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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.