The Cat Ring-Tone

The Cat Ring-Tone

Built at the turn of the 20th century, the Scott House on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond, Va.) was the recent site of a revealing social awkwardness.


Temporary Shift is a series of brief dispatches from the front lines of the service industry—in which I attempt to wring some sort of meaning out of the inevitable dirty dish rag.


The Cat Ring-Tone

When, as a purveyor of beverages, you stand behind a make-shift bar constructed of plastic folding tables and faded black linens, and you happen to be in the gorgeous living room of the Scott House (Virginia Commonwealth University; Richmond, Va.) with its towering Versailles-inspired columns highlighting "a feeling of wealth, power and leisure," you really do expect more from a crowd of former History majors.

Due to the general effect of the College of Humanities, you expect the more intelligent questions about wine. Naturally, you expect the strongly expressed political views, especially on global affairs. And you certainly expect the reverberating tales of common hardship along the path toward actual, gainful employment.

Standing there, in your black tie for God's sake, what you don't expect—in any way—is the sound of a cat ring-tone emanating from the recesses of a handbag. Of all the arguments against the smartphone, perhaps the existence of a cat ring-tone is the most compelling. I mean, honestly.

It's one thing if the sound is coming from a toddler's toy. You know, something to help little Zach or Emma distinguish the primary noises of various animals. But here, in a building designated "historical," the truth hurts: we Americans have become willingly subject to the soft diplomacy skills and totalitarian regime of the cat.

Don't get me wrong: our family—mostly due to our 10-year-old daughter—allows two cats to take up residence in our home. And, like a few billion people in the vast modern universe, I have at times amused myself to death by watching a litany of cat videos on YouTube. (Thankfully, there is this particular cat—which, for me, redeems at least something of feline history while almost redeeming the entirety of the Internet.)

Nonetheless, there I was, channeling that long, arduous journey of the working-class masses, serving history...and History alum.

So, yes, I had just handed drinks to two early-arrivals at a university-sponsored reunion. They appeared to not know each other. And the awkward silence began.

I watched them sit down on an antique couchbrought together by the past and now by chance. And the awkward chit-chat began.

Suddenly, as if this (human) story demanded it, a noise—muffled and mostly undistinguished—beckoned from somewhere beyond the awkwardness. It grew in volume until we were all forced to recognize it.

Meow.

Behold, our smartphone. Our pet. Our master.

Henri.


Someone Else

Someone Else

Temporary Shift

Temporary Shift