A confession: I’m as guilty as anyone of coveting that which I don’t need.
That’s right, like a kitten, puppy or other small creature, I’m easily attracted to shiny objects. Something fancy and neat will come along and I’ll just know deep down in my guts that I need whatever that object is. I’ll obsess about it for a few days or weeks until I either sell enough organs or steal enough money to get it or decide surgery and theft are too time-consuming and just move on to the next thing.
Man, I’m a really fickle person, now that I think about it. That’s the kind epiphany that will really leave you down in the dumps.
Of course, I’m also a person who likes to shift the blazing Eye of Sauron away from him, I’m going to pass the blame. It’s the transient nature of our society that’s to blame — that continual push forward, grasping for that next big thing when we just got our hands on the last big thing.
This reminds me of a story:
One day not long ago, Mandy and I were standing around the local Barnes and Noble, wondering all the while why we bothered traveling across town to the local Barnes and Noble because we never buy anything. Instead, we have this well-worn, 10-step ritual we go through every single time:
1.) Approach the store.
2.) Open the heavy double doors.
3.) Wait until the person behind us goes through the heavy double doors.
4.) Curse at the person who was previously behind us who just walked through the heavy double doors without saying “thanks for holding that open for me; you guys are swell.”
5.) Make our way through the store to to the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section.
6.) Pick up a book, casually mock its front cover and read the back, then put it back on the shelf.
7.) Comment to one-another that we already have a bunch of unread stuff at home.
8.) Attempt to exit store through aforementioned heavy double doors.
9.) Hold doors open for another set of customers, cursing after they pass us silently.
10.) Question the meaning of our existence.
On this particular occasion, we were deeply engaged in step five of our process when we overheard a lady speaking at the “Buy a Nook” counter. For those unfamiliar, the “Buy a Nook” although the counter is officially labeled as “Customer Service,” the only servicing the employees ever seem to be doing to the customers standing there is telling them how much more worthwhile their lives would be if they were walking around with Nook e-readers shoved into the bottoms of their purses or misplaced in some cavernous corner of their homes. To hear these people talk, one might mistake the Nook for the second coming of Christ — the catalyst to benevolent world-changing events that forever alter the very fabric of all creation. A Nook has the power to turn the world into Whoville.
“Why, with a Nook Color,” the salesperson might say some hapless fool just wanting to know where his kid might find a copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby to skim because the lazy shit has to have it read by tomorrow, “you can throw away all of those moldy old books taking up space in your home and slowly filling the bodies of your child or children with deadly fungal infections. Instead, you’ll have only this one sleek, mold-free device with which to contend. Isn’t that so much better? It is so much better, isn’t it? Of course it is.”
“I guess, but…” the hapless fool might reply, his finger raised to continue with his original line of inquiry before it flees his capricious thoughtstream. The salesperson pays this gesture no mind.
“ And it its in full color, too,” the salesperson continues. “Each word as vivid as the rainbow, as colorful as a sailor’s soliloquy. Why, you wouldn’t watch a movie that didn’t have color, would you?”
“I guess not.”
“Well, then why read a black and white book? With Nook Color, suddenly every page jumps out as real as life itself. It’s just like being there. That’s the power of Nook Color.”
“Amazing,” the fool might now say as the salesperson shoves the device in his face. His eye catches on the varicolored screen, his mind ensnared by myriad hues as they pierce his eye and wiggle into his brain. “I’ll purchase five.”
Mandy and I actually witnesses something akin to this little fantasy during our trip to the store. A lady was at the counter, fingering the demo Nook like so many had before her. As she tapped away or dragged her smudgy finger across the screen, the employee went through the well-rehearsed spill about how much more convenient reading would be with a Nook.
“Well,” the woman replied, eyes and fingers still glued to the thing, “I don’t really care for reading. But I think I would read more if I had one of these.”
“Oh, you would,” the salesperson said, her voice full of that pushy kind of enthusiasm. “You’ll read much more than you do now. It’s so much easier.”
Then, believe it or not, the woman actually said she would like to purchase one. She spent two-hundred dollars on a product devoted to a pastime she doesn’t enjoy. Makes a lot of sense, right? You know, I don’t care for soccer, but I think I’ll go out and purchase a goal, ball, cleats, shorts, personalized jersey and a minivan because if I had a bunch of cool shit to accommodate the hobby I just might do it more often.
I may be incorrect in my thinking, but it seems to me that Nooks, Kindles, Cruzes, LIBRES and their ilk are devices for readers and as such don’t really need to be explained beyond, “You can read on these things. Pretty sweet, huh?”
But instead, the salespeople seem to spend their time pushing these things on non-readers, promising that a purchase of a Nook or Kindle or whatever will make reading way more convenient than ever. After all, what good is a pastime if it’s not convenient, right? Come to think of it, if all these damn sentences would just write themselves, I’d do a lot more writing. Makes sense to me.
It also seems unfair to authors. Silly that all that hard work they poured into creating the great works of literature are sullied by the primitive technology that contains them. The woman at the counter doesn’t want to read Faulkner or McCarthy or Mieville or even Meyer; she just wants to play around with a nifty device until some other nifty device comes along. She admires the format, not what it delivers.
Frankly, I don’t believe there are people who don’t read simply because they don’t have a Nook.
I suppose I’m thinking about this too much. After all, I’ve already admitted being guilty of the same kinds of thing. Perhaps, like that lady, I’m just searching for something to give my life a little shot of new — something to color every word, transform those ungracious assholes into dear friends and ensnare my mind with vivid hues on a finger-smudged screen.
We’re really into novelty around these parts, at least until it gets old. After that, who knows? The only certainty is that the next big thing will be shiny and I’ll want it.