Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Self service

This absurd world. You don't think so, bud? So I'm walking the aisles down at the supermarket watching people shop, realizing with what a sense of accomplishment they pick and choose among the thousands of items on display those that are most enticing (and cheap), having made it through another week of stultifying work to have earned enough money (just barely) to pay for a full cart's worth of such stuff. It's recreation, their weekly engagement with the material world, this excursion into sensory overload and naked desire.

Over the store's sound system come the familiar strummed chords that open Van Morrison's "Wild Night." I think to myself, shite, once upon a time I liked that tune. I shake my head. None of these zoned-out zombies has had a wild night within living memory. They're too fucking tired all the time.

And me? Hell, I'm in the same boat as they are. Sure, I may like my job but I'm always at it -- nothing is ever finished. You try publishing books these days. You wake up they're there. You go to sleep they're there. Like orphaned children begging for attention. 24/7/365, just like fucking retail.

Now they're playing The Eagles' "Hotel California." I remember the summer my stepbrother played that record all day long, along with Fleetwood Mac's Rumours. Memories I wish I could erase.

On top of everything you've gotta fight off the horrible suspicion that no one is really reading these books you're hawking. They're just buying them and downloading them to their kindles in an orgy of mindlessness. Wait till boredom sets in and they move onto the next heavily-advertised, under-priced toy. Whatcha gonna do then, poot? Bus tables at IHOP like you did as a teenager? Hey, man, somebody's got to provide the service in a service economy.

It's god's curse -- in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread. Those prototypical humans Adam and Eve transgressed and the rest of us saps are still paying for their insatiability with our own. It's as good an explanation as any. Raise your skirts and drop your pants, girls and boys. Shite in the garden. There's an effin party going on down at the supermart. Bring your coupons, bring your club card, bring the whole family. Bring your self-respect and deposit it at the door, along with your recyclables. Bring your hunger, bring your need. Bring your pennies and your prescriptions. If you buy enough crap they'll give you a frozen bird come November. It's a helluva deal.

These people pushing their carts, they cannot look out far. They cannot look in deep. They wouldn't recognize poetry if it bit them on the arse. The hell with poetry. In the context of their everyday lives, happiness is having the ability to purchase more than they need. Just a little something extra. Maybe a treat for puppy. They've worked hard for it. Would you begrudge them that little bit?

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