How To Be A Good Guest (Consider the Lobster)

Have you thought lately about how your actions directly impact your experiences? Did you know that you can be all or none or sometimes one? We buy, sell, own, lose, create and destroy. In a world of commodities, we search for ourselves outside of ourselves.

Customer =   1. a person who purchases a commodity or service (Merriam-Webster), 2. a person or thing of a specified kind that one has to deal with (nice one, GOOGLE)

Client = a person who pays a professional person or organization for services (Merriam-Webster)

Guest = a person who is invited to visit or stay in someone’s home; a person to whom hospitality is extended (Merriam-Webster)

While Customer and Client are both described as performing a business transaction (“buy and you will receive”), the Guest is someone who actively participates by responding to an invitation to spend time with the host in a room or space. The value does not lie in the good or commodity, it lies in the action and manner of spending time together. 

Why this matters in the context of consumerism:

To Experience => sensory fulfillment, learn through new sensory experiences

To Meet People, To Be In Good Company => connection, recognition, learn through socializing

To Travel, To Be Transported => forget the daily grind, dream, tell/hear stories, learn through imagining

Learning is consistent through these points. No matter how mundane or irrelevant, humans are constantly seeking knowledge. And there are multiple ways to learn:  some things you just understand better when you taste them, others, when you read about them or by physically going there. Understanding yourself and how you learn is a process, but it’s a important one and…humbling.

Be self-aware; that’s nobody else’s job but your own. So just don’t throw it in someone else’s face if you didn’t get the surprise you were looking for; appreciate the effort put into trying to meet your needs and making your experience a good time.

Home. Although the consumer space is neither your home nor the home of your service professional, it’s a great metaphor to keep at the front of your mind, something you might call a “3rd Space”. Treat the situation with the same regard as a real host-guest relationship: give your hosts and their home respect and gratitude. You will be shocked how much unending enthusiasm and generosity come of this. Remember, service is not slavery, and everyone is human- you are not OWED anything, rather you are an active participant in the outcome of your experience whether it be positive or negative, no matter what your role. Even if you are the kind of person who prefers a simple business transaction, taking the time to speak clearly and ask the right questions can set the tone for the entire evening (ex. mumbling something about garlic and then getting a bowl of garlic bananas, when what you were trying to say was “I hate garlic”).

Obviously, some situations fall outside of these general notes and those experiences can’t be remedied. You are a guest in your own life, as well as the host, and only you can affect your own good time.

* Consider the Lobster, an essay by David Foster Wallace, addressing narcissism and self-awareness, among other things…

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