys, movies they would like to see, and what they're reading.

As I left, I thought 2 things:
  1. Please, dear Lord, let me be that in-the-know when I'm their age.
  2. I'm totally adding "eavesdrop" to my to-do list and crossing it off.
Hashtag, best Saturday of 2014 so far.

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