Wednesday, September 03, 2008

tell me what to do

I thought maybe I needed a number two, but apparently it was just a blog post rumbling up from beneath. Here it is:

I had dinner last night at the brilliant Paddyfields in Balham with my accomplice in eating stuff, Wrisley. After ordering, we were brought a complimentary dish we hadn't asked for. Our first starter arrived moments later.

"Eat that first. Then eat that." We were told.
So we did.
Then our second starter arrived.
"That first. Then that one. Then that one." Our waiter continued. "That's hot. That's cold."

We did what he said. He was right. It was good.

It reminded me how much fun it was to be told what to do by someone that knows what they're talking about. In terms of food, it frees you from your role as customer and turns you into a pupil. Suddenly you're not just eating, you're learning and you're really tasting.

It reminded me of a guy I work with, Dogg (yes, you read that correctly). He takes part in some kind of military training where an army guy stands on his head and screams at him (amongst other things I hope).

And my old boss, who used to have squash 'lessons' in which his 'instructor' screamed things like "faster you fat cunt" as he shuffled around the court. It was somewhere between a squash lesson and visiting a dominatrix.

Rules are great. Life is boring when we can do anything. So many apps, services, social networks and so on rush around to let us do as much as possible in whichever ways we like.

There are two sides to this (I think - I'm very tired):

1. Relinquishing control means relinquishing responsibility - it frees us to behave in ways we wouldn't normally
2. Being told how to do stuff changes the experience - we're no longer prodding and poking at things in our own way; we're learning and broadening our outlook

What if a community network demanded that you introduce yourself to another member you don't know. Or made a rule that on the first day of every month, everyone had to upload a photo. These are not very inspiring first thoughts, but the sentiment is there. If "they made me do it" then it's ok. I wasn't showing off, or being nosey, or desperate. We are all just playing the game.

I see a vague similarity in this thinking to I'm in like with you, which creates an environment that demands certain behaviour. It frees people from the ugly side of dating and says: We make the rules. You can relax.

Enough. I don't even know what I'm saying any more. Why isn't tea as good as coffee at waking people up? Isn't it supposed to have more caffein.

Here's two rules for you:

1. You must add a comment to this post
2. You must use the word 'teapot' in it


Blogger lauren said...

ginger, tea adn chilli in your teapot, you'll wake up pretty quickly...

wow! it works!

great post - it is about relinquishing control. i think an important element of the letting go and changing the experience is intimacy. allowing yourself to be lead by another is a vulnerable and intimate thing to do. given that, perhaps an important aspect to 'being told what to do' is the person involved. you know, IRL, as opposed to URL. you need to have a trust that someone is actually leading, rather than having you on and i don't think the internet as a space/community is quite there in terms of levels of trust - its anonymity creates a gap in that kind of role.

12:08 pm  
Anonymous Andrea said...

Someone I know isn't very pleased with the fact that Britain has become a very 'bossy' country when you're being told what to do most of the time: from minding the gap, posting no bills, committing no nuisance and so on and so forth to signs that read 'when red light shows, stop here' (sounds like a bad redesign of a plain 'STOP' sign).

Even so, I kind of agree with what you said, being told what to do when you don't really know how to experience something (i.e. cooking) can be a lot more rewarding, the fewer things you know on the subject. Like, say, Japanese cuisine. You'd have to assume that people coming in for some Japanese kind of tapas don't know what order to have their food in so it's nice to have someone tell you how to do things the right way in order to maximise your pleasure.

Rules are great sometimes. Like this article about how rigours of dress codes in advertising have changed from the 'Mad Men' era to our day, when you can wear almost anything you fancy to work as long as it's decent: one guy said he still wears a suit and tie just because he doesn't have to. Rule being there is no rule, he still felt the need to impose some kind of restriction.

I'm on this forum where they did a somewhat similar thing, although not compulsory. There'd be a 'names to faces' thread for each month where users had to post a picture of them, taken (obviously) during that particular month. What happened was that everyone did post on the first days of the month, then they started the threads months in advance (to 'reserve' themselves a place) or posted not one, but three, four, six, God knows how many pictures each time they changed something about their physical appearance.

I'm in like with you is fun, when I finished high school I find it very awkward to make friends with people during university because I realised we stopped spending about 6-7 hours together like we did in school (and I was limited to working as a student so no graduate job for me). Pretty annoying. At the time I didn't necessarily want to bond with people THAT much but at least have something to do with them for more than our 1h lectures and such.

It's a double-edged blade when it comes to (first time) experiences, though. If you don't know the rules you could be discovering something new and interesting just because you have no idea how much the bar is raised, for instance. Or if you do know the rules and can choose to ignore them, you're only doing it on purpose because you know what they want you to do. Whoever they might be.

Or alternatively, there were a few user forums who had made it a rule that every new member should, say, rewrite their own version of a nursery rhyme. A guy won the thread by writing his World of Warcraft interpretation of 'I'm a little teapot, short and stout, this is my handle, this is my spout' - 'I'm a little paladin short and stout, here is my hammer here is my mount, when i get all beat up, watch me shout, use divine shield and hearthstone out.' Then everyone rewrote their own because they felt they weren't original enough.

12:12 pm  
Blogger Andy Whitlock said...

Thanks Lauren. Yeah intimacy is definitely another strand. When it was someone else's instructions it changes the nature of your interactions.

Andrea, I bow at your incorporation of the word teapot. Quite amazing. I too like to wear a suit sometimes. Just because.

I also think it's just nice to have restrictions. Companies go on about enabling you to have everything anytime, anywhere. NYC is the city where you can have everything and yet it was arguably when the city's lights went out that people had their best night ever.

1:07 pm  
Anonymous kayt said...

i wonder if that is why pple end up looking back on the ol' school days with such nostalgia, the simple joy of being told what to do and not having to make the prufrock do-i-dare-disturb-the-universe decisions.

ps ummmm teapots make lovely hats.

1:53 pm  
Blogger Gavin Heaton said...

When you are led by an experience you are invited into another person's world. Think going to Japan and taking a tea ceremony. There is no way that you will choose a teabag over the teapot. It is just not done.

Where brands come in ... is on that level of trust. Those brands that gain our trust will be given permission to lead. The rest? Well they'll be ignored.

8:05 am  
Blogger KMY said...

The smell of coffee kick starts me before the caffeine even hits, there is a lot more chemical interaction going on in there than in your teapot*.

Interestingly the best meal I had in a restaurant was when we asked the chef to send out what he felt like.

*all though tea has all sorts of wierd things going on too.

8:48 pm  
OpenID davidgillespie said...

Gav that's an interesting idea - we're not so much willing to be lead as giving permission to lead, it's a subtle but important distinction.

(I should at this stage point out if you're friends with Gavin on Twitter, you'll agree that he looks like the kind of man who would steal things. Teapots, your wife etc. You've been warned!)

1:14 pm  
Blogger Andy Whitlock said...

excellent tea-potting everyone. keep up the good work.

1:36 pm  

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