I Am Not Now, Nor Have I Ever Been. But….

Posted: February 26, 2009 in Culture, Politics
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I came face to face with the horrendous truth of our existence today. And it was communicated to me in a single phrase that captured everything that is wrong with our society in just four words. (No, it wasn’t, “In God we Trust,” though that’s a close second.)

“Advances in mattress technology.”

Over the course of 8 hours I heard this phrase no less than twenty times. Gentle readers, today I was subjected to that most undignified of job related tortures, the vendor training session. And this one was training on how to sell mattresses.

Imagine, if you can, the mind numbing boredom of sitting in a room while six different mattress companies try to convince you that theirs is the only bed worth sleeping on; and then try to feel the frustration I felt, sitting in that room, brain cells being eradicated by the cacophony of inanity I was drowning in, all the while being surrounded by 50 beds that, were my boss not present, I could have curled up on in the fetal position to shelter my fragile mind.

I was inundated with phrases like;

“Coil count.”

“Integrated coils.”

“Pocket Coils.”

“Pillow Top, Tight Top and Euro Top.”

But worst of all of these, was, “advances in mattress technology.”

Roll that around in your mouth for a few seconds. See if it starts to taste moldy.

As far as I’m concerned there has been only one major advance in mattress technology; it was around the same time that people started thinking it was a great idea to let one person be in charge of the rest of them. Can you guess what it was? It was the invention of the fucking mattress!

That’s right folks, I know some of you care about this crap, that some of you will spend literally hours and hours, bouncing between 4 stores, trying to figure out what number of coils best defines you as a person. And yes, I get that, since we spend about half our lives asleep (for some of us significantly more, but usually standing up and going about our daily business) it kind of matters what we sleep on. But, as far as this humble Fox Hating Potentate is concerned, that issue was solved when we first crawled out of our caves, took the skins we’d been sleeping on and stretched them over a box. Ta daa! Mattress. (Well, box spring, but you get my point. And yes I realize that the mattresses used a few centuries later than that were more comfortable and I should shut my ungrateful mouth.)

The reason all of this got me so riled up is that it brought back a conversation I’d had a few years ago about consumer culture; specifically what it meant to us in the context of our struggle to find purpose for our existence.

See if you can follow me on this one.

We have six mattress companies who felt that they had made enough advances to the make up of their 2009 lines that they had to torture me with a seminar detailing the departures from their 2008 lines. That means that, for the last year, actual engineers (I shit you not) who went to school thinking they were going to build the next great improvement to the car, or the building, or (let’s face it, most engineer’s have god complexes) the sun; these actual engineers got cooped up in dank warehouses, were given piles of springs and foam as well as spec sheets on their competitors products, and then they were told (probably by a 94 year old woman with the world’s best posture) to, “Make it better!”

Didn’t we master the fucking spring with the Slinky? With all the problems our world faces, do we really need actual intelligent people working on the problem of whether you get more support from one 3″ piece of foam or three 1″ pieces?

Yes. Yes we do.

Granpa Jules is going to give you a crash course in consumer capitalism. This is the economic system we all live in because we’re too shit scared to try anything different. (No, not communism. Communism is for pussies. I’m talking about Feudalism. Worked for thousands of years until people learned to read.)

So. Company A designs a widget. A widget is any useless thing that isn’t food, clothing, or prostitutes. But Company A has a problem. No one has any disposable income to buy that widget, and Company A can’t afford to mass produce it without customers. But, luckily, Company B shows up on the scene and they’ve designed a whatzit. Guess what a fucking whatzit is.

Companies A and B happily start hiring people to make their useless crap and the people, who used to get things through the magic of trading like valued things with each other, now use “money” (I know, it sounds as ridiculous and made up as widgets and whatzits) to buy each others products. But wait, says everyone who doesn’t work for Companies A or B, we want to buy widgets and whatzits too (since the dawn of time, the Commandment that’s been the hardest to obey has been the one about coveting) it’s not fair!

Along comes Company C who hires everyone else, for substandard wages, without healthcare or pensions and proceeds to make widgets and whatzits at greatly reduced prices and with all sorts of technological advances.

And so on.

The problem with this system, is that no one actually needs this crap. Bigger TV? Old one works just fine thanks. Vacation? Well, the people from There tend to visit Here too, so There can’t be all that different/better than Here; why would I save up thousands of dollars to go to the place that guy is coming here to escape from? New video game? Pong’s great. New mattress? Fuck off.

And so on.

Really, the only reason “stuff” keeps getting made is, without it, nobody would have jobs/money with which to buy stuff.

So, for no better reason than the perpetuation of a cycle designed to do nothing but perpetually consume, we have to make better mattresses every year. Mattresses that will never hurt your back. Mattresses that will never cause you to accidentally roll towards your lover in the middle of the night for some unintentional hugging. Mattresses that that stupid twat of a princess will NEVER feel that pea through. (The princess and the pea of course being the bedtime story of choice for mattress engineers.)

“But Julian,” you say, even though I didn’t give you permission to speak, “without capitalism and consumerism there can’t be any progress.”

You know what? Progress would be a cure for AIDS so that masturbation wasn’t the “safe” option when it comes to dating. Progress would be a colony on Mars. Progress would be an economic system that didn’t so closely resemble a ponzi scheme. Progress would be the goddamn lasers and flying cars I was supposed to have 9 fucking years ago!

Progress is not just making new versions of the same old stuff, and then telling people that they really really need it.

Do you remember Y2K? The world was going to end if we didn’t all go out and buy new computers. In hindsight, it’s pretty obvious that it was just a scheme to get the warehouses full of new and incredibly powerful but unnecessary computers that Dell and IBM and HP and Compaq were all sitting on, out into the light of day. But just think about that for a second. You probably know someone (if you or your parents didn’t do it yourselves) who went out and stockpiled water and supplies, built themselves a bomb shelter and otherwise stuck their heads in the sand because someone said, “Uh, we may have forgotten a couple of digits when we were building this stuff.”

Now, of course, most of us are computer savvy enough to call bullshit on that kind of scare tactic, but really? We went out in fucking droves and spent billions of dollars because we were told the world would end it we didn’t. Nine years later we’re still hearing the same story.

I heard fifteen commercials in the last week, some subtly, some overtly, hinting that, in order to consider myself a good citizen and help stop the recession, I have to shop damnit! Shop like I’ve never shopped before! And here, we come to the heart of the issue. We find out why I have to learn how to explain to you that, despite your mattress doing it’s job very well (keeping your back off the floor) you need a new one and if only you understood the marvelous advancements in mattresses that have been made by chiropractically endorsed actual engineers, you would buy two of them in a heartbeat.

If you don’t buy my mattress, I can’t afford to buy someone else’s computer. If I don’t buy someone else’s computer, the company that makes it will go out of business. If that company goes under, everyone it employs will need E.I. and then welfare. If all those people are sucking on the government tit, my taxes will go up to pay for it, and then less people will have enough money to buy mattresses or computers or widgets or whatzits.

And so on.

I know this isn’t a new thought I’m having here; that all we’re meant for is to consume and then create more consumers and that the whole cycle sucks balls, but I’m genuinely stumped. Clearly our system is broken, unless recessions every twenty years are your idea of progress. But what to replace it with? Every other economic system we’ve tried has failed (Except feudalism. Bring back feudalism, bring back feudalism. That’s catchy, right?) or been deemed evil.

Wait, I’ve got it. I know how I’ll do my part to help the economy.

Do you remember the game snake?

I’m going to make a new and exciting version of this game. I’m going to sell it, and you’re going to buy it. Because if you don’t, you’re a communist. And communism is bad.

How’s your mattress?

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Comments
  1. Stephanie:I will say it again; with no exaggeration, ACTUAL ENGINEERS. If it wasn’t so funny it would make me weep lol. Thanks for the comment and come by anytime. 😀

  2. I tried to leave a message yesterday, but I failed 😦 . This is a hilarious post and reminds me of hour after hour of mindless crap that I have often struggled through, fighting a brain aneurysm. We’re really not using our best and brightest to their fullest, are we?

  3. Musecatto;I’m not denying that progress has a place, I’m just saying that creativity could be better placed working out problems like, “Hey, I wonder if there’s a better way to run an economy,” 😀

  4. Musecatto says:

    'Really, the only reason "stuff" keeps getting made is, without it, nobody would have jobs/money with which to buy stuff.' – I actually think "stuff" is still being made because creativity never dies. people are always looking to express ideas in new more efficient ways. The only reason why production and innovation would stop is if knowledge stopped…that's not happening any time soon. As long as scientist discover new things about the back and spine & new cushy materials, mattresses will continue evolving. Cool blog btw

  5. Meagan Ruvolo at 8:35pm February 28my mattress sucks thanks lol hook me up!! haha no this rant made me laugh in a horribly sad way. What scares me most is that all this useless shit and the failing system are beyond the majority of peoples’ grasps. My mother-in-law works for an Investment Banker for Wells-Fargo and they are the “ideal” consumers. Really their behaviour shocks me. I could get hopelessly angry and rant myself but I think I’ll silence it with chocolate again. I don’t even know what to say besides fuck.

  6. So Anna and Rachel are going to duke it out on the flying car issue. 😛 Awesome though you all know where I stand; “Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.” Best sequel ever!I find it interesting that the only 3 comments I’ve gotten to this post have been from women saying,”Seriously though, all kidding aside…” on the mattress issue, maybe I’m wrong, maybe there is something to this whole, “Advances in Mattress Technology” plague. Meh, I reserve the right to be an ass on this one. Boo-Urns to mattresses. Sleep on a sheep. 😎

  7. salomey5 says:

    I mostly agree with you, however, I have a couple of bones to pick:Tetris is WAY better than Pong. Widgets rule, whereas whatzits suck.I’m absolutely opposed to the making of flying cars. There is a reason why I live on the top floor of a high-rise, even if that means I have to put up with a occasionally leaky roof: avoid being at ground level and being constantly blasted my these fucking car alarms. Flying cars would lead to my having a parking lot as my new upstairs neighbour. Thanks but no thanks.Bullshit aside though, I have slept on beds that have completely broken my back before, so I think there is such a thing as bad mattresses… But I agree, companies will sometimes use the most inane selling points to try to trick us into buying their crap.Nice post! :)PS: Can I be a beta tester for your new version of Snake?

  8. Anna Lefler says:

    Yes! Where are the advances in flying car technology?!? THAT’S what I want to know, dammit!All right, I’m going back to sleep now on this nice pile of straw that I bought at the mall last weekend…XOAnna

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