Monday, May 4, 2009

Pet Peeves

To avert boredom, yours and mine, I'll change the subject a tad today. My main goal for this blog is to generate interest, discussion and awareness about the role the "third place" plays in our lives. As an amateur social scientist, one of my life long passions has been to observe and study people, I won't feign objectivity, I see and record things based upon my own hodge podge lens on the world. My neighborhood is my habitat, generally speaking it is easier for me to decode what is going on at "face value" when I don't have to translate into my native tongue. I don't just mean literal language here, I'm referring to all the filters and guards we put up to try to understand one another across cultures (ie. gender, age, race, economics, politics, religion).

As mentioned in my last blog about the "state of the pub", cultures are in a constant state of change. Our physical world or sense of place shifts beneath our feet and many of us yearn for a certain balance of familiarity without total predictability. We want smells, tastes, sights and sounds from our good associations and memories from our pasts. The continuity makes us feel "at home". Embedded in our "third places" are all sorts of values which are imprinted on us early on, some of them are too obvious to state, others are more subtle and difficult to identify. Some are so intertwined we cannot tease them apart from one another without destroying the ambiance, mood, atmosphere.

What am I talking about? I'll see if I can describe it through some examples. What sorts of things make me comfortable in a "third place"? A clean bathroom with supplies in place! Creative bathrooms show personality, which I love, but are an extra. Also, I hate the hand dryers that break your eardrums, make your skin warp in freakish ways and never dry your hands in time. As a result you wipe your hands on your pants or grab the door with wet hands (nice). Yes, acoustics are important to me. Background music is fine, but not so I have to scream or use hand signals to talk with someone. One should be able to sit at a table and have a private conversation, that works on multiple levels, again proper acoustics, but also cell phone management. I'm talking about manners, and my cultural, undoubtedly antiquated, sensibilities. Similarly, I have children and they are unruly, on occasion I break down and take them out to dinner with me, but I try to keep in mind that others sometimes choose a quiet intimate restaurant to remember what it was like BK -before kids. What else. Thankfully wait staff have caught on to the reality that single people, in particular woman, are comfortable and happy to be dining alone so we too want a window seat. This is what good customer service looks like in my "third places": eye contact, a smile, audible, helpful(ie. knowledge of the service being provided, good at reading social cues).

My pet peeves reveal my stripes as they say, my cultural predilection for order, cleanliness, privacy, boundaries. The reason I haven't chosen to critique what I don't like about particular businesses is that I generally am ready and willing to forgive an oversight or problem if I sense goodwill. After all, I have great admiration for small business enterprise and know from first hand experience that it ain't easy being on the other side of the operation sometimes. I also find that I am much more open and tolerant and shift my expectations when I am not on my own turf such as when I travel to another country.


  1. Hi Careen,

    I've been reading your blog, great stuff. Loved the post about Eric in the Nags Head plotting how to recreate it in the Twin Cities.

    I think my third place is anywhere I can grab a guitar.


  2. Carreen,
    I am so enjoying your writings. I think I can relate to many of your thoughts. I enjoy going out alone and just sitting in a retaurant and watching people and wondering about their lives. My friends question this as being odd, most of them do not enjoy going anywhere alone. I relish it and therefore wonder if I am anti-social. I really do not think so because I also enjoy being with people just not all the time. Anyways, keep blogging... I love it...

  3. HI,

    I saw your flyer at Dunn Bros and was interested. I like the idea of a third place: work is not a place to hang out; and I live by myself after a horrific end to a relationship -so I often sit and read at at the coffee shop, even though I could stay at home and read for free. It is important to be in a place that has no connections to my every day life and is neutral - but that has human activity in it which doesn’t require direct participation. I am much like the cat that stays at arm’s length from people - but stays in the room and wants to be around others. When I saw your flyer, it also brought to mind the Celtic notion of so-called ‘Thin Places’ - holy spots / energy centers / numinous localities, where the earth and the soul are more receptive to each other. Dunn Bros is not a ‘Thin Place’, but it does have (for me anyway) a positive energy where I can work at peace, be content with human contact and get a lot done. It is even more important when the weather is gray and gloomy. I am brand new to the blog and am already finding comments that I can connect with.

    1. Thanks for posting and I'm sorry for the delay in responding but I've spent less time in "Third Places" since acquiring a dog for the obvious reason that she usually cannot accompany me and now I have some companionship on the home front instead. Your comments resonate with me and I appreciate your contribution and kindred spirit!

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