Dig Baton Rouge

East of the River

By Katie East

The game of Risk might be fun to play for kids and adult nerds; rarely, though, do people use such an adventurous strategy in the game of life. In fact, it seems barely anything in our society is a gamble. Technology seems to have quashed any chance of uncertainty in our carefully calculated lives. Whether it’s where we eat, what we watch or who we date, nothing is left to chance anymore.

I work in a luxury hotel in New Orleans. Every few months I meet a couple where the husband or wife will plan an entire surprise trip for their spouse: hotels booked, massages scheduled and dinners reserved. All he or she had to do was show up with a bag packed.

“Aw,” my other coworkers say. “That’s so thoughtful and fun!”

I usually have to stop myself from yelling: “That sounds like a nightmare!” I can’t imagine having no control over one meal of mine, let alone an entire weekend.

Review sites like Yelp and Urbanspoon have made it literally impossible for me to go to a restaurant without obsessively pursuing the menu and gauging the validity of the reviews.

New restaurant suggestions used to be exciting to me. Now, I wonder why I haven’t heard of them and quickly research online. No ‘user photos’ is almost a deal breaker. It’s so hard for me to just let go and eat. Dining out used to be a treat; now I have to check the Internet to see what the sour cream ratio is at the new Mexican joint before I can walk out the door.
Dinner isn’t even the most terrifying part of an impromptu vacation. The thought of going to an entire city without knowing what to pack gives me heart palpitations. Before I go out of town I’m checking Weather.com for 10-30 days out to plan outfits. I’ve had to buy pants and more appropriate shoes in my fair share of cities.

Even how we pick our spouses or partners has changed. If you ask anyone born after 1985 what a blind date is they’ll probably answer: “A dating show from the early 2000s.” Nowadays no one would possibly waste an entire night on a date with a stranger if they didn’t have a dossier on the person.
If you haven’t succumbed to a dating website then you’ve certainly at least Googled or Facebooked your possible mate. There’s nothing creepier than someone with no presence on social media sites. What are you trying to hide CajunGuy55?

Once you’re in a relationship, technology kind of takes the fun out of romance. My favorite dates are when I don’t remember to take my camera phone out the entire time. I love when my boyfriend and I fly by the seat of our pants and make quick decisions. Those nights I almost always take away a great memory and a twinge of regret for not capturing it with a photo or legitimizing it on Foursquare.

Recently, on a movie date, I was lamenting how unoriginal the majority of films are that come out today. I used to love going to the movies. Now, I’m lucky if I like two or three new releases all year. Forget any interesting, outside-the-box independent cinema, I’m happy if I at least enjoy one of the superhero blockbusters.

Even art has a formula to it now. Hollywood will rarely green light a project that isn’t a remake, reboot or adaptation. Studios don’t want to take a risk on anything new when the same old crap still sells.
I haven’t been able to watch a romantic comedy since 2008. I usually laugh so much at the casting I can’t even see past the trailer. I can just visualize the focus groups and marketing meetings that go behind the casting formula that equals the crappy movie I don’t want to waste my time watching. If reviews are true then Zach Braff’s newest film Wish I Was Here isn’t even changing the equation.

We can’t undo technology, but we also shouldn’t let it take the fun out of our decision-making. I try to force myself to be spontaneous and throw caution to the wind every now and again. That doesn’t always come easy in our carefully plotted way of life.

I constantly see people whose easy-going, high-risk high reward lifestyles have paid off. I forget to practice it in my own life sometime. We should all remind ourselves to seize the day or let go and let God. Whichever way you word it, the unknown is often better than the pre-planned.

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