The Critical Eye

There’s a disease I have and I’m not very good at hiding it.  I call it critical eye disease and I’ve been suffering from it for some time.  Where normal people see something nice I see something that isn’t perfect.  When someone says something nice, I think about how they could have said it better.  It’s a terrible thing to suffer from because nothing ever measures up to your expectations regardless of how you seek to define them.  The loss of control is the most difficult thing to deal with.  Walking into a room and not knowing how you’ll feel or how you’ll act because you haven’t found something wrong yet is something that some see as adroit but it’s something that haunts me every time I walk into a room.  There are many of us out there with critical eye disease and it afflicts millions more.

There is no cure for critical eye disease.  Some say you can suppress it, but I would argue that suppressing your natural instinct is no way to go through life.  At the same time life exists to be enjoyed not constantly criticized.  Certainly there must be some way of living without darkening everyone else’s mood.  Well, if there is such a way to live I have yet to find it and it is because I live with this disease that I write every day and think all the time.  Some, indeed many come to think of it, have said and I’m inclined to agree with them up to a point that I think too much.  I’d argue that someone needs to make up for the lack of coherent thought that permeates or rather doesn’t permeate the minds of so many.  Those who get lost in thought do so because it is unfamiliar territory as Mark Twain once said.

I had a teacher once who used to begin every story with the phrase: “in the restaurant business…”  He would follow that with some supposedly useful axiom or what the casual listener might interpret as useful advice, but to those of us in the class (most of who worked in the restaurant business) it was our cue to stop listening.  You heard so many stories about the restaurant business and he treated it like it was this alternative universe where every part of your meal was really some type of supernatural experience or Jedi mind trick that it numbed you to the actual effect and point of his story.  In the end, most of us kind of thought that he liked to live in this little world where there was the restaurant business and then there was everyone else.

It’s kind of like how athletes or celebrities pretend how the law doesn’t apply to them or how the politician is really “just one of the guys.”  I never really paid much attention to this particular teacher.  He seemed to be from another world and I thought it was quite strange until I realized that the restaurant business isn’t so much a business as it is a world.  It’s a whole different world than the one most people live in and it was this error in semantics that cost him his audience and cost many of us students some valuable lessons.

Most of the things you learn in life you learn after the fact.  I shouldn’t have run over that child, for instance because now I have to go to jail, the kid grows up with a family that’s angry with me etc.  This same principle applies to this teacher’s restaurant world.  I never thought about it in a serious way until I was out of school.  This particular teacher wound up taking me completely by surprise during my final semester.  There were a couple of teachers who believed in me; folks who thought I was going to be very good at what I wanted to do but he fought for me and helped me get my internship and eventually helped me secure a job.  I didn’t realize how much he cared for his students until I wasn’t a student anymore.  It’s odd how things work out sometimes.

I reflected on this over the weekend because I went to a wedding where I got to watch eight servers work a room of about one hundred and twenty people.  Each server worked two tables and it took about an hour to go through each course.  The only thing that I could think of was how the servers weren’t using the pivot system, weren’t utilizing wave service and were standing in the kitchen when they should have been out working the room.  They could have significantly reduced the time it took to go through each course had they simply remained on the floor as opposed to going back to the kitchen.  What would have been smarter still would have been to work the room using wave service, which would have allowed the servers to utilize their strength in numbers.

I’m not criticizing the service, it was actually quite good considering the circumstances, but I couldn’t get the “restaurant business” mentality out of my head.  Part of it has to do with the fact that my critical eye disease was acting up, another part of it was the fact that I’m not as good in social situations especially in rooms with lots of people I know and the rest of it has to do with the fact that I just can’t focus on one thing.  I suffer from scatterbrain syndrome on top of everything else.  You may look at me and see someone who is looking around the room because he’s nervous, but in reality I’m looking around the room because I’ve found something to be critical of and I need to make a note of it.

My critical eye disease began as a simple case of the outsider syndrome about five years ago.  The outsider syndrome simply arose from the feeling that I was different than everyone else.  That feeling has been with me for most of my life, but I’ve always wondered what exactly it was that made me so different than everyone else.  I’ve always struggled with the issue of identity.  Who am I? Why am I here? were not just questions asked by Admiral Stockton at a Vice-Presidential debate they’re questions people ask themselves usually when they’re reflecting on their lives, but I live in constant preparation mode, so I ask these questions in the extreme present tense.   My mind works in an anticipatory fashion that is I try to think through things before they happen because I’m terrified of the unknown.  Everyone is somewhat afraid of the unknown, but that which I do not know keeps me up all night and worried most of the day.

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