Achieving the Opposite (More Irony)

You know what's amusing me lately? People.

Some of us want others to know how special we are, how we're not just anyone, and it's been cracking me up all month (and I'm not excluding myself from this group, either).

Hello there, stranger! Let me tell you about myself and let me start with my achievements. You obviously don't know who I am. What am I talking about? I'm talking about the whole "I'm not really a waiter, I'm actually an actor, and I'm just doing this in the meantime" thing. Why is that so amusing? It's not that I don't think the person is actually an actor and that they're making it up. They very well could be a fantastic actor. That's not what's amusing me. What's funny is the fact that the person is obviously self-conscious about being just a waiter. What's wrong with being a waiter? I was a waiter in San Francisco for years and I earned BANK. I made twice what my friends working retail earned and I was able to afford a plush studio while others were cramming four into one bedroom. Being a waiter is great!

Some of us aren't always comfortable in our own skin, however. At least twice a day (and I'm not exaggerating here) a customer will pay for their wine at the counter and launch into an explanation about why they're buying such inexpensive bottles. "I just need something cheap for my wife. Normally I would get something nicer." What's wrong with $10 wine? Most of us at K&L drink $10 bottles every night and we're supposed to be wine professionals. That being said, while I think being a wine professional is pretty cool, there have been plenty of former K&L employees who were uncomfortable about working at the store, having come from such interesting backgrounds. Some of them couldn't deal with the whole "retail clerk" thing. They tried to change their title to "wine sommelier" or "wine educator" to make themselves feel better. What's wrong with be a wine retailer?

Our public perception is important to us. Many of us want the respect we feel we deserve. However, sometimes we forget that our actions speak louder than words. You can't just tell someone that you're smart, or talented, or special, or gifted. People need to figure that out on their own. The irony of telling someone how cool you are is that it instantly makes people think the opposite. "Hi, nice to meet you, my name is Bob and I went to Harvard." Guess what, Bob? I'll be avoiding you for the rest of the evening because I have a feeling all you're going to talk about is how smart you are.

"Yeah, so last night we opened a bottle of Petrus. It was pretty good, but it wasn't nearly as good as the Haut Brion." Do you hear the silence? Can you feel the tension? Do you notice that not one person at the K&L counter is impressed, interested, or even paying attention? It's not that we don't care about fancy wine because we do! We want to talk about fancy wine! It's that we don't care for people who lead into a conversation by bragging about fancy wine. No one does. Not one person in the entire world, not one, not one person anywhere on this planet, wants to listen to someone try and impress them with a story about fancy booze. So why tell it? Because they think it makes them look cool. Yet, ironically enough, it achieves the exact opposite! It sends everyone running.

I've been sick all week and dragging myself into bed when I get home. I was so excited to get my new issue of the New Yorker and bury myself under the covers. A food issue, no less! This should be a good read. Let's just flip through this thing........sigh. This issue wasn't about food. It was an entire issue about people who wanted to talk about themselves, how special they were, how gifted their family members were, how they knew about all the cool places to eat in this world, and absolutely not about the food. It was so annoying. Two of the first three articles I read couldn't get more than a few sentences without dropping their Ivy League alma mater. Food was the common link, but these people were the actual subjects.

How many times I've typed up an article for this blog, only to delete it. Why? Because I wasn't writing about booze or life or something actually interesting to others. I was writing about me. I'm not talking about writing from my own perspective or from my own experience, but rather that the whole point of the article was to write about myself. It happens. You think you're focusing on the whisky, but the entire piece ends up explaining where you went to school, and what led you here, and why you made the choices you did in life, etc. Twenty paragraphs later, you finally get to the point, but the point was really myself. Ultimately, that's one of the main reasons there are no comments allowed on this blog. It's the only way I can be sure that I write honestly, not catering to what will get me the most responses or feedback.

Bragging is one of the ultimate ironies in life. People do it because they want you to know how great they are, yet it inevitably leads to the exact opposite result. You're much better off staying quiet, keeping your CV to yourself, your wine cellar to yourself, your whisky bottle collection to yourself, and talking about the weather instead. My, it is wet out there today!

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll