Fun fact: Giant pandas are actually omnivores. In a pinch, they’ll eat birds, rodents, or carrion. The bears also are, um, ardorless. They mate, if at all, only about once a year. Scientists, desperate to perpetuate the species, have given these bafflingly herbivorous sad sacks Viagra and shown them videos of other pandas mating. I suspect the zoo vets also had to promise bananas foster or strawberry shortcake before the bears rolled their eyes, sighed, and got off their panda couches.
Anyway, this bit of intense zoology was just one of an endless stream of unrelated factoids flashing exuberantly from a TV screen at Milo’s Bar, the self-proclaimed Best Upscale Dive in Arlington. Milo’s vibe is divey by virtue of its location, Division Street, where it’s difficult to tell where one used car lot ends and the next one begins. But Milo’s is also clean, dark, and cool, with a couple of different lounge areas (one is called the Zombie Corner, and it seems like a good place to decompose), all furnished with mod leather seating. Most of the illumination is from green and blue LEDs, reflected from a wall of floor-to-ceiling mirrors. I didn’t ask, but I suspect Milo’s might have once been a strip club. Or maybe a Jazzercize studio.
I’d been to Milo’s a couple of times before, but not recently. To me, the TV glowing with trivia was new. What I was watching, I discovered, was Bloinka!, a social media platform that combines the functionalities of Facebook, Foursquare, and Yelp! with a Twitter feed. I was hooked. The screen was divided into segments. Across one rotated slides of drink specials (domestics and wells are $3.50 Fri-Sat) along with Wheel of Fortune-style puzzles and photos of the staff members, briefly described. A bartender named Swanson likes Crown Royal. Sarah likes turtles. Scrolling down the right side, the Twitter feed mindlessly buried semi-important to very important news stories beneath gossip about the condition of Hillary Duff’s bikini body (“Divorce Does a Body Good!”) and Selena Gomez’ rear end. (She wants to show it to you.) Bloinka! also has a loyalty program. Download the app, enter the loyalty code, and build up points that can be redeemed at Milo’s for swag and “tasty treats.”
Bloinka! also has a function called Tell the Boss, which allows users to send a compliment, a request, or a complaint directly to the bar’s owner. As a bartender, that sort of rubbed me the wrong way. I know how aggrieved an unreasonable person can be when he or she doesn’t get his or her way to exact specifications. No need to stalk my boss about it.
The good news is that I couldn’t think about it too long. The onslaught of information was hypnotic. Bruce Jenner dissed his stepdaughters. A group of giraffes is called a “tower.” Women are more likely to wear red lipstick during winter if they’re ovulating. Is it harder for Josh Groban to date in New York City or L.A.? A group of elk is called a “gang.” Between the lists of exotic animals that you can buy (15 species) and eight professions that burn lots of calories (illustrated with a photo of what appeared to be an Olive Garden waitress), I started to feel like I was staring at someone else’s phone. As a bartender, I watch people look at their phones for hours at a time. As a customer, I try (usually unsuccessfully) to leave my phone alone. I’m sick of having to be current on things that don’t matter. And yet Bloinka! had me mesmerized, at least until an off-duty bartender who’d stopped in to play pool introduced himself. If you can tear yourself away from the visual/informational assault that is social media, real-life social interactions at bars can be pretty nice. We talked for two whole minutes before one of us got a text. –– Steve Steward
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