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Define Socially Acceptable

Dushanbe: condiment norms

A sign-of-the-times moment from the Caravan Cafe – an upscale organic restaurant in the Tashkent suburbs: a lady walks in alone and sits at the only available table, perpendicular to my own. The two remaining tables in this cozy venue are occupied by couples having what most people would describe as romantic dinners.

Upon sitting, the lady immediately takes out her mobile phone, a RAZR variant and makes a relatively short call. Task completed she starts to play with her phone browses a number of songs and upon finding what she was looking for, plays it through the speakers. On full volume. Yes, a bit tinny, but on full blast it manages to drown out the restaurant’s own sound system. Patrons shift on their seats, glance repeatedly over.

We’ve seen the growth of mobile phone boom boxing across the globe from Cairo to Helsinki to Shanghai (though admittedly not so much here in Japan where consideration for others often trumps one’s own enjoyment). People using music to help define and strengthen their peer group, carving a space out of the urban environment.

Back to our lady. Is playing loud music at her table simply ostentatious see-what-a-fancy-phone-I-have projecting status? Or perhaps an extreme example of projecting personal values and identity through the choice of music? A defensive move using music to keep the single male on the other table at bay? Or she’s simply having fun?

After ten minutes her friend arrives, she silences her phone and they disappear into snow storm outside. Let a thousand Radio Raheem’s bloom.