This post is going to ramble a bit because I’m banging it out quick; because I’m not sure what I want to say; and mostly because I have mixed feelings about a whole lot of what I’m going to write about. I suppose it’s nothing more than the rantings of a concerned citizen living life in 21st-century America. All good reasons for a conscientious writer not to post…so here we go.
Today, my friend and I went to some outlet stores in a town just to the west of where I live in Northwest Florida. To put it mildly, I’m not in the same demographic as the residents there, nor probably as most of the tourists who arrive there from far and wide with thick wallets and high expectations of the merchandise that spills from every nook and cranny (I heard one saleslady say she was heading ‘off site’ to go get more stuff and she’d be right back…I imagine there was a large van with the brand name emblazoned on the side somehow involved). As for my friend and I, we were mostly just window-shopping.
The ‘end-of-season’ discounts were steep. In most stores, it was doubly delightful. As soon as we walked through the doors of…well let’s just say virtually every single going concern on the block…a salesperson sporting one of numerous levels of ‘chipper / dapper’ that we would encounter throughout the day would accost us upon our breach of the threshold, informing us that, on top of the 50% store-wide discount, we could also shave off an additional 30, sometimes 40% on top of that. I know, right? OMG! Deer in the headlights disbelief! Happy dance, etc. etc. I was obligated to think ‘Wow!’ as would any enthusiastic consumer looking for great deals. One lady sort of waited for the appropriate facial response to wash over me. I left her unfulfilled.
Such a reaction being absent in my middle-aged brain probably makes me about as un-hip, out-of-step, and downright un-American as I can get in the average consumer’s eyes. In other words—boring. I know this about myself and I accept it. I won’t apologize because it’s not something I do consciously. I don’t go out of my way to be ‘unamazed.’ It’s probably just a trait that came with my DNA, since I’ve sort of been this same apathetic personality when it comes to shopping all my life. I’m just not into it, and I think that makes me the odd man out. Damn.
Discounts, specials, coupons, BOGOs. Big yawn. I don’t think I’m totally alone in my boredom with the whole established institution of constant consumerism, but I do believe I’m in the vast minority. America loves to shop. The world loves to shop. If we ever find aliens, I’ll put good money down that the Universe in its entirety will be full of shoppers, too. Just imagine the untapped markets!
Here’s an interesting psychological study: venture to an outlet mall (as my friend and I did) full of perhaps, say, two hundred shop occupancy, sporting every popular brand name known to humankind. Don’t take the time to buy much of anything. Just breeze in and out of the front doors, allotting only enough time in each establishment to get a sense of the goods, the ambience, the sales staff, the experience being offered. After only ten shops or so, you realize rather quickly that it’s all the same stuff. No really, I’m serious…it’s all the same stuff. That’s it. The only discernible difference is a name. A brand. A person or a corporation who has poured millions of marketing dollars into the idea that, if you don’t own what they’re selling, how can you possibly hope to be one of the in-crowd.
But you still have 180 more experiences to go. Oh my…the exhaustion looming can overwhelm even the most ambitious. If you’re going to be cool, you have to pay a heavy price…figuratively…literally. (At least the husband now has his games and internet on his little smart cricket to pass the time while he parks his bottom on the bench just outside the entrance of the place where his significant other is spending the treasures he so diligently amassed for just such a purpose).
As a voluntary tour guide, I would offer the following: the music is just loud noise with a drumbeat and some man or woman moaning and groaning on and on about sensuality writ small. Uninspired, cookie cutter stuff that makes the mob bob its head without a care as to what genuine musical genius really sounds like. The web allows someone, anyone, who can carry a note and remember a lyric to become instant g’zillionaires. Bling bling. Too many celebrities now. If everyone’s a celebrity, no one’s a celebrity…I guess.
Each store’s staff is comprised of hipsters trying their hardest to keep up with the latest fads in eyewear, footwear, apparel, make-up, hair style and attitude. The merchandise–deeply discounted as already mentioned, only because it’s time for the big seasonal change over–just bursting with newness, freshness, youthfulness, exuberance, color, razzle dazzle. Talking heads plying their wares to the salivating masses. Happy Holidays! Everything is simply beyond incredible.
Except that it’s not. It’s all making the same rounds on the same carousel of fashion for the tenth time, the forty-seventh time, the hundred and fifteenth time. This is why I use the word Disconnected as the title of this post. I hope you understand why, because I can’t get too pedantic here. It’s just not trendy to do so.
On the drive over, my friend and I saw a whole lot of brand new construction. That big highway project I’ve mentioned in other posts was hot at it today. Massive yellow machinery buzzing about hither and yon. Big high rise condominiums thrusting ever skyward up and down the beach where one would imagine that such mammoth buildings simply would not, could not, and should not be squeezed in beside already impositioned neighbors struggling to maintain their fair share of elbow room. Yet, when you see it happening, right before your very eyes, how can you deny what you would otherwise find absolutely unfeasible from an available space perspective? New homes, new businesses, everything new. ‘What gives?’ I kept asking myself in the privacy of my own mind. We don’t seem to be lacking for a solitary thing.
At the same time, I also explained out loud to my friend (she isn’t a local) how everything she saw all around her had happened in the blink of a city planner’s eye, as if one morning we had all woken up and were now living in a brand new super-sized community, with nothing to suggest that things might slow down even just a little for the foreseeable future. Welcome to the eight lane expansion.
So, there’s my central theme. Everything is growing, everyone is spending, everything is humming along as it always has since the Industrial Revolution began. If it’s happening here in my hometown, why would I believe anything other than the idea that the whole world needs to expand in the same fashion if we are to support 7 billion of us in high style (well, maybe not everywhere in high style). What’s the problem, right? Maybe there isn’t one some would say. This is growth, this is jobs, this is economic success.
We are supposed to be cutting our carbon emissions drastically, according to the 2015 Paris Agreement, some would say even to the extent that we would essentially have to experience negative growth in order to really know that we’re going to hit our projected targets if the species is going to make it to the 22nd century. Do you believe this will happen? It’s a heavy question to pose, with happy, smiling faces all around as part of the answer probably not in the cards.
So we watched the whole world queueing up at the registers yesterday with the same ecstatic exuberance I have witnessed since the time I was a mere child. Everyone was jibber-jabbering on their smart phones while paying the nice and helpful people with their hard-earned money so they could hustle home (maybe home was across one of the big oceans) their bags and boxes full of magical wonder in tow. Made In China plastic synthetic crap that would surely bring them the hopes and joys and life contentment they always knew it would—until next ‘End of Season’ enticements began to lure everyone back to the fold and what they possessed now would all of the sudden feel so…last year.
As an aside, I want to share with you an amusing anecdote. In one of the stores we visited, where Coach handbags were touted as the most chic thing a woman can possess in her lifetime, it was not uncommon to see normal prices ranging in the $250-400 range. On the way home, we stopped by a Goodwill store, just on the outskirts of the same town where people live in massive beach homes and drive the Lexus and Mercedes Benz brands. The same Coach bag (out of season, of course, but still looking quite the same as its cousin hanging off the rack in the posh place with the better lighting) was going for $20. My my my…how we are disconnected.
Sincere thanks for stopping by!