Consumerism


Antique Maytag washing machine.

Image via Wikipedia

And by Titans, I mean my husband and Maytag.

For the last two years and change, we’ve washed dishes by hand more often than not despite having a dishwasher. I can’t recall the exact date of what is shaping up to be an epic war of wit and will between Rob and the dishwasher(s), but we awoke this morning to yet another mechanical fail on the part of a Maytag appliance, which brings to mind a mental image of a not so lonely repairman hiding in a closet as the answer machine takes message after message from irate customers wondering where the hell he is.

Friday night, we watched the remake of the cult classic Clash of the Titans. It was a questionable family movie night pick with an eight year-old in the picture, but she is Greek mythology crazy and we decided to chance it.

The plot involved a fed up human race refusing to give the gods of Mount Olympus their due obeisance through prayers and sacrifice. A royally pissed off Zeus decides to “release the Kraken” on them as a reminder of the order of things.

It calls to mind that we are not as free of overlords demanding tribute in modern times as we think. Our daily lives are highly mechanized and dependent on gadgets and technology that free us from much of the mundane tasks of our grandparents.

The dishwasher is one I would rank as a chief among the many appliances that have unchained women from household drudgery.

It is not a maintenance free thing however and those with the ability and means to create and maintain dishwashers or washing machines, to name another huge time saver, demand worship in their own way.

After Rob checked to make sure that the power source was not the issue, he put in a call for service. The machine is just a month or so old and is under warranty. He initially met with a recording telling him to call again on Monday during this and that time. A quick Internet search led him to a 24hr line and he managed to secure a technician for a week from Monday. Warranty items are not priority and I wondered fleetingly what a family with small children would do if faced with a week sans dishwasher with both parents working?

Eat out, no doubt.

It’s interesting that this latest dishwasher outage arouses no particular ire in me. Though I was at the weary end of washing by hand this summer when the last dishwasher died and I was back to the sink, my first thought upon discovering the body this morning was to minimize Rob’s stress over it.

“Don’t freak out,” I told him when he got up. “But the dishwasher quit in mid-cycle over night.”

“We need to quit buying Maytag p.o.s’s,” he said.

“Or figure out which appliance god to offer sacrifice too,” I replied.

“This is not funny,” he said.

I guess it’s not. The time spent trying to ascertain if he could fix it took away from time he’d budgeted to putting up stone on the house because “I am not hauling all those rocks back to the truck for the winter.”

Life is never simple. But I guess it never was.


Cover of "THX 1138 (The George Lucas Dire...

Cover via Amazon

Science fiction horror scenarios spring from the basic premise that too much technology will eventually enslave us as opposed to liberate or make us better people. The Dune universe was a direct result of a world where computers took over and subjected human beings. George Lucas‘s THX1138 envisioned a world of people in the thrall of television and consumerism that drove people to numb themselves with antidepressants.

And then there was Logan’s Run, where babies were chipped at birth and their every movement monitored until they reached the useless age of 30 and were dispatched for the amusement of others.

Today people willingly tag themselves with GPS enabled phones that they delude themselves into believing are helpful tools. They are aided and abetted in their fantasy by apps.

There’s an app for everything, and they make the loss of freedom and downtime feel okay.

But they are really just the first toehold on a slide that leads to  that proverbial glided cage.

And the scariest thing is the excitement. This guy thinks this nightmare of a world is an awesome leap forward for mankind. Personally, I think life as an uber-trained gerbil might push me into active anarchy.

But here’s what truly should frighten thinking people.

“… imagine what skilled game designers could do with this …”

Imagine that. If you have the stomach for it and don’t mind giving yourself nightmares from all the paranoid conspiracy theories that naturally flow from entertaining such notions.

And then imagine them selling this to your government – not the most ethical bunch of people on the planet – and worse, imagine what the business world will … is already in come instances … do with this.

Being a gerbil is fine, if you are born a gerbil, but human beings who aren’t allowed to think for themselves, and are expected to live on the equivalent of a Sisyphean treadmill, will be a scary bat-shit crazy bunch.

It looks though as if we’ve set the path for our children and theirs and the best we can do is hope that the Mayans were right. Or perhaps wish upon a solar flare to cause an emp to reset the clock and buy us time.


As I organize, and I am using the term rather loosely at the moment, I run into the perpetual issue of cards.

Birthday cards. Valentine’s wishes. Christmas greetings. Sympathy noted. Wedding congratulations. Merely thinking about you missives.

Cards coming out the ying-yang here and some going back years.

I even have a gift sack full of sympathy cards from my late husband’s visitation that I ransacked for cash and abandoned – unread for the most part and most definitely never responded to. Cue Miss Manners her tongue cluck.

“What should I do with them?” I asked Rob. “Someone paid money for them.”

I think it’s the money spent that stops my hand at the shredder more than the thoughts or motives behind the mailing of them.

Not long ago, I bought a mess of the darn things myself at the grocery. Summer birthday wishes and Father’s Day.

“Look at these!” exclaimed the cashier. “Cards! I haven’t checked any through in I can’t remember when. People just don’t send this stuff anymore.”

I felt like a relic. An antique who hordes them as well as perpetuates their tribble like accumulation in society.

“Well,” Rob said in response to my query, “I can’t help you. I have a bunch of yours myself.”

Now I am slightly offended. Of course you have mine!

“I keep yours!”

“Why?”

“Because you gave them to me and you wrote little notes in them,” I said, snuggling under his chin.

And there is the crux of the matter.

I keep cards and notes of those I hold dear and consider the paperstock of others to be no better than unsolicited junk mail.

However, I can’t keep every card that is sent to me, my daughter or Rob and I. There is an “enough” point and I have reached it. The problem is to avoid the whole “guilt” thing. And it’s tricky.

For example, I feel not the tiniest bit of guilt for not responding to the sympathy cards that are sitting still in that sack, but I feel guilt about throwing them away. The cards themselves mean nothing, but the reason they were sent does. Therefore, the cards endure long after they should have been recycled.

The idiocy of this is not lost on me because not only did I keep them but fifteen months after the fact, I packed them and transported them to another country, where they continue to not be replied to or looked at or do anything other than take up valuable space. Space that is premium – as all space is.

The same can be said of paper in general. We keep far more than is necessary. I have two file folders full of the daily reports that Dee’s daycare kept, recording what she ate, when she slept, and anything of note. I have nearly three years worth of these reports.

Why? Because I stopped journaling her daily activities at the end of the first year. Un-coincidentally this is when her father took quite ill. In my mind, the reports are part of her “baby” record. I was too preoccupied to keep obsessive track of her “firsts” and thought I would go back later and scan the reports for highlights and compile them.

Dee is eight years old. The reports are still in a file cabinet – which also traveled internationally .

The madness!

“I just want to rent a dumpster and pitch everything in without stopping to look at it,” I told Rob.

“Okay,” he agreed. “Let’s.”

It’s not really that irrational a solution. I have, after all, purged an entire house of possessions. Literally given away thousands of dollars in furnishings, clothes and household goods without really blinking or looking back in angst. It’s not so silly an idea.

What is it about paper? Whether it’s words or photos, it’s so much harder to part with.


If you are a Tea Party member in Mason City, Iowa, the commonalities lunge at one like bad 3-D, but to a person who reads, thinks for herself and happens to have paid attention during her early 20th century history class – the question should really be “aside from being political leaders during economically crushing times what do they have in common?”

And even that is stretching it.

The “change” bogeyman is nothing more than a political tool that they all use – Tea Partiers and Mama Grizzlies included -because it works.

Human beings are notorious for their dislike of change. Creatures who seek comfort and who mainly live within the confines of their homes unless some consumer need drives them out to the nearest shopping blight on the landscape, Americans in particular are living change at speeds that the vast majority of them never anticipated and weren’t raised with the coping skills to deal with.

The Tea Party then is little more than an adult temper tantrum about the loss of the American Dream rug beneath their feet. Turns out, that whole myth about us descending from hardy pioneer stock is really just a myth.

The people of Germany and Russia during WWI, which is the breeding ground for both Hitler’s rise and Lenin’s takeover, were dealing with the kinds of economic devastation the likes of which would send most Americans in search of corners to curl up in. To compare our current recession to children literally starving to death, as they were in Russia at the end of the first world war, is the height of self-absorption.

To their credit, the main body of the Iowa Tea Party disapproves of the Mason City billboard.

Yes, it’s a billboard, and it’s up for the coming month in Mason City, so feel free to mock and jeer across the blogosphere, but don’t expect it to have any effect on their views.

I know the kinds of people who fall for this type of logic. I grew up next door to them in the northeast part of the state. I taught their kids for twenty years in the public school system in the center of the state. Decent enough folk, they lead with their bellies and their sense of entitlement and a recession like the one we are experiencing unnerves them. Why? Because it flies in the face of everything we Americans are taught to trust. Behave, work hard and the middle class dream is yours.

A dream that Obama favors by the way and that Lenin would have curled a lip at.

I won’t argue with the smaller print that “radical leaders prey on the fearful and naive” but I will note the irony. And the fact that the irony would be so lost on the people who designed this billboard.

UPDATE: After being up for just one week, the Mason City Tea party billboard has been covered up at the request of the group who received hundreds of threatening messages from irate Mason City folk – who apparently all know there history better than the Tea Party people. No apology was issued and the group’s spokesperson insists that people misunderstood the billboards main idea. Um … sure, dude.

Photo by Deb Nicklay/Mason City Globe Gazette


I found this on a yoga blog.

What I have now, probably for the first time ever in my life, is enough.

I am not complacent about it.

I recognize that relationships are active and therefore require tending. I know that nothing about the strata of society I occupy is immune to disaster.

But in societal terms I have come to recognize as my norm, what I have is plenty. There isn’t a single thing or experience I lack. My emotional well brims and is replenished continually.

Perhaps this is what has been nagging at me of late.

My conscious mind – conditioned as it has been by years of North America consumer driven life-style and middle-class faux career ambition – feels I am not working hard enough to be … what? I don’t know. My inner-self has been quite weepy about it in a pushed around little girl sort of way.

She knows we have enough. Time to acknowledge it and let a few things go.

I have dreams. Modest and unassuming. But they are not deal-breakers for me and really never were.

I have enough. It’s almost verboten to say that out loud as many people fear it invites the active mocking of the fates. That’s flatly ridiculous. Nothing is permanent and fate has nothing to do with that anyway.

If you ever had enough, could you recognize it?

A fair question.


Winnipeg was cold. The Holiday Inn where we stayed was having a hill-billy family special which attracted the range of the spectrum for the working class version of a weekend getaway – renting a poolside suite for an overnight. Children frolicked under the benignly neglectful eyes of parents draped across Kmart special deck furniture seemingly unaware that should their child begin to exhibit signs of being water-logged, their lack of swim attire wouldn’t necessarily spur one of the few properly attired parents in the pool to step in for them.

Rob certainly wasn’t going to step up. In fact, between cold hard stares that made the teacher in me kelly green and the clipped warnings to two not so little girls about watching their surroundings, he was ready to help a few of the offspring of the wet but still basically unwashed to Davy Jones’ locker.

“Next time,” I said, “we’ll have to remember to ask for a room on a floor above the pool.”

“We won’t be coming to Winnipeg again,” he replied.

Problem solved.

It wasn’t as bad as Battleford. We stayed at the Super 8 because the only other hotel is owned by the casino. We stayed there the time before and listened to a herd of teenagers thundering overhead …. all … night … long.

The Super 8’s clientele is made up of the men who are working in the area on the various temporary projects. At breakfast on Friday morning, they watched us with bemused looks as though vaguely recalling wives and children of their own.

Hotels in Canada are a hit and miss affair. Canadians accept truly awful accommodations as the price of admission, but the former full-time American in me has to sigh heavily.

It took an hour to cross the border. The line stretched on forever but as far as I could tell, no one was being anally probed, flogged or water-boarded, so I have no idea what the hold up was.

North Dakota was water-logged. At one point before Grand Forks, the water was up on the road and it lapped the edges for a good while between the border, on and off, until after Fargo.

In Minneapolis – we shopped. I totally went ugly American and bought an awesome sticky, thick yoga mat that I have coveted ever since I spied another woman in my training using the brand. We outfitted Dee for soccer at Dick’s (yeah, that’s what it’s called) and got her one of those Razor scooters.

And we ate at Panera Bread. We have no Panera Bread. I don’t know why. Just like we have no Target. Another unsolved mystery that begs for resolution. The only way Minneapolis could have been more awesome would have been a trip to Target. I think it’s Target’s Mecca of origin after all.

We swam again. The hotel was not full, so we had the pool mostly to ourselves but for a young couple and their two quite wee children and the young wife’s sister.

Rob was looking forward to a soak in the hot tub after a long day’s drive, but the sight of two swim-diapered young-uns in the bubbling water changed his mind. Mine too. What are people thinking when they put incontinent children into hot tubs?

The husband was a redneck. No, he really was. Cowboy hat, boots and button-down long sleeve striped shirt. Very Kenny Chesney except for the beer gut and the fact that he looked a little drunk which contrasted with the Coke can he was sipping on like a baby on the teat.

The two sisters were enjoying the children and trying to chat. He was suggesting that it was time to go back to their room about every ten minutes but the two year old boy kept objecting.

“Wouldn’t ya rather watch tv?” Cowboy Daddy said. “We have a tv back in the room.”

Sad? Scary? Clearly not a future that bodes well.

After they left, we had the place to ourselves until the teens, hot tubbing middle agers and grandmas began to pour in. Clearly, the mall was now closed.