Different Strokes

No Trespassing

Three conversations over the last several days have gotten me thinking about the things that influence our preferences and perceptions. Bear with me while I elaborate.

Scenario One:

Kathy & I enjoy dining out, and this past Friday and Saturday nights were no exception. Friday night we went to a restaurant we have only been to a couple of times but have really enjoyed, and on Saturday night we went to a restaurant we had never been to before but had wanted to try.

The Friday night restaurant experience was exactly what we expected based on previous visits. The place has more of a sports bar/pub atmosphere and is generally a lot noisier than we prefer, with lots of televisions, this night showing NCAA basketball. Definitely not my idea of the ideal restaurant experience, but it is close to home, the food and service are good and the prices are reasonable, so we are willing to overlook a few less-than-ideal factors.


Fast forward to Saturday night. The place was a restaurant we had never visited before, but they had good reviews on Yelp and UrbanSpoon, so we figured it was worth a try. The restaurant’s website confirmed that the chef had lots of experience in other restaurants we have previously enjoyed and suggested that his approach mirrored our preferences and we went with an expectation of an excellent and enjoyable meal.

It wasn’t terrible, but a number of missteps left us with a very mixed first impression, to the point where I’m not certain we’ll return. They didn’t have a table ready for us despite having a reservation, the first two bottles of wine I requested were not in stock, despite being on the list, and my steak – one of the “features” for the evening – was tough and undercooked and my vegetables were practically raw. I know from well-proven experience that there are not many places that can do steak to my satisfaction, but I ordered it anyway, and the result proved my rule. On the other hand, Kathy’s dinner was good and she ate every bite.

Wrought Iron Diagonal

Afterward, our discussion centered on how our prior experiences and our own biases influence our first impressions. We have been to some very good restaurants over the years, and while we are certainly not snobbish or opinionated, we generally know what to expect. And I’m not talking just fine dining – we have had excellent meals from casual diners to fancy, high-priced restaurants. Are we spoiled? Perhaps we are, but there are noticeable differences between a good restaurant and an average restaurant regardless of price, and there are enough good restaurants that there is little reason to bother with the average ones.

To be fair to this place, however, I recognize that had I ordered something different I might have had an experience that was 180-degrees opposite from what I had, and I may have been able to overlook the miscues. And had there not been the miscues I might have been more able to overlook a disappointing meal. As it turned out, a lot of little things contributed to a disappointing experience. We concluded that, considering the price and knowing the many other options available, this place would not be high on the list of restaurants to return to.

Exit/Enter Pull

Scenario Two:

During our lunch in Salisbury last weekend, Paul, Earl & I talked about why we write and what we hope to get out of our blogs. We talked about the mutual followers we have and talked a lot about the number of photography blogs we enjoy and how those writers have a similar philosophy and approach to their photography that we have with ours, and how they often commented on our blogs, just as we comment on theirs. I was not too surprised to find that there are a few blogs we don’t especially care for. There is one blog in particular that we mutually dislike (“despise” might not be too strong a word) for a number of reasons, and that discovery led to a rather amusing conversation, as we all felt that this blog was the antithesis of our own blogs and those of our friends. Also interesting was the common observation that most of the people who follow that blog – or at least those who comment on it – had similar philosophies to the writer and were not the type of people we would find commenting on our blogs. It was an interesting discussion.

My take from all that is that people of like minds tend to gravitate toward each other, and the people who take an alternate or opposing viewpoint tend to stick with each other too.

Magnolia House Shadows

Scenario Three:

I spent some time on Sunday afternoon working with a good friend on getting some prints made of his photographs. This person is a long time friend and I admire his photography. His photos have traditionally been very quiet and introspective. But lately his images have taken on more on an “urban decay and chaos” theme, and the difference is fascinating. The particular photographs we were printing were from an old store that he has been photographing. The store is long closed, but the photographs show an interior with lots of clutter and chaos. This friend has had some chaos in his life recently, and it seems that he is expressing this through his photography. I wonder if he realizes it?

Coincidentally that same day a number of other friends had been posting photos on Facebook from several other another outings, and Kathy & I had an interesting discussion about how those photographs often reflected my view of the personality of each photographer. We speculated about how or whether a person’s subject matter reflected their profession, their current emotional state or some wished-for or desired outcome!