Imagine this: someone on television holds up an object. Picture anything you want—a new laptop, gold jewelry, garden gnome, wrinkle cream, whatever. She smiles directly into the camera, making eye contact, as if you were THE ONE. And she tells you that there will never be a value like this again. Someone standing next to her nods, knowingly. Nor will there ever be an object—like this—that will meet so many needs in your life and be the envy of your backbiting friends and stalking enemies.
Unfortunately, there are only 8,000 of these objects left and they are FLYING off the shelves. Added to that stress, the special price you are being offered will expire at the end of the show. The clock is counting down. It’s now or never, Sophie. Even though you didn’t know this object existed 30 seconds ago, lust is now rising from your pelvis. Look at the customer reviews scrolling down the screen—a veritable roll call of orgasmic satisfaction. The phone number flashes; the website URL flashes. Your breathing grows heavy. They beckon to you like objectified sirens luring your bank account toward the craggy rocks surrounding the island of Poverty.
Mesmerized, you order said object—which can be returned unconditionally at your expense—and succumb to the Bacchanalian debauchery of jiggling materialism parading shamelessly before you. Sold out! If you got this object, the hostess assures us, you were VERY lucky. One week later, a small package arrives containing said object, and life goes on, with a little less cash in your bank account.
Why did you buy this thing that will probably sit on a shelf unused until the next garage sale? What were you thinking? You will ask this for the next three months, as it appears on your credit card statement in three easy payments.
Finger pointing is the American Way, so I blame my spouse for getting me hooked on home shopping. I always thought those channels were insipid pabulum for people who were incapable of reading a book or watching the History Channel. I didn’t think home shopping could happen to me. Then one night my beloved crooned, “Watch this with me! The hostess is really entertaining!” Indeed, she is. That is her job. And she does it well.
At a time when landfills are growing like aggressive tumors along our landscapes, and millions of people are wandering homeless and starving, the home-shopping frenzy seems borderline immoral—and, God save my soul, I am guilty. Perhaps, while I am still employed and capable of paying my rent, I can atone for my covetous behavior by placing money in the collection plates of The International Rescue Committee or some other deserving charity that actually does something redeeming and meaningful with my cash. It’s not too late to turn off the television, pick up a book and return to fiscal sanity.