My personal indicator that a dinner party has gone on long enough is when the guests start comparing how many hours of sleep they need.
It's not the subtle signals that they're ready for bed. It's not even the vertiginous decline in the quality of the conversation. It's the blinkered, tone-deaf, puerile egomania that you think anybody else cares if you can do with less than seven as long as you can sleep in on the weekend. I know then that my life is too short to spend any more of it in the company of anyone so solipsistic. (Especially since I need a good seven and a half if I'm to function properly.)
And this is why I don't see the point of Twitter. Several years ago Garrison Keillor scornfully noted that the purpose of cell phones seemed to be to "announce our progress through life." Tweeting perfects that. As W.S. Gilbert noted in The Gondoliers, "when everybody's somebody, then no one's anybody."
So imagine my complete horror at a snippet in the Personal Tech section of today's New York Times. (I only read it for the articles.) Somebody has invented a bathroom scale that's connected to Wi-Fi (does that still have to be capitalized?) When you step on it in the morning, your daily weight, lean and fat mass, and BMI can be uploaded instantly to a web site, an iPhone app, Twitter, and Google, so the world can check your avoirdupois.
And the tag line? The comforting news that if you don't want anyone else to know your weight, you can still buy the product but create a private Twitter account. So much hipper than putting on a pair of glasses and looking down between your feet at the bloody readout!
Oy. (164 pounds, but I've been raiding the boys' Easter candy.)
This whole business of people who mistake egocentricity for raconteurism reminds me of one my favorite quotes of all time, apocryphal or not.
(I know, I know -- I keep a blog going about my life, but nobody's forced to read it. Not yet, anyway, but if I ever get my hands on those negatives, people . . . Anyway, I'm interesting, dammit. Just ask . . . er . . .)
Apparently, pop singer Eddie Fisher was on a 1950's TV show called "This is Show Business" and asked a panel of celebrities for advice on a problem, which was that women refused to date him because of his age -- he was in his twenties, but his fans were teenagers. The great writer George S. Kaufman was on the panel that night, and said:
"Mr. Fisher, on Mount Wilson there is a telescope that can magnify the most distant stars up to twenty-four times the magnification of any telescope. This remarkable instrument was unsurpassed in the world of astronomy until the construction of the Mount Palomar telescope, an even more remarkable instrument of magnification. Owing to advances and improvements in optical technology, it is capable of magnifying the stars to four times the magnification of the Mount Wilson telescope. Mr. Fisher, if you could somehow put the Mount Wilson telescope inside the Mount Palomar telescope, you still wouldn't be able to detect my interest in your problem."
I truly wish I'd said that, on innumerable tedious occasions.