At a certain age you begin to suspect that you may have lost touch with popular culture. You realize you don’t really listen to popular music or watch TV shows aimed at the 18-to-30 demographic anymore. You start to ask yourselves questions like: “When did everyone get so huggy?” And: “When is it socially acceptable to ‘fist bump’ as a form of greeting?” And then, in some innocent social gathering, you experience the dreaded incident. Some younger person looks at you, wide-eyed, and says: “Seriously? You’ve never [heard of/listened to/watched] [insert current cultural reference]???”
I had this kind of feeling recently when an associate at the firm patiently explained the current practice of “icing.” The background goes something like this. There is a bottled alcoholic beverage called Smirnoff Ice that is something like a wine cooler. Some people think it is a pretty lame drink. So, as a razz, people out at bars started sending the drink to their friends. You’d return to your seat and find a Smirnoff Ice in front of you, say, or one would be placed under your coat. If you got “iced,” you were supposed to chug the bottle and plan your prompt retaliation, and everyone would have a good laugh. (Sounds like a pretty good cultural development for Smirnoff, incidentally. In fact, there are questions about whether Smirnoff came up with the idea and implanted it in the first place.)
I was, of course, completely oblivious to this. If I had gone to a bar and found a bottle of Smirnoff Ice at my seat, I would have tried it, thanked my fellow patrons for their generosity, and gone on my merry way, missing out on all of this Gen X (or Gen Y, or whatever it is) camaraderie and causing the other patrons to conclude that I am hopelessly lame. Since I don’t go to bars, I’m not too troubled by this particular possibility, but it makes me wonder — am I utterly unaware of other common forms of modern communication? What other social signals are being broadcast that my antiquated social antennae are just not receiving?