Facebooking Before Facebook

Highway 72, from Memphis to its junction with I-24, 30 miles northwest of Chattanooga, is a well-travelled four lane highway that passes through both northern Mississippi and Alabama.  About halfway between Memphis and I-24 is the small-town of Cherokee, Alabama.  On the north side of Highway 72, between the Exxon station and the pharmacy, is JJ’s Restaurant.

My day job takes me through Cherokee about once a month.  If I pass through at breakfast or lunch time I stop at JJ’s.  Not because the food is special.  It’s just like the food I’ve known all of my life, simple, nourishing, and abundant.  It is also underpriced but I’d eat at JJ’s if the food was overpriced.  I don’t stop there for the food; I stop for the social networking.

Understand, I can only watch the timeline because I don’t have a JJ’s Social Networking Username or Password.  I’m “guest,” if you will.  But, that’s OK.  I don’t know the players well enough to add content to their timeline.

There are two distinct customer sections inside JJ’s.  The first, or JJ’s Personal Facebook page, as I think of it, is the one you enter when you step through the door.  There are six booths and three tables in the center ring.  The booths are arranged three on the outside wall and three on the opposite wall with the tables running lengthwise in the center.  That’s where you can hear anything from who is sleeping with whom, who got laid off at the plant, why the Jones girl’s wedding was canceled, what really went on after the PTA meeting…you get the idea.  If you don’t, go to my personal Facebook page and take a look.

I never sit in the Personal Facebook Section.  It’s just too busy for me, and I have an idea that one has to have a lot of experience to play in that timeline.

I dine in what I think of as the Facebook Fan Page, the back section of the café.  To reach the fan page, login in as a guest (walk through the front door), walk through the main dining area, turn right at the counter, and you are there.  Before you can enter the Fan Page you have to “like it.”  There’s no thumb up emblem to click, but if you smile at everyone who is looking at you, or hold your hands in front of you, palms up, to prove you are unarmed, or flash an Alabama or Mississippi driver’s license, you’re in.  That’s the equivalent of logging in with your Google account.

In the Fan Page Area, I once listened to six old guys, four at one booth and two at another, talk about: the weather, body part replacement, and a pickup truck that burned during a hunting trip.  The burning truck got more attention than the weather because there were two boxes of ammunition on the hood when the fire started and that delayed attempts to put out the fire.  See the analogy – I can listen to their stories, laugh with them, but there’s nothing I can add to that conversation.  It’s like visiting Willie Nelson’s Fan Page without the knowledge required to post a comment.

Directly across from me, an old woman ignored the guys and kept her attention on the obituary section of her day old paper as she ate her scrambled eggs and grits and sipped coffee from a heavy white mug advertising the “Hospice of the Shoals – a special kind of caring.”  It isn’t accurate to say the old woman ignored the old men; she was oblivious to them while they ignored her.  It was like watching my Twitter timeline.  The old lady was definitely Tweeting in a room full of Facebook addicts.

No matter which way I’m traveling when I stop at JJ’s, I still have a long way to ride after I leave, so after I pay my bill, at the counter, I walk down the long hall to the men’s restroom, turn right at the “do not piss off the porch sign,” and step into the unoccupied tiny toilet.  Finished, I walked back through the restaurant, glance at the old lady, who is still tweeting, smile at the old men, the equivalent of clicking “like” again, and pass unnoticed through the JJ’s Personal Facebook Timeline.

Social Networking existed way before the internet became the worldwide web.  Enjoy it, with or without a computer, tablet, or smartphone.

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