31 March 2016

Starbucks and Technology Ruined My Social Life

"Coffee, she'd discovered, was tied to all sorts of memories, different for each person. Sunday mornings, friendly get-togethers, a favorite grandfather long since gone, the AA meeting that saved their life. Coffee meant something to people. Most found their lives were miserable without it. Coffee was a lot like love that way. And because Rachel believed in love, she believed in coffee, too.” ~ Sarah Addison Allen, The Peach Keeper
When I lived in DC about twenty years ago, one of my favorite things to do in the afternoon was to visit the Starbucks cafe across the street from my office. It was a great afternoon treat. It gave me the opportunity to get a little break from work, and because I was there so frequently, I became a "regular" and was friendly with the baristas.  

In those days, there were no such thing as the rewards program, and there was no ability to place your drink order from your mobile phone. In fact, mobile phones those days were limited to actually talking on the phone, much less internet equipped. As such, in order to get a cup of coffee, one had to actually stand in line and wait their turn.  

Starbucks was just gaining their popularity back then, and the wait was usually long. But we didn't mind because the regulars like myself would stand and chat with the other regulars and the baristas. After awhile, the best part about going to Starbucks wasn't actually getting the coffee drink in hand. Instead, the highlight of my daily trip to get coffee was meeting up with the other regulars and the baristas and sharing stories of our day. They became my "coffee friends", my "Starbucks friends" and getting coffee became a much anticipated afternoon routine. Coffee never tasted better.     

Somewhere along the way, people became too busy to stop and get coffee. Instead, getting coffee turned into something akin to getting food at a fast-food drive-through. Or, it involved booking a coffee date with a friend weeks in advance. Gone were the days of picking up the phone and calling to tell your friend "meet me at Starbucks in ten minutes."

As the lines got shorter and the service got faster, the opportunities to make friends became less and less. People are in a hurry to get their coffee, and no one has time for chitchat. If you take too long and chat with the barista, you hear the people behind you huffing and puffing passive-aggressively to let you know that you are taking up their valuable time.   

Welcome to the era of everyone wanting instant gratification.

In late September 2015, Starbucks introduced Mobile Order & Pay. Customers were now able to order their favorite drink, select the preferred location, pay for their order in advance, and come to the store and have their drink ready and waiting for them. No long wait in line. No chatting with any of the other customers or the baristas. In and out.

Starbucks and modern technology have ruined my social life. I no longer have co-regulars at Starbucks. How can I, when everyone is in and out of there within seconds? The baristas aren't even friendly anymore either. Presumably, they look at some computer screen with details of the mobile orders, they prepare said orders, and they call out "mobile order for XYZ." There is no human interaction. There is barely even eye contact.

Yesterday, for the first time, I ordered my coffee from the mobile application. I walked to the designated location, and by the time I arrived, my drink was already there, ready and waiting. I didn't have to talk to anyone. No fuss. No drama.

My coffee was ready in record time. It's a shame though that the experience of getting it so quickly left me unfulfilled and unsatisfied.



29 March 2016

Plans

“New Year - a new chapter, new verse, or just the same old story?  Ultimately we write it.  The choice is ours.” ~ Alex Morritt, Impromptu Scribe
Just a few weeks ago I was complaining that I had not traveled anywhere in almost two years.  Now I have three trips planned for this year, with one already booked and confirmed. 

Next month, G and I are going to Los Angeles for a few days to visit a cousin of mine who recently lost her husband.  She is now a widowed mother of three young sons.  We are flying out west to give our moral support.  I also want to show G where I had spent some of my childhood.  Although I am now very much of an East Coast girl, my roots are actually West Coast.  Once upon a time, I was a California girl.

In the summer, the plan is for G to spend her break in the Philippines.  She and I will fly there at the end of June.  I will stay for about ten days, and she will come back in August with my mom.  Before she returns, I plan to vacation child-free and by myself to Greece and maybe spend a few days in Italy to visit old friends.

Money and time are still tight, but sacrifices can be made and adjustments can be arranged.  I have to do what I can to make things work.

I deserve this. 

23 March 2016

Afraid for our Future

“Motherhood is a choice you make everyday, to put someone else's happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you're not sure what the right thing is...and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.” ~ Donna Ball, At Home on Ladybug Farm
G and I have been having some tough days.  She turned nine three weeks ago, but she's already been exhibiting signs of spoiled teenager-itis.  My patience is thin when it comes to juvenile tantrums, and so she and I have been flexing our respective guns.  I was raised in a very strict Asian upbringing, and so I refuse to let her "win."  She, by my parent's definition, is completely American and lacks all the submissive qualities that are typical in Asian children.  In one sense, I am happy that she is headstrong and determined, but in other ways, I am disappointed that she has elected to direct her rebellious ways towards me.

Yesterday morning, she and I had a heated argument.  I feel weird calling it an argument since she is only nine years old, but there it is.  We were in the car on the way to her school, and she was upset that I had bothered her about eating breakfast.  "You are soooo strict," she whined.  "All the other kids don't have their mothers bothering them about breakfast."

"I would consider myself so lucky if I had even one person bothering me to eat something," I answered. "I could starve and no one would care to even ask me if I wanted anything to eat.  I feel sorry for those kids whose parents don't bother them to eat.  I am sure they would be happy for a mother like me who will feed them all the time."

In typical tweeny fashion, she just rolled her eyes in response.  I would have let it go at that, but unfortunately, she continued.  "You are soooo annoying," she said.  "None of the other kids eat breakfast either and their parents don't care."

Because she continued, and because her attitude was crass and disrespectful, I got angry.  Furious, even.  I ripped into her by telling her how ungrateful and disrespectful she was to speak to me in that way, and that maybe if she was so unhappy with me, that she could go live with her drunk of a biological father as he would with all certainty not care if she ate breakfast or not.  Perhaps, in retrospect, I should not have said that, but what can I say - I was angry.  She, of course, started crying as she got out of the car to go into the school, but not before slamming the car door with all her strength.

I drove away, seething, but forgot about everything as I boarded the train to head into work.

A little while later, my mobile phone rings.  It is the school psychologist.  "Your daughter was very upset this morning and she was crying.  When the teacher asked her what was wrong, she said 'my mom told me not to tell.'  Did something happen this morning?"  His tone is questioning.  Accusatory.

I felt insulted.  It may not have been, but I felt as though he was judging me on my parenting skills.  "Did something happen?"  "What happened was that my daughter was being a disrespectful brat, and I verbally put her in her place.  She got upset and started crying."

He paused before replying. "Well, when kids come to the school visibly upset, we have to ask, in case of...."  I stopped him before he could finish.

"My daughter and I had a mother-daughter talk, and unfortunately, she got upset.  Nothing happened.  Thank you for your concern."

While my parents used to smack us on the back of our heads whenever we were being bad, I cannot even talk harshly to my kid now lest I be investigated for child abuse.

I am afraid for our future.  I feel as though we are raising our future generations to be wimpy, disrespectful and unafraid of authority.

17 March 2016

Empty Handed

“It was not the feeling of completeness I so needed, but the feeling of not being empty.” ~ Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything Is Illuminated
I dreamt I was taking a trip to the Philippines.  I had left work with my friend, L, and we got on the train to head to the airport.  There was a pit-stop to eat at my work cafeteria.  We had to exit the train and leave our bags on the patches of grass outside of the building.  I remembered that I had two bags when I first boarded the train, but when I got off, I only had one.  I was upset I had lost one bag, so I told L to go ahead to the cafeteria and that I would catch up with her once I found my missing bag.  I backtracked on foot, while still carrying the one bag that I had left, and looked down on the patches of grass for my missing bag.  I could not find it, so I decided to head back to where the train originally dropped us off.  I was agitated that I lost my other bag, but was grateful anyway that at least I had the one bag.  My shoulders felt heavy though, and so I decided to put down the bag that I was carrying.  I was horrified to find out that the bag that I was carrying was not even my bag, but was instead a sort of backpack child seat.  I collapsed on the ground, crying for my two missing bags, and for the empty child seat.

09 March 2016

Excretion

“We all have secret lives. The life of excretion; the world of inappropriate sexual fantasies; our real hopes, our terror of death; our experience of shame; the world of pain; and our dreams. No one else knows these lives. Consciousness is solitary. Each person lives in that bubble universe that rests under the skull, alone.” ~ Kim Stanley Robinson, Galileo's Dream
Yesterday, G woke up in a pool of blood that had oozed from her nose.  After a few minutes, we were able to stop her nosebleed, but I let her stay home from school as she felt a little warm when I touched her forehead and she also said she had a headache.

She napped for part of the day, and after doing some light housework, I also felt like taking a nap.  I laid on the couch and fell asleep in front of the television.  I had a fitful nap and dreamt of having horrible stomach pains and of going to the bathroom to try to relieve myself.  For some reason, I was not able to excrete and I was feeling very uncomfortable.  When I woke up from my nap, my stomach was still aching.

Dream interpreters say, "...dreams that include constipation often have to do with openness and communication or else the lack of openness and communication currently in your life. If you experience constipation within your dream then this indicates that you have shown some distance with others. It is important to understand when you should be more open with others. The most significant factor of this dream is that you need to be more comfortable with other people, in order to better communicate with others."  Some also say that it "suggests that you are unwilling to let go of your old behavior, and forgive and forget with others. You need to stop dwelling in the past," while others say it is an inability "to get emotional relief from the problems one has mentally digested."    

I am aware of my areas of weakness.  I know that I hold onto things from the past, and I know that I have problems communicating with people.  I suppose that for me, the act of letting go has been a lifelong struggle, and my issues surrounding that have culminated in my inability to effectively communicate with other people to a point where all my relationships are strained and the lines of communication are blocked and uncomfortable.

01 March 2016

Over Him

"Your head's like mine, like all our heads; big enough to contain every god and devil there ever was. Big enough to hold the weight of oceans and the turning stars. Whole universes fit in there! But what do we choose to keep in this miraculous cabinet? Little broken things, sad trinkets that we play with over and over. The world turns our key and we play the same little tune again and again and we think that tune's all we are.” ~ Grant Morrison, The Invisibles, Vol. 1: Say You Want a Revolution
Relationships do not just end at the exact moment of a break-up.  Whether it is one person moving out, or whether there are words spoken between the parties signifying the end of the commitment, the real end of the relationship happens when you stop feeling for that person.

I did end our relationship when I found out.  I was hurt, angry and devastated. But I was also forgiving.  I was not ready to just let go of my dreams or my love for him.  We were living together, and we were sharing a life together.  I let my feelings for him, my love for him, override his acts of betrayal against me.       

And with my progress towards forgiveness, I let him back into my thoughts, my heart, and my life. We were not together in the conventional sense of being in a relationship, but we were together in how I viewed him and how he was a main figure in my current life.  

Over time, we had managed to maintain a very civil friendship.  He was there for me whenever I needed anything, and similarly, I was there for him whenever he was in a bind.  But underneath that friendship was a very strong desire to rekindle the love and the relationship that we once shared.

When he first moved out, I never took down any of the photos that I had of him that were displayed in various shelves around the house.  Aside from his belongings that he took with him when he moved, I kept most everything in the house the way that they were while he was still living there.  I even still slept on my side of the bed even though I now had the entire bed to myself to spread out.  It was not intentional -- I mindlessly just kept things as they were -- maybe an unconscious desire to preserve the life that we had together before the betrayal.    

I used to look at his pictures and feel surges of emotion, ranging from explosive anger, deep hurt, to gentle love.  I had little trinkets, reminders of him, lurking everywhere in the house.  There was the little neck pillow he bought from our trip to the Philippines together, the 9/11 memorial statue on the corner table that was his and was a reminder of the fallen World Trade Center Towers and the firefighters that held up the United States Flag amid the ruins, the ceramic of the iconic NYC coffee cup that he gave me, the paintings on the walls that he bought when we first moved in together... so many objects that tell stories of our life together.

Yesterday, I saw more reminders of him around the house.  Unhappy reminders.  I saw the chipped wooden blind that was damaged during one of our fights when he flung the car keys towards the window.  I saw the dent in the bedroom door from when I slammed the door in his face, and he tried to push it open with his shoulder.  I saw the folder of medical papers from when I was undergoing fertility treatments.  Reminders of not so happy moments.  

It was only just yesterday that I realized that my relationship with him is truly over.  It is over because I no longer hold on to the good moments that we shared together, but instead can look back at it with a clear set of eyes and also see that life with him was far from perfect.  In fact, if I look really closely, and if the walls could talk, the stories of bad times would outweigh the stories of good times.

This weekend, I will do some Spring cleaning and rearranging.  It is time to reclaim my space.