I can’t decide if today will be one of austerity or profligacy. I’m leaning toward austerity, because of the food hangover, my sense of being a repulsive glutton, and the very rational awareness that lately all I do is swipe my credit card in various credit-card swiping slots around town. I miss that simpler, bygone era, the one depicted in so many Frank Capra movies, when we merely handed the credit card to the clerk, who put it in a little vise-like contraption and laid several pieces of paper over it with carbon paper in between and then did a violent mechanical maneuvera that imprinted the paper with the embossed letters and numbers on the card. That was a transaction. That was satisfying. You felt like you had really paid for something, that it was more than just a digital deduction from some hypothetical bank account.
Also I miss passbook savings accounts, and, most of all — I know I’ve said this a thousand times, but I feel compelled to repeat it — Green Stamps, which you got at the grocery store and placed in books for later redemption at the Green Stamps store. If you bought groceries for just a few years you could amass enough Green Stamps to redeem them for an alarm clock. And you had a sense of getting somewhere in life. At night, by candlelight (because the power company had turned off the electricity) you could study the Green Stamps catalog and calculate how many years it would take to have enough Green Stamps to get an entire lamp.
But I’m getting behind myself. I can’t do austerity today because I’m reliably informed that today is “Cyber Monday” and apparently I’m supposed to order stuff online. Today, profligacy, tomorrow, top ramen.
This is the modern condition of entire societies: We’re supposed to spend money to improve economies wrecked by profligacy. On the front page this morning, there’s a story about Black Friday madness, this ever-intensifying craving for bargains that has propelled people into stores at midnight and incited them to trample or pepper-spray fellow customers (note, by the way, the Huffington Post story with the headline saying Target customers walked over a dying man — “Black Friday: Target Shoppers Step Over Walter Vance As He Collapses, Dies” — an assertion refuted in the text of the article itself, which reveals that six nurses came to his aid and people weren’t horrible after all. But hey, they got me to click, so I guess that’s successful journalism.). Just below the Black Friday story is an article on the European financial crisis and the frowny faces of the European bankers. Europe is trying to put into place a lot of austerity measures. The public is protesting. People are marching in the streets. Or should they just shop?? You see how I’m confused.
What I understand about the European financial crisis could fit onto my palm if I were to write on my skin with a fat-tipped Sharpie.