bookshelfDo you remember when it was easy to find out a little about people and their tastes and preferences? When you’d be invited to someone’s place for dinner for the first time and be left alone while the hosts were in the kitchen putting the finishing touches to the cooking.

You naturally and nonchalantly flipped through their LP collection, or a little later their CD collection happily discovering that they were Cat Steven’s fans too . Then cast an eye on the books on their bookshelf to get an idea of their literary tastes. Orwell, Adams, Hemingway, Rankin, Clavell. Yes, conversation starters now at the ready. Then of course the framed family photos all neatly on display, with only a mere hint of dust on the tops of the frames. Trying to calculate who was whose son, daughter, sister and parents.

With all the information you collected while your hosts chopped the parsley and carved the roast, you had everything you needed to keep the dinner conversation ticking along for hours and hours.

But then the new discreet digital age hit, and now in a similar situation, you are left high and dry. What do you do now? Yell from the living room to the kitchen,’ Hey, what’s the password on your iMac?’ Or do you just tap the space bar to see if you get lucky and find they have left the computer logged on? Perhaps you quietly open the laptop that was inadvertently left sitting on the coffee table and find that it is still logged in to their online banking? Ooops!

With not a book, LP, CD or photo in sight, you really are going to be ‘dead meat’ for dinner conversation. So where do you start?

‘Oh, I notice you bank with Federal. So do we?

Getting To Know You
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7 thoughts on “Getting To Know You

  • 02/09/2011 at 3:53 pm

    When I have visitors, which isn’t very often ( I can’t write if I have to entertain), I pop my head round the corner from the kitchen while the kettle is boiling to see them perusing my bookshelves, or looking at my eclectic taste in art hanging from my walls.

    While like you, I’m addicted to my computer Derek, I’m not prepared to do away with my badges of intelligence, my books and paintings.

    I forget when it was I last found myself sitting in someone’s living room checking out their bookshelves (sigh).

    Hey ho, back to my current WIP. lol


  • 02/09/2011 at 4:33 pm

    I always hit the bookshelves when I visit a new place. It says so much about the resident, from the well-worn covers to those coated with dust.

  • 02/09/2011 at 10:32 pm

    My house is stuffed full of books, CDs, DVDs, video games and I’ve even got some videos and vinyl left. It is tough when people you communicate with don’t come round your house, which is generally the case in this digital age, all they can do is check out your sparse profile (160 chars. in Twitters indomitable words) and have a look and your avatar and wonder but how cool is that? Like science fiction when I was a child.
    BTW if you’re ever in Wales drop by, check out my book and CD collection and have a glass of good red wine. (More castles per square mile than anywhere else in the world apparently.)

  • 03/09/2011 at 4:54 am

    If I were to visit you I would have checked out your Twitter, Google+, Facebook, Goodreads profiles and a/c’s (and whatever else I could have extracted from the almighty Google Overlords) beforehand. There would be no need to rely on props in your home to be the catalyst to long and stimulating conversation.

    Even if I couldn’t find something to talk to you about, while you’re in the kitchen chopping the parsley, I’m whipping out my smartphone and tweeting: “Having dinner with @Derek_Haines. Need conversation starters. Ideas?”

  • 03/09/2011 at 8:24 am

    You know, it would be nice if it was easy to be able to have a bookcase full of stuff. For me though, most of my entertainment has come through the PC, and at some point I decided, “Hey, this is robbing me of the power to hold a real book/song/movie/game in my hands.” At the very minimum, I always try to buy physical copies of what I am interested in, just to make sure that it can be seen at all. For all the limitations of physical media, you cannot argue that it’s not nice to lose the power to pop a disk or a tape in someone else’s player, rather than losing that power with a pure digital system.

  • 04/09/2011 at 2:00 am

    Sad, but so true. I remember being invited to new friends’ houses as a kid — it didn’t happen often — and the first thing I’d do is look at what games they had for their Sega Mega Drive, and, later on, their PlayStation. These days you just FaceBook/Twitter/etc stalk a person to find out what they like.

    Still, I’m happy to be the proud owner of an overflowing bookshelf. And, if I ever bring anyone home I’d like to hope they’d have a look and say, “Oh, you’ve read X. What did you think of it?” Oh, and it’s one of only two bookshelves in the world to contain a first draft of my novel with my real name on the cover. :)

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