One Step Beyond – The Journey of Steve

The minute he walks through the door, my heart sinks and I can taste the bile seeping up from my tense, overworked belly. Whatever you are, Steve, you are not welcome in my already troubled head – a slim vision, chrome-dome, New Jack douche-bag slinging a red scarf over his shoulder, floating through the Best Buy doors in slow-motion, like a bank robber in an action movie. That must be the reason for the red scarf! So he can toss it aside in mid-pursuit from the fuzz. Genius!

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“Look at my scarf! Just flowing in the wind!”

I understand madness, for I am her prisoner, but Steve takes me one step beyond. He strolls into Best Buy (to the theme music from “Rocky” no less) and everybody’s eyes light up, presumably because they know he’ll be making an ass out of himself in due course. The employees are excited because they know they’ll be getting commissions just in time for the holidays. Only they won’t be dropping their hard-earned dollars at the Best Buy coupled with an insulting employee discount. No. They’ll be stocking up on canned food at the nearest 99-cents store. Commissions are not what they used to be.

If ever there was a cry for help like a sinking sparrow in a pool of pungent mud, it is Steve and his blood-lust for acceptance, acknowledgement, and attention in this maddening and frighteningly lonely world. Steve believes that the only way he can gain the respect and love of his peers and familial relations is to spend absurd amounts of money at his local Best Buy. I mean, is he seriously going to fork out $3000 for an Ultra HD television? Is he looking to claim an inheritance from a forgotten Uncle? You know, a visit every now and then pays off in greater emotional dividends.

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“I am Steve, King of the Mindless Consumers!”

Of course, we know none of this is true. Like Facebook’s “Hope” (living her dream!) before him, Steve is a figment of a zealous advertising agency’s bloated, tedious imagination. Steve is what corporations want us to be: a mindless consumer so bereft of enterprise and creativity that all he can do to not french kiss a light socket or step in front of an oncoming bus is buy a big-screen television. He samples terrible Bose headphones while snapping his fingers, looks at overpriced smart phone screens, and monitors his escalating heartbeat on a ridiculous wristwatch contraption. If Steve had any sense (any sense at all), he would turn around and walk out the door, while giving the middle-finger-salute. But he won’t. He could try to find happiness through other means – whiskers on kittens, the laughter of a child. But he won’t. He could volunteer at a soup kitchen. But he won’t.

Materialism is defined as a tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values. While that definition carries a bit of pretentious baggage with it, it still rings true. But I wouldn’t simply define materialism as a consideration, but more a necessity to those who cannot identify that weakness within themselves. People like Steve feel the need to fill the pitiless void at the core of their souls with merchandise. The void might be filled with smart phones, tablets, and trendy headphones or it might be filled with Fabergé eggs, Baccarat crystal goblets, or Michael Kors handbags. As the concept of love retreats, sucked down into the toothy, hellish maw, perhaps Nietzsche’s abyss, if you will, and human contact dies a very lonely death, possessions and needless materials become more prominent in our lives.

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They don’t let me play music at my Best Buy, so what the Hell is he listening to?

I saw a television commercial the other day where two girls are sitting at opposite ends of a sofa, giggling and tapping on their phones. Their befuddled dad asks them if they are texting each other. They both look at him like he is the most clueless moron on the planet and they say, “Yes!” This is what Steve, Best Buy, and countless other entities want us to believe. They don’t want us to consider that heartless pit to which we assign our half-consumed souls and weeping existence. They want us to buy their wares. They don’t care about us. In fact, they’re laughing at us, and they always will. Is it because they know in their heart of hearts we are nothing more than children bedazzled by the latest toy? Perhaps.

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One for each day! Oh wait…

When I walk into my local Best Buy (conveniently right down the block), I don’t see happy, excited faces, copious amounts of cash changing hands, or employees high-fiving each other. I see misery and suffering, envy and greed. I see unwashed faces standing in front of big televisions, shaking their heads, hating themselves for not having enough money. I see crying children pleading with their parents to buy them the latest iPad. I see quick-witted shoplifters peeling lo-jack stickers off compact discs (yes, they still sell them) and pocketing them before a Best Buy employee can bat an eyelash – the famous five-finger-discount.

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Objects in the simulated image may appear less expensive than they actually are.

There is hope, and, appropriately, it emanates from the wisdom of a child. In the run-up to Christmas (most years), I get what I can only call vehement requests from my daughter for the latest toy; the latest distraction, the latest preoccupation that will keep her busy, maybe even keep her mind engaged. I can’t count on both hands how many times I’ve sought out that toy, proudly presented it to her only to have her roll her eyes after two hours of playing with it, bored to salty tears and then having her ask me for something else, something newer, something shinier. The vicious cycle continues. We can only hope we will reach an impasse wherein adults (both young and old) will become bored and demand a newer, shinier toy to play with; perhaps wisdom begins when the child finally puts down the toy.

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“Make sure to get the Best Buy logo on screen as you raise your bag, or else you’re fired!”

So, Steve? I know you don’t exist. I know you don’t go to the Best Buy and make irresponsible choices with your money. In fact, most people I actually know (real flesh-and-blood humans, no less) don’t purchase ridiculous items they either don’t need or can’t afford (or both). Don’t be tempted to play that role just because a television told you to, and whatever you do, don’t wear a red scarf. You’ll stick out like a sore thumb.

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You’ll get very angry people preaching income equality, right, but then you go up to them and suggest that a customer service rep at Best Buy get $100,000 a year. They’ll laugh and say, “come on you’re being silly now!” Why, I wonder? Why is that silly? They only want to give you what they think you deserve. This is a form of elitism. Hollywood actors and actresses, mostly actresses routinely complain that they’re paid far less than male actors, when the reality is that actors and actresses are all ridiculously overpaid for what they do anyway. If I had my way, I would pay the craftsmen, editors, costume designers, set decorators far more than I would pay any actor, but that’s me.

Remember Chelsea Clinton’s wedding? $3 million dollars. Hillary wants to be President. I just want to put it out there. That’s all. $3 million dollars. Most weddings don’t cost that kind of money. My wedding cost about a grand and we had food and drinks. I was a Best Man at my friend’s wedding, a more formal affair and a lot of guests, topped out at $25,000 and it was a very lavish ceremony and reception. If I spent $3 million dollars for my daughter’s wedding, I mean I love my daughter, I want to provide for her, I want her to be safe, I want her to be happy, I would risk my life for her, I would kill for her, but if I spent $3 million dollars on her wedding, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t give a rat’s ass for income equality.

The school district in Milford, Connecticut, has cancelled Halloween in all of its schools because too many kids felt “excluded”.

In a letter sent home with kids last week, parents learned that the Halloween parades at district schools, beloved by parents and kids for generations, are no more. Further, kids and school employees are forbidden from wearing costumes. Classrooms can have decorations, but they must be fall-themed, not Halloween-themed. And candy is out (food allergies).

As part of a redesign that will be unveiled next March, the print edition of Playboy will still feature women in provocative poses. But they will no longer be fully nude. For a generation of American men, reading Playboy was a cultural rite, an illicit thrill consumed by flashlight. Now every teenage boy has an Internet-connected phone instead. Pornographic magazines, even those as storied as Playboy, have lost their shock value, their commercial value and their cultural relevance.

No Nudes Is Good Nudes!