While the economic shutdown brought about by Coronavirus will continue to have an immeasurable global impact long after we are out of the trenches, the inevitable economic stagnation of shelter-in-place has also been an opportunity to reflect on how consumerism shapes our daily lives. And that’s how this shutdown taught me a little lesson about how I actually really, really love buying shit.
When social distancing measures first took effect and coffee shops and movie theaters were forced to close, I thought, “Wow, I’m going to save a ton of money.” Then I lost my job, and I thought, “Wow, I would love to go to a coffee shop or movie theater right now.”
It was an incredible moment of self-discovery to find that I hold coffee and cinema as such essential creature comforts, so I resolved to stream a new film everyday and create the perfect cup of joe in my own kitchen, so I decided to order an espresso machine and download some movies on iTunes that I’ll probably never watch.
Then, only days later, I had another moment of self-discovery when I realized that what I really love is spending $30 on a movie ticket and snacks, so I ordered my own vintage popcorn cart where I can make popcorn for a few dozen people at once. I live alone but it’s still fun to scoop it out.
I mean, what’s the heart-pumping thrill of seeing a movie if it’s not a financially devastating endeavor? And what’s to stop you from just turning it off halfway through if you’re not trying to make it worth more than an hour of your labor? And how come no matter how much butter and salt I put on my homemade popcorn it never tastes like movie sauce?
I decided to take a walk to clear my head, but without the possibility of popping into a corner store and buying a granola bar for no reason, the whole thing felt devoid of meaning. Wouldn’t anyone take my money?
Many have observed that the devastating effects of COVID-19 all identify preexisting failures in the framework of our society, and that what need most is not a return to “normalcy”, but a serious restructuring of the systems that crumbled so swiftly in the face of disaster.
However, the lesson I have learned says otherwise. Maybe what we need more than anything right now is to get back to where we were so I can continue to mindlessly feed an internal reward system that relies entirely upon me buying myself shit I don’t need.
And maybe that’s what makes our country so great. Is that compelling? I don’t know, I just really need to be able to impulse buy a $5 iced coffee again. It makes me feel something. In the meantime, I just ordered $200 worth of redundant exercise equipment on Amazon.