Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Event

I was reading an article a few days ago about how the Super Bowl has become so much of an event, that the drama and production and all-around hoopla that surrounds it has actually overshadowed the game itself. I’m not a huge sports fan myself so I thought it was just me who in years past found myself more interested in the commercials than the actual game, but it seems I’m not the only one.

In fact, the Monday morning after the big game it seemed my fellow employees were much more interested in discussing which commercial they thought was best (the kid in the Darth Vader costume starting the Volkswagen with his ‘force’ powers seemed to be a big hit) along with how they enjoyed the half-time show or how they were shocked to see Slash rise up out of the stage to join the Black Eyed Peas on a rendition of the Guns N’ Roses hit Sweet Child O’ Mine.

Through all of that, the actual discussion of the game encompassed all of about three minutes. There were some comments about how it was closer than it should have been and a few comments about specific plays etc, but the discussion about the non-game events of the Super Bowl were far more abundant which is amazing considering I sit near three or four people who are very interested in sports including one who is a referee and another who is a coach.
This all got me thinking… is it really just the Super Bowl that suffers from this overshadowing issue? I don’t think that is the case and I actually think that our society has become so obsessed with the glitz and glamour of our big (and even not-so-big) events these days that we don’t have much time to actually pay attention to the core event itself.

Case in point, I can’t tell you a single one of the teams who made the finals or semifinals in this year’s World Cup, but I can tell you that the number one subject of conversation surrounding the World Cup itself wasn’t the game, but rather the usage (and perhaps abuse) of those rather annoying vuvuzelas. This actually may have something to do with the fact that I’m an American and thus by default I don’t really care about the game of Soccer or FIFA, but I can’t say for sure.

Truth be told I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that 97.6% of the American public thinks FIFA is an Italian automobile manufacturer, because that would almost make more sense to me. I'm not even sure what FIFA stands for and the only athlete in the sport that I could cite by memory is David Beckham... but that has more to do with his frequent appearances on the cover of supermarket tabloids and his marriage to a former Spice Girl.

All of that aside, even months after the World Cup itself if someone decides to talk about the event I can almost guarantee it has something to do with events outside of the actual games whether it be the actions of a star player off the field, or how a sanctioning body for some other major sport has decided to ban vuvuzelas from the stadiums.

This phenomenon isn’t just related to sports either. Just look at any major awards show on television from the Grammys to the Oscars to the MTV Movie awards… rarely do we remember who was nominated for an award or who even won, but we will probably remember if someone had a “wardrobe malfunction” or if someone decided to walk the red carpet wearing something that resembles a neon trash bag covered in rhinestones, or if someone bungled a speech or tripped on their way to the podium. We will also hear about the events that transpire backstage and read reports of what celebrity was offended that they didn’t win or who showed up to an after-show party and what they had to drink or who they were holding hands with.

So what is it with our society that is so infatuated with the whole experience rather than simply the main event? I can’t even fathom what it would be like to listen to a President give a State of the Union speech without someone analyzing how many times he was interrupted by applause or commenting upon the response given by the opposing political party. I can’t imagine attending a local sporting event without seeing the game actually interrupted long enough to toss t-shirts into the crowd or for the cheerleaders to do a little dance, or allowing at least one AC/DC song on the PA system to set the tone for the game itself.

Of course when you look around and notice half the people at any given event are staring at their smartphones or making a trip to the concession stand or engaging in idle chit chat with those around them it starts to become obvious that the “event” is almost a distraction. Perhaps it is to the point where we can no longer be satisfied at focusing our attention on one thing. Maybe we are so used to being tied to technology or being bombarded with information and technology that actually sitting back to relax and enjoy an event simply for the event just won’t do.

That may explain why I notice a lot of people have laptops or tablets near them even while watching television or why people feel the need to have a GPS activated in their vehicle even while making their daily commute to work which they have done hundreds of times before. To some degree it might indicate progress, but I’m not so sure it isn’t actually more reflective of a downward trend that leads to a point where people lose the ability to focus on what is really important or even worse – the ability to focus on anything at all.

Much like many of us require bifocals as we age so that we can see clearly at more than one distance, perhaps we (as a society) are evolving to require more than one stimulus at any given point in order to protect our brains from atrophy. Thus, before someone else suggests the phrase I’m going to profess that I am the first to label this condition as “Witnessed Observable Requisite Multi-Stimuli” or ‘WORMS’. That should be really interesting when someone has to tell some friends that their kid was diagnosed with a bad case of WORMS.

I have no idea if the acronym WORMS is already a trademark… but if not I call dibbs, and we all know calling dibbs is as good as any legal agreement known right?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Dentists and Oreos

Anyone that takes care of their teeth will soon realize a semi-annual trip to the dentist is well worth the trouble.  Just like automobiles, our teeth will last longer and stay in better shape with a little preventative maintenance.

If you wait until your car is smoking and overheated before taking it in for service chances are it is going to cost you a lot more in the end.  Much in the same way if you wait to go to the dentist only after you have a sore tooth or are in extreme pain, it stands to reason not only is it going to cost more and be more painful, but you very well may end up losing some of your teeth in the process.

Therefore, for the vast majority of my life I have visited the dentist twice per year whether I felt I needed it or not.  There was a period in my early 20s where I skipped a few years, but I soon realized what a mistake that was after having to play catch-up for a few years which included numerous cavities being filled, as well as a root canal complete with crown.  After that lesson learned, I now attend my dental appointments religiously* and haven't missed one in years.  
* Perhaps "religiously" isn't an accurate descriptor since I'm unaware of any religion which only requires two visits a year, but I digress.
So what is the point of all this besides me rambling on about a random subject?  Well, my point is it seems like there is a routine to all of my dentist appointments.  First, I go to the dentist and they determine if we need any x-rays this time around.  If so we get those taken care of right away, but if not they skip ahead and clean my teeth, check for any cavities (which I haven't had in well over a decade), hand me a few samples of toothpaste or a new toothbrush, and that's that.  I schedule an appointment for six months down the road, and I head out the door feeling relieved that I somehow managed to dodge the cavity bullet one more time.

However, inevitably somewhere before or after the cleaning my dental hygienist will ask me if I have been flossing.  I'm smart enough to know they can probably tell, so I don't bother to lie about it and always admit that no... I don't floss.  I typically get complimented on my brushing and am always told I have nice teeth (from the perspective of a dentist or hygienist at least) but they will usually tell me that I need to floss in order to get all of the plaque from between the teeth, yadda, yadda, yadda.  The lecture doesn't last long primarily because they probably give the same speech 15 times a day and know it likely won't do any good, but I listen anyway as the hygienist hands me a package of floss as if my lack of flossing was simply due to a matter of supply and demand.

This probably explains why I have six or eight packages of floss at home - because they give me a new one every six months and I can't seem to use them up as fast as they restock my supply.  So typically after each dentist appointment I decide now is the time I'm going to start flossing.  The next evening I bust out the floss and go between each and every tooth to the best of my ability.  The day after that I floss again, but maybe with a little less vigor and taking a little less time to do a perfect job.  A day after that and I'm down to speed flossing.

Soon enough - less than a week after my dental cleaning, I stop flossing altogether.  I know I should, but it just seems like such a hassle.  I brush my teeth so flossing just seems like it should be "extra".  As the months pass, flossing isn't even considered nor do I feel any guilt about skipping it, but next thing you know I flip the page on a calendar and there I see it... the date of my next dentist appointment.

Drat.  I know I've been slacking, and now I've got less than two weeks before I see the dentist again.  So obviously now is the time to start flossing with the hopes I can make up for the last six months in a matter of 10-14 days.  Then, the night before the big appointment I go all out.  I brush my teeth for longer than I typically would ensuring I cover each and ever side of each tooth as best as I can.  I floss with regular floss and then make a second pass with a floss pick to ensure I didn't miss anything.  I'll even go a step further and rinse with some mouthwash to get any remaining "stuff" out of my mouth and send it down the drain.

This all got me thinking one day.  Why do we always prepare for the dentist as if we are cramming for a mid-term Biology Exam?  Do we really think one or two good brushings and a few days of flossing is going to make up for six months of neglect?  Do we honestly think the hygienist won't notice that we haven't been doing as much as we should be to take care of our teeth?

When you really think about it, why should we try to impress our dentists and hygienists?  They charge the same amount for a cleaning whether my teeth are clean or if they haven't been brushed for three years, so maybe I should make them work for it a little.

So how about instead of preparing for my cleaning as if I was heading out to a Senior Prom, I decide to get my money's worth out of them by eating a mixture of peanuts, caramel, and Oreos 15 minutes before my actual cleaning?  Its sort of like driving your car through a gigantic puddle right before you take it to the car wash - it isn't going to help anything, but it surely makes the before and after a whole lot more impressive.

Is that wrong?