Sunday, November 30, 2008

Wal-Mart: Rolling Back Prices, Splattering Heads, or The Hazards of Bargain Hunting

Ok, you need to read this:

  • "(CBS/AP) A worker died after being trampled by a throng of unruly shoppers when a suburban Wal-Mart opened for the holiday sales rush Friday, authorities said. Nassau County polie said the 34- year-old worker was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead at about 6 a.m., an hour after the store opened. The cause of death was not immediately known."

This is a report from November 28th, 2008. And my friends, this is fucked up.

I love the holidays. I mean, I guess I do. They are great in a lot of ways. Time to reconnect with friends and family. Time to eat cookies in excessive quantities. Lots of time to lament having gotten suddenly and inexplicably fat.* Oh yeah, and people give presents.

I like getting presents. Like, who doesn't? The Great American Gift Exchange is an expensive tradition that allows us to show the people who mean the most to us just how little we actually know them. Sure I love my Aunt, but I don't want another jar of Vermont maple syrup. If it's the thought that's supposed to count, Hey relatives, start using your effing brains.

Despite the more enjoyable aspects of the season, "the most wonderful time of the year" has its drawbacks (e.g. Holiday Muffin Top, or Family Reunions). And one of the biggest bummers of the holidays is shopping for gifts. Stop in at any store between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, and odds are good that the lines will be out the friggin door. Even major retailers seem to always run out of the one awesome thing you wanted to buy your dad, leaving the poor guy to settle with another shitty tie. There are only so many great gift ideas to go around. I wonder if my dad would like a Bidet...

Now that we're all just coming off the whole post-Thanksgiving "Black Friday" thing, let's pause to think about that news story I showed you. Sure the holiday shopping rush is stressful and not all that fun, but just think: it could be your last.

Guys, a dude died at Wal-Mart. He DIED, because people are fucking nuts about getting a deal. I just... I just can't wrap my mind around wanting ANYTHING at Wal-Mart so badly that I'd:
  1. Line up outside Wal-Mart at 9 p.m. the night before the store opened. Yes, people did that.
  2. Stampede through the doors when they opened at 5 in the g-damned morning.
  3. See a worker in my path and actually physically push him to the floor in a selfish, mob-induced frenzy for blocking the cheap-o DVD rack.
  4. Proceed to step on his head/stomach/wiener/etc., so as to effect his death.
Talk about bargain hunting! They're rolling back prices, and the people are out for blood.

Thanks Wal-Mart for opening all those extra check-out lanes so my food-stamp-munching, death-trample friends and I can more easily waste our hard-earned factory wages on toys no longer made within the borders of the great nation we claim to love with magnetic ribbon-shaped bumper stickers. So much tacky shit to buy, (apparently) so little time. I like America, but I fuckin' LOVE a deal, man! And I'll kill you to get it.

In fact, according to that article, the Wal-Mart bum-rush wouldn't even stop to allow paramedics to resuscitate the poor, dying man. And in the midst of the unimaginable, hellish chaos, at least three other people were injured.

Seriously. What is wrong with these people. Would Mary and Joseph have tried to kill the Wal-Mart staff on Jesus' 1st birthday to get a better price on swaddling cloth? Me thinketh not.

Everyone, the moral of this story is simple: Let's keep holiday manslaughter to a minimum. Let re-gifting tube socks be the extent of your yuletide misdemeanors. Deals are great, but killing other human beings at Wal-Mart to get them is unforgivable.

*It was those damn delicious cookies.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

My Two-Day Vacation From Facebook, or "Let's Cut The Small Talk"

I know more about you than you think.

Creepy, huh? I know, it is. It's creepy that I know you got married three months ago. It's creepy that I've never in fact met your baby, but if I wanted to kidnap her I'd know exactly who to look for. I also know what your apartment looks like, and your beer of choice. I know who's potentially got a crush on you, the names of all your favorite books, and where you're going on vacation. It's fucking creepy, but I know.

I know, because Facebook told me.

Four years ago when Facebook launched, I was staunchly opposed. Why do I need a website to keep in touch with my friends? How does this change any thing. What a dumb idea... A dumb I idea I wish I had thought of.

Of course, back then there wasn't much to do on Facebook. At the beginning, there was no real reason to spend countless hours browsing friends profiles. No deep, insightful, emotional status updates. In fact, when Facebook started friends from high school who wanted to keep in touch did it the old fashioned way: through e-mail. Wasn't that impersonal enough? Sending messages to people on the internets? Anything less than hand-written mail, or a face-to-face encounter seemed entirely too newfangled to me. But, I guess I was wrong. Again. Seems to be a pattern.

Anyway. In light of all the time-sucking Facebook can do, I took a break. Having had quite literally nothing to do for the last few weeks besides walk my dog, go to spin class, and tutor Geometry (oh, the thrilling life I lead!), I found myself spending far too much time on the 'book. Like a drug, or better yet, a cancer, Facebook had encroached on my time, and was eating away at the very embers of my being. I was losing my life to Facebook. When checking an empty email inbox and a pathetically short-changed checking account trickles into 'The Mundane,' Facebook seemed to offer a sort of voeuyristic repreive. A chance to see how my life stacked up to those of my friends. A chance to feel... normal.

Yeah, it didn't work.

Every damn day, someone new got engaged. And then someone else was having another kid. And someone started learning a lot in grad school, or was travelling Europe. And then someone else was working at some super-sweet job, or just bought a house, or worse... was getting married! Good God, was no one sane anymore? Had no one else moved home out of boredom or financial need? AM I THE ONLY ONE ON THIS GODDAMNED JOURNEY TOWARD HAPPINESS?

According to Facebook, I was. So I quit. But as you can see, it didn't last.

Yes, I'm a little disappointed with myself. I thought I was stronger. I thought I had what it took to say NO to Facebook. But my will to take a stand has waned, and my desire to poke people and write wall comments expressing my sheer delight at seeing them last night in Folsom took over. Guys, if you thought Lisa Zine was a strong woman, you thought wrong. I may not really keep in touch with you that well, but dammit, I know whats going on in your life. That party you went to last weekend looked like a lot of fun, but you should lay off the booze for awhile. And your baby is growing up so fast! Also, you looked awesome in your wedding dress. Thanks for the invitation. (Bitch). Omg! Just kidding.... Poke!

Granted, I may love poking, but I don't necessarily love Facebook. Some days it makes me feel like I'm on the wrong path, or that my life is a giant bore, or that I should be going to Vegas more often. Other days I'm just glad to know my friends are still alive. But if there's anything to actually love about Facebook is that it really cuts down on the need for small talk at bars.

Let's take last night, for example. We're out at a local bar. We're "catching up," as they used to say in the olden days. The beer's flowing, the chicks are pretty fugly. Life is good. And best of all, as stated above, I already know what's going on with you. Chances are either one of us could spout off a few unimportant details about where we are and what we're doing, and it wouldn't be news to either of us. And isn't that awesome? In so many instances I was able to cut through the bullshit and right to the good stuff: "So ___ has gained weight, huh? Awesome."

So if Facebook has done this for me, the least I can do is stay loyal to it. It kills me a little bit to know that my sobatical didn't last longer than a few hours (about 48-ish). I'm merely human. And frankly I'm a bored human. But it's Thanksgiving, and the holidays always make me feel warm inside. And so does Facebook, with or without all its demons.

So get ready. Next time I see you, I'll know exactly what you've been up to. And I won't even ask.

Happy Thanksgiving, Facebook Friends.