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Posted at 10:51 AM ET, 11/26/2012

Cyber Monday deals in harsh truth


Looks stocked! (Kyle Grantham - Associated Press)
It’s Cyber Monday!

This, I hear, is the day to go online shopping. THE DAY. This is the day when we get together and fix the economy. If we emerge from Cyber Monday with anything but RECORD sales, this is all OUR FAULT! Get on it, America!

But never fear. If there is one thing I am good at, it is online shopping. I have honed this skill when I was supposed to be doing anything else. It combines the rare joy of procrastinating with the joy of feeling vaguely that you might be saving money.

A good way to tell how much online shopping someone does is to ask, “What is your three-or-four-digit credit card security code?”

I frequently forget my parents’ birthdays, the president who came after Chester A. Arthur and the words of “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” but never my three-digit security code. Those simple numbers are engraved on my heart. I need them to buy things.

But that is all right, because this is what America demands.

Cyber Monday earned its name in obedience to the traditional principle that the office is a place where you go to complete your online shopping in relative peace and comfort. At home, your family occasionally demands attention and affection — or, if you are of Scandinavian stock, a respectful nod from a distance and a check for a small amount. But at the office, you are unfettered by such demands and can surf the metaphorical aisles to your heart’s content.

Today, in other words, is a day dedicated to the noble practice of shopping online when you should be doing something else.

But what else could you possibly do?

What no wife of a writer can ever understand is that a writer is working when he's staring out the window,” said Burton Rascoe.

Or, these days, what no boss of a writer can ever understand is that a writer is working when she’s rapidly minimizing the window of Six Common Household Items You Didn’t Realize Could Be Decorated With Star Wars Characters And You Need To Buy Right Now. All the time I spend reverently murmuring, “I didn’t realize you could put C-3PO on a swimsuit” is vital to my ability to create. Or something.

I feel almost guilty to be working at all today. It seems contrary to the spirit. I should be off buying Lamps That Look Like The Death Star. Work can wait. That is the message of today.

If life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans, work is what eventually happens after you’ve rapidly minimized all the other windows.

And thanks to our generally lax attitude towards privacy, online shopping provides a window that goes both ways. When we peer into the store window, the store window peers also into us. And what it sees haunts us if we have forgotten to disable cookies.

Just look at the banner ads, and you will see our inmost wants. Every store over which our mouse has, however briefly, lingered comes back to haunt us. This is why, if you borrow someone’s computer and every ad is for performance enhancement, Furniture That Is Very Easy To Assemble Yet Dangerous, and Ways To Get Rid of That Awful Smell, well — think on it.

It used to be hard to get to know people. You had to walk a mile in their shoes, and that involved a lot of awkwardly asking strangers, “Hey, sir, can I borrow your shoes?”

These days, if you want to know a person, just look at the e-mails they get from online retailers.

I worry a little about applying this standard to myself.

If the e-mails and ads I receive are to be believed, my apartment needs cleaning, I should get a haircut, I need to take up yoga and I urgently require one of those alarm clocks that rolls away from you and you have to get up and pursue before it wrecks your apartment. Also, they seem to think I could do with more culture. Would I like to see a magical theatrical voyage to Fairyland?

Sure I would.

This is the trouble.

On Cyber Monday, like most mornings, I awaken and delete 11 or 12 unopened e-mails offering me Unprecedented Quickly Vanishing Deals on Things You Might Enjoy. I cannot open them. If I open them, I may realize they are right.

Sometimes I wonder what happens to these Unprecedented Vanishing deals. They are always going somewhere. But where, exactly? I am not sure. In actual stores, someone comes and takes the sign down. But online, they merely vanish. These offers are here for a limited time only, like mayflies and young love. What happens to a deal when it is off? Where do the discounts disappear to?

Who can say? As I think they say in the Charge of the Light Brigade, “Ours not to reason why. Ours but to —” Something something. I forget the rest. 247!

By  |  10:51 AM ET, 11/26/2012

 
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