Friday, November 23, 2007

In Shopping We Trust

Today is the biggest retail shopping day of the year. Some stores opened at midnight, others opened several hours earlier than normal, and are staying open later than usual, to accommodate the throngs of people who, plastic in hand, will come and buy so much useless gee-gaws in order to have an extra wrapped item under the tree this year. Usually, I take little note of the nonsense, other than the fluff pieces in the news (and why do news producers think that this kind of stuff deserves to be in their programs?).

Yet, there is something sad about the whole thing. I remember well, when I was in college, spending Thanksgiving with my then-girlfriend and her family. The day after enjoying a wonderful meal with some relatives of her mother in the mob enclave of Long Beach (we drove through the remnants of the "toll booths" which were the scene of James Caan's death scene in The Godfather), we went to the Smithtown Mall. I learned several valuable lessons that day, the first and most important being - do not go shopping the day after Thanksgiving. The tizzy and tension were almost visible. Spending half an hour driving around until someone close to the mall pulled out so we could sneak in to their spot, rather than just park in the first available spot and walk; elbows, knees, and hands flying; walking so fast I was panting to keep up - the entire thing was an object lesson in how to drive me insane.

About nine or ten years ago, Lisa and I decided that we would no longer use any credit or store charge when shopping for Christmas. If we couldn't afford to pay cash, forget it. We both are aware that there is little that we really want, absolutely nothing that we need, and much prefer ensuring our children have a good day rather than opening a bunch of junk for ourselves.

There just seems something, not just unseemly but almost dirty about the whole thing. I realize that speaking against consumerism is on the same level with spitting on the cross and burning the flag, but I do believe we would all be better off if we gave the holiday a holiday this year. Except for the most desperately poor among us, there are few who lack even the most fringe extras our superabundant lifestyle demands we have in order to be fulfilled. Much of the stuff sitting on store shelves is so much junk, destined for the junk pile inside of a year as it is. Why piss down that rat hole?

We are a people addicted to stuff. We have closets and basements and attics and garages full of it. Even I, I must confess, have far more than any sane adult should have. The sad fact is, other than the food I eat, the roof over my head, and a fresh set of clean drawers every day - everything else I have is just a bunch of future landfill. My only real struggle is the fact that my libraries of books and CDs enrich my life aesthetically, and make my days and nights a bit easier, and so I find it difficult to dispense with either of them. I do wish I could - I have no desire to let any transient object hold my attention or interest as much as these do. At least I recognize that they have little intrinsic value in and of themselves.

This ranting ramble, or rambling rant is leading towards this radical thought. Instead of Buy Nothing Day, how about a Buy Nothing Christmas Season?

Virtual Tin Cup

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More