It was Labor Day weekend, a time to reflect upon the values by which we work. Do we do it just to make money? Are we a collective workforce struggling to pull the American economy up by its own bootstraps in a patriotic show of national will? Do we get paid time and a half if some bastard company makes us work on Labor Day?
I did what Americans do to reflect upon our national work ethic: I went shopping and spent a lot of my hard-earned cash.
First off, the search for a suitable mattress upon which to rest my weary, but not badly structured bones (if I may say so) ended at a place called Sleep World. Sleep World does not exactly live up to its title. There are no aliens or varied landscapes or even any water. If it were truly a world, it would be uninhabitable, despite its plush comfort. But there I did find a luxurious mattress of a queen size with nice comfy pillowtops and more steel mesh coil insides than is humanly reasonable. They actually build the mattress there at "Sleep World" (it's a manufacturing-based planet, you see), so I should have it by Wednesday. I plan to take a week off from work with the express purpose of spending that time in bed, perhaps bringing a flashlight to build a tiny little tent made of bedsheets. I'd invite all of you, but, I mean, shit, I just bought it. Don't make me wear it out already.
The other primary place of shopping exertion for me this weekend was at a new store called Fry's. You probably have heard of it if you live on either coast. It is to electronics and computer stores what tiny bits of dirt and water are to mudslides. The place has it's own axis, independent of the Earth, that sucks in geeks of all nationalities and beliefs, pulling us in as if by a cunning tractor beam.
They ran a series of huge, multi-page ads in our newspaper, and the deals were like signals of some otherworldly being entering our atmosphere.
Once there, Fry's becomes a kind of prison planet (though not a "Sleep World") from which there is no escape. But unlike a prison, there are delights and pleasures and no anal rape. (That I know of. I haven't tried returning any products there yet.)
For a person like me, who is from a family of geeks, going to Fry's was like discovering a church that totally makes your old church look like it's full of a bunch of Satan worshipping ninnies. No longer could I ever be satisfied by the likes of Best Buy or CompUSA with their little Bose speaker displays and clueless blue- or red-shirted mentally disabled salespeople.
The salespeople at Fry's don't look like they should be selling pretzels at the mall. They look like real geeks in their little lame white shirts and ties. They look like they should be smoking outside the building of a very unstable Internet start-up. They look like people you would never, ever want to socialize with, but whom you wouldn't hesitate to call for tech support at work.
When you go to Fry's, every direction seems to stretch for miles. You can veer left past the CDs and DVDs and toward the ovens and appliances. You can head toward the back where the TVs and home theater systems blast away. Or you can steer right where the sheer array of endless rows of tiny plastic baggies holding individual computer components (here's a little circuit. There's a wire clamp) can daunt even the most hardened computer devotee.
I was humbled. There was stuff here I didn't know existed outside of Radio Shack. More kinds of printers than my brain could grasp. Discounted/rebate items that would keep me in blank recordable CDs and printer paper for perhaps years at the price of $0.00 (after rebates).
I found myself trying to navigate every aisle, like someone obsessed with scaling Mount Everest. I wanted to best the store, to make it my bitch, to tell Fry's that it could not cow me. I would not be cowed. The cowing was not to happen to me. If a cow was to be around, it would have nothing to do with me. Cowing and I were to be complete strangers. Me + cowing = No. Hell no.
But, I wasn't strong enough. I cut a few corners. I missed a few software aisles. I didn't look at every battery stand and I skipped the aisle with motherboards and computer cases.
I simply have my computer the way I want it right now and besides maybe a small USB hub or maybe a DVD-ROM drive, there's really nothing I could possibly want to enhance it. It's one of the few times where my system doesn't need an upgrade. It's like winning a shopping spree at the glazed ham store when you already own a pig farm.
Nevertheless, the store still beat me. I still wanted to see it all, and couldn't. Even with the cafe in the middle of the store. Even with all the soft drinks and candy they sell. Even with a break to collect myself in front of the display holding all the newspaper circulars.
I took my basket of rebatable items to the checkout. I walked through their super fast checkout, which is set up like a waiting line at the airport, with (no exaggeration here) 75 registers waiting to serve.
In the parking lot, I looked back, the shadow of the store upon me. I was just another geek beholden to this place of tech worship.
I've heard they sometimes treat their customers badly. I hear people on the West Coast think Fry's is as bad as Starbuck's for sheer corporate unstoppability.
But on this day, I just crossed myself with my spindle of CD-R disks and said a little prayer, prostrating myself before the new geek church in town.
Just a little note to say that I am currently in love with the video for "Hell Bent" by a guy called Kenna. I know nothing else about it except that my brother recommended I check it out and that I was able to catch it on MTV2. Claymation (I think), and really very nicely done. The song's pretty great, too. It's one of the best videos I've seen in a while. That is all.
"Sarah? Would you tell your mother that if I wanted a big, ugly hovering thing around, I'd buy the family a helicopter?"