Sunday, April 21, 2013

Musings in Costco

I'm an early shopper. I like to get Costco as the doors open to avoid the crowds. I do this because I like ample parking, short lines and to avoid the poor man who says, "please don't hit me with your cart, I've already been hit 3 times."

Costco represents a sort of irony of the human condition to me. Although I enjoy shopping there, it reminds of the fragility of the mind in so many ways. In Costco, we don't just buy something for today, we buy a big box of it to keep it in stock. So if I buy an 8-pack of Black Pearl Olives, I have enough, right?

An interesting thing happens to my mind when I've bought enough of anything. I have no desire to buy any more. When I look in my pantry and see that I have enough, I don't go looking for something else to buy. I don't tell myself that I need to stock up for the post-apocalypse.

Yet, when I first walk into Costco, I am confronted with giant TVs. Tee-Vees. I remember when 47" tee-vees were cool.  Even at 47 inches, I marveled at the fact that it was nearly impossible to find a cathode ray tube tee-vee that big. But jeez! A 47-inch screen? Where am I going to put that? Well, I knew damn well where I was going to put it. Would I ever find time to watch it? I did buy one, but not at Costco.

That was a few years ago. Today, the largest tee-vee on display at Costco is 80 inches. 80! That's a diagonal measurement of course, but who cares? That's man-cave kit! I sometimes wonder about the physics of how to make the screen responsive to the inputs so that one side of the screen doesn't move faster than the rest. I mean, we're talking about light-speed, right?

So as I look at the mental gymnastics one must achieve to walk through Costco, I have to wonder. On the one hand, I can look at products on the shelf and make a mental note about it as I pass by..."Olives. Yup. Got plenty of those." But then I'm still thinking of the tee-vee. "Holy shee-it! 80 inches! Where am I going to put that thing? I'll never be able to talk my wife into getting one of those!...Besides, I've already got a 42" tee-vee. Sigh."

For many people, the mind has almost zero defense against the suggestion of buying a giant tee-vee. It is the ultimate eye-candy for the mind. For some of us, we can take solace in knowing that we have enough mayonaise or Tobasco sauce or paper towels since we got a big box of that a few weeks ago. But that 80-inch tee-vee? Where's my American Express card?

A few years ago during the Christmas shopping season, as I walked through the doors at Costco, I began to notice this irony. I'm surrounded by shiny stuff, textiles, kitchen gadgets and big screen tee-vees, a perfectly set miasma of suggestions and pleas to "BUY ME!!!". Then I noticed that Wall-E was playing on the tee-vees. That is irony.

If you don't know the story of Wall-E, you need to see it to really get a sense of what I'm talking about. Wall-E is the story of a semi-conscious robot in the post-apocalypse. Wall-E is set at some time in the distant future when Earth has become a full-on desert planet, where blues and greens have disappeared after humans have exhausted every resource needed to sustain life.

The moment I saw Wall-E playing on a giant tee-vee at Costco, I knew that buying another tee-vee or some other doo-dad isn't going to make me feel any better than I already feel now. I already have enough.
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