Friday, May 27, 2016

Fussy Kitty

Are you a Fussy Kitty?  (Dora, circa 1995, now deceased)

Fussy Kitties are everywhere.  Chances are you are one, too - at least some of the time.  We all are, to some extent, by design.   We all want to feel special, catered to, waited on, and unique and different from the crowd.   And the marketing experts know this and fuel this and encourage us to be Fussy Kitties.

But being a Fussy Kitty is annoying to everyone else.   Moreover, like couponing, it is a distractor which allows the marketing types to fleece your wallet while making you feel like someone special.   In short, it is a dead-end game.

How can you tell if you are Fussy Kitty?  Take this simple test:

1.  Do you get a "special meal" when you go on an airline - even though you don't have any dietary restrictions, or your dietary restrictions are imaginary (e.g., self-diagnosed allegries, gluten-free, etc.)  And yes, kosher is an imaginary dietary restriction.

2.  Do you send back meals at a restaurant on a regular basis?

3.  Do you try to order "off the menu" or make insane substitutions, even at places like McDonald's?

4.  Is your coffee order so complex that it has to be written down?

5.  Do you fall for special promotions for "limited exclusive guests" or seek out other "limited" or "exclusive" experiences?

If you can answer "YES" to more than a couple of these, chances are, you are a Fussy Kitty.   And in a way it is not entirely your fault, our society encourages Fussy Kittyism.  In particular, the marketers and retailers cater to this trend because it makes them a lot of money - and takes money from you.

I'll give you some examples of Fussy Kitty people and maybe you'll understand what I mean.

Josephine likes to go out to eat.   But about 75% of the time she goes out, she sends her meal back to the kitchen, claiming it was the wrong entree, cooked improperly, is lacking an ingredient she requested - or has an ingredient she wanted removed, or is just something "she doesn't like." 

Now, we all have gotten a bad meal once in a while.   Most of us just suck it up and never go back to a bad restaurant.   But the Fussy Kitty will go back to a bad restaurant again and again, trying to make a bad deal "work" by being fussier and fussier.

If you've read Kitchen Confidential you know the perils of sending food back.  If it is a steak, they will drop it on the floor and then cook it until it is charred.   Other foods they just spit in.   I don't send food back.   I just eat somewhere else.

Not only is being a Fussy Kitty fruitless, it annoys your friends.   Josephine is no fun to eat with, as she has complicated instructions for her food order - which are never followed to her satisfaction - and when she sends her food back, she complains about the restaurant and the food, while the rest of us are eating.

Her entree arrives back just as we are ready to leave.   She has it put in a clamshell, and having not eaten at all, her blood sugar is very low and she is grumpier and grumpier.  Don't be like Josephine.

If you don't like what is on the menu, don't eat there.   Don't go to a Barbecue joint and order the pasta dish.   Don't ask for the sauce on the side or some other complexity.    Stop trying to make the restaurant into something it is not or some sort of personalized chef.

Josephine defends her practice by saying, "Well, I just like things a certain way."    Well, we all do.   But you will never have a new or interesting experience in your life if you don't try things another way.  

I had a friend who took a cruise around the world, and when they were in Vietnam, they said, "Finally!  Some decent food!  They have a Hard Rock Cafe here!"

You might as well stay at home.

Sylvia loves to go to Starbucks, and when she orders, she has a page-length of instructions as to how her half-caf/half-decaf cafe macchiato with skim, soy, and whole milk, is to be made ("not too much cinnamon!").

Of course, it is never made quite right, or her order gets confused with someone else's and it gives her something to bitch about.   But she goes back, day after day, trying to get "special treatment" and hoping the 21-year-old "Barrista" remembers her by sight as a "special customer" (he remembers her, of course, as the PITA customer!).

Starbucks is genius at this shit.  They have armies of psychologists and marketers and other evil people who sit down and figure out how to plant "off the menu" stories in social media so the Sylvia's of the world can feel like special snowflakes and not just some drone dropping his 401(k) money into a tip jar for a beverage that used to cost twenty-five cents.

You see, Fussy Kitty is a form of marketing.   We are told, again and again, by markers that our purchasing choices and preferences define who we are.    Are you a Pickup truck guy who chews "chaw", listens to the "New Country" station and drinks lite beer?  Or are you a Volvo-driver who smokes a pipe, listens to NPR, and drinks Chardonnay?  Or are you the kicky girl in the Volkswagen Beetle who smokes Virginia slims, listens to pop music, and drinks frozen wine coolers?   Or maybe you are a bearded "hipster" who ironically drives a SAAB, "vapes" and drinks Pabst Blue Ribbon - but only for the irony factor?

They sell us these masks to wear and roles to play - and try to get you to think you are being unique or different.  And they usually get us to consume more or pay extra for the privilege of being "unique" or "special".

For example, one credit card company offers "Special VIP treatment" at restaurants and concert events if you book using their credit card.  Problem is, the "Special Offer" was advertised on television to tens of millions of people and no doubt millions signed up.   How special can that be?  It isn't - it is just the appearance of special.

Carolyn has special dietary requirements.   They tend to change over time, depending on whatever fad diet she is on.   She was ordering the "diet plate" and eating salads on Pritikin, but then decided that big juicy steaks on Adkins was the way to go.  Then she went low-salt followed by low-fat, and then low-sugar, then no HFCS, and finally gluten-free.   It is hard to keep up on what her restrictions are this week, and of course, none of it makes any sense whatsoever.   A lot of it is, in fact, unhealthy.   But secretly, she enjoys having her special plate of food when going to a friend's house, even if it is not as good as what other folks are eating.

Kevin decided to go all-Kosher, at least when on an airplane or cruise ship.   He enjoyed getting his special meals, untouched by human hands, which were "different" from everyone else's food.   Kevin isn't particularly religious, but he likes being pampered and catered to.  "And the Kosher meal is usually better!" he chirps.   So he is "winning" in the game of consumerism.

Cruise ships, Disneyworld, Hotels, Airlines - they all play this game where they try to get you to "win" by collecting secret value points or flyer miles or being "in the know" as which line to stand in, when to book your tickets, or whatever other secret "tip" or "trick" that will put you "one up" on the rest of the plebes.

Sam and Mary like to go on cruises for this reason.  They have accumulated enough "points" to become "gold members" and they know all the secret tips and tricks to get a free drink here and there or to have just a little extra tequila in your margarita.  To them, the pleasure of cruising isn't lounging in the sun or visiting exotic tropical ports, but rather "winning" a this game and congratulating themselves that they were better than the other people because they "won".

Tom likes to go to the Football game.   But of course, he leaves halfway through the third quarter so he will "beat the crowd" out of the stadium and get home that much faster!   The best part of the game is often in the final seconds - but he listens to that on the radio in the car.   He knows all the insider tip and tricks to getting ahead in life - but misses out on the actual experience of life in the process.

For a lot of people, life is a game to be rushed through as quickly as possible, with each event an optimized outcome.   What is important to them is not the experience, but making it special, different, superior, unique, or better than everyone else's experience.

It is, in short, Status.   And after rushing through life this way, you can have a unique theme funeral with a custom-designed casket, so you can win at that, too.

There is, of course, another way.

Life is not an optimized event(tm) for starters.   Trying to "win" at life is a futile endeavor.   At most you will operate at an efficiency level of 5% or so, being human.   Making special plans or making things complicated will almost always result in things going awry.   Sometimes - all the times - simplicity is better.

Taking things as they come is sometimes a better deal.   Rather than trying to go tailored, buy off-the-rack.   Not only is it cheaper and more convenient, you won't fret so much about getting your clothes dirty or torn, or have to have them dry-cleaned.

Go with the flow, stop trying to make things unique or special, when they are pretty damn good just the way they are.

I realize in retrospect that 99% of the heartache and trouble I have had in my life occurs when I try to do the opposite - make things complicated, custom, different, and difficult.

Fussy Kitties are never happy, in the long run, just fussy.   And they also annoy the snot out of everyone else!