Monday, May 9, 2022

Two Post-COVID Social Anomalies

Two post-COVID social anomalies:

1. Everyone Thinks We Can Read Their Mind

In the middle of a discussion of house prices, a friend suddenly declared "Three Monks!" and peered at me expectantly. Not playfully. No rakishly cocked eyebrow. He wasn't inviting me to solve the mystery. This wasn't a Jeopardy moment, he expected me to parse his declaration and keep going.

Confused, I asked him to explain.
"That's the beer!"

"The beer...uh, well, I've heard of Three Monks beer. But how does that pertain to house prices?"

"Remember how last month I was trying to think of that beer I liked?"

"No."

"Well, that's the name. Three Monks"
This happens a lot. Almost constantly. Here’s how I believe it plays out: “The random thing which just fired in my cortex must be meaningful for you, because my thought-stream is paramount. After all, that's where all of this is happening.”

Last week, someone began to update a friend of mine about someone named "Raquel". My friend asked who this Raquel person is.
"You know, Raquel! Bobby's wife!"

"Who's Bobby?"

"My neighbor!"

"I've never met Bobby or Raquel."

"How is that possible?"

"There are literally billions of people I've never met. Also, I've never even been to your house."

"But I thought you knew everyone!"
It's all happening in my mindspace. You exist in my mindspace. How can you not be intimately familiar with the flow of thoughts through my mindspace, or with the other objects existing in my mindspace?


2. Knowing Who You Are Doesn't Elevate the Relationship

Say there's a clerk you see regularly, but who treats you brusquely, like a random customer. You figure she doesn't remember you. One day, you approach, start to identify yourself, and she interrupts.

She knows who you are. You don't need to say your name.

But there's no eye contact, no human engagement. She remains every bit as brusque and impersonal as if you were a random stranger. You've gone from being a random NPC (non-player character) to being an NPC with a name.

This never happened to me before COVID. Once people knew my name, there would be some minimal level of human interaction. "Hey, Karla." "Oh, hi, Jim." No more. Now I’m expected to silently approach and accept my takeout order or prescription or paperwork, exactly like before, but without self-identifying. Like an 18th century Russian serf grimly awaiting his weekly potato.

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