The middleman, George.
January 13, 2011 § 9 Comments
When I was nine I yearned for, and saved for, a transistor radio. It promised to be my passport to the late night airwaves, to rock and roll, my backdoor sneak into being a teenager. It did all that, and more.
I carried that radio with its heady smell of new plastic everywhere, and at night hid it under my pillow, hoping my sister, Claudia, who slept in the upper bunk wouldn’t hear me listening to WABC and WMCA. Speaking right into my ear, Cousin Brucie and Scot Muni welcomed me out of childhood.
George, the great middleman, makes a lot of promises, but I’ve rarely known him to deliver like that. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been fooled plenty of times. Bet you have too. Capitalism depends on all of us falling for the middleman’s slick line of talk, believing we can buy glamour, status, youthfulness–perhaps even a place in heaven.
A purchase rarely delivers the intangibles you thought you paid for–but there’s always the next time…or the next. The more often you get conned the more money you need, while the payoff remains just one purchase away.
I watched a QVC program that should have been titled “The Adoration of the Sheets.” Two attractive women tag-teamed each other lauding the thread count of the Egyptian cotton, the “new” color (a grey-lavender) that was both soothing and (as the women pointed out ) required a discerning shopper to appreciate. The unspoken message? Don’t miss this opportunity to exhibit your good taste!
But what would arrive after placing the order would be a cardboard box containing two rectangles of cloth that would most often be used in the dark. They’re sheets for Pete sake!
It is not as glamorous to say, “I need a couple of cloth rectangles to cover my mattress,” but admitting the real purpose of a purchase can bring the cost down considerably–and it doesn’t burden sheets with unachievable expectations.
Repeatedly disappointed in my attempts to buy glamor, status, youthfulness and that assured a place in heaven, I now ask myself, what does this thing I need have to do? Boiled down to function I usually find that I already own something that does the job–and George stays in my pocket.
Which brings up the concept of “need.” I recently heard a man say, “Past a certain age, what do you need in the course of a year besides food ? A six-pack of socks and a package of underwear.”
When I think I need something more than socks and undies I ask myself how I could fill that need without spending money.
Does everyone have to own a chain saw, a lawn mower, a barbecue grill–I have friends. I borrow. I share. I check the curb (where many perfectly good items wait and hope for a second chance).
I’ve learned to do things that usually cost money–and knowing how to do things gives me some of the intangible rewards promised by as-seen-on-TV products. Being competent is cool.
I couldn’t cut just any man’s hair, but I’m an expert at cutting my husband’s. Over years of marriage the multiplication yields impressive savings–which come in handy.
Because once in a great while I can buy something that genuinely and truly makes me happy.
Like my new Blue enCORE 200 series microphone. To quote the ad, “It will deliver the performance of a lifetime for a lifetime of performances.”
No lie, it really does!
Plus it’s lucky. That wasn’t in the ad–even the middleman isn’t that shameless, but like my old transistor radio, it delivers, big-time, forcing me to concede, sometimes it pays to know George.