October 4, 2007

Consume to live or live to consume

I always suffer reverse culture shock when I travel to the US from the sheer volume and diversity of what I can BUY. This summer I didn't even have to land on American soil before it began. In the pocket in front of my airline seat, I found the summer issue of Sky Mall magazine. Since it says right on the cover, "Free copy -- Take it. We'll replace it!" I did. Just inside the cover is a pull-out sheet with instructions on how to "Fly, then text to buy" (someone actually gets paid to think up these rhymes). I kept my cell phone off when we landed so that I wouldn't be tempted to take them up on it, but I did pass the first hour of my flight enjoying a leisurely stroll through the pages full of tempting items -- things I would never find in Italy.

For example,
-- For the barbecue, A talking wireless belt-clip monitor that announces ("almost ready", then "ready") when your entrée is cooked to perfection from up to 300 feet away. There are eight different food settings and it only costs $75.
-- For those who tend to doze off in class or at meetings, A "SlumberSleeve Pillow". You slip in onto your forearm as a pillow. It's special system promotes unrestricted circulation and allows you to sleep in any position. Only $19.95.
-- For the kitchen, A "Mill & Brew" Weather station / coffee maker. While the machine grinds and brews your coffee, the LED screen displays the current conditions and gives you a 3-day forecast and more. $199
-- For your dog, The Precise Portion Pet Feeder. It dispenses precise pet portions at set intervals so that you animal can follow his/her recommended diet, even when you are away. $69.95

-- For the oversleeper, The Runaway Alarm Clock. It rolls away and hides when you hit its snooze button and then continues to emit a random pattern of bleeps and flashes until you get up and turn it off. It is even shatter-resistant (for those occasions when you manage to find it and throw it at the wall). $49.95

-- For the squeamish, The "Keep your distance" bug vacuum. A cordless vacuum that quickly captures bugs from up to 2'away. I won't tell you what then happens to the bug, you will have to wait until your next flight to the US, Sky Mall pg 42. This is also only $49.95
-- One last item for $49.95 is a "Pop-up Hot Dog Cooker" -- a must for any well-equipped kitchen that prepares two hot dogs and two buns in just minutes.

And I have only gotten to page 49, there are another 134 pages left.

Have ever wondered how America got to be such a credit-hungry country? Well, the answer is above. How can you go on living when you know that all those wonderful things are out there just begging to be brought home to help make your life more comfortable, efficient and easy.

Sky Mall is the bible of American style consumerism -- there is really no limit to what you can be taught to believe you need.

I will keep this lesson in mind as I wander the streets of Rome, inventing ad-hoc solutions for the problem at hand -- a winter cover from the rain for the rabbit cage that we have decided to leave on the terrace. The plastic table that now shelters him has a hole in the top for a sun umbrella and although I have tried to cover it in several ways, the water finds its way in through the small lines on the table and drips down. I found a place that makes all kinds of plastic items and I have returned three times for a 100 x 85 cm sheet of a basic 1 cm thick plastic, but they kept telling me "arriva domani" only to discover that I can only have a 3 x 3 meter sheet or pay double for a 6 cm thick sheet. Forget that. Now I am back to stuffing the umbrella hole -- someone suggested a cork top, like those for the old wine jugs. And where would I find that? A casalinghi? A ferramenta? Brico?

Let me check my Sky Mall magazine, they are sure to have a rabbit cage cover for all cage sizes....sigh.....

a domani,


Judith in Umbria said...

Yesss! There is one ferramenta here that sells corks in every dimension possible. They have lots of wine and preserving supplies. If our little city has one, yours must too.

Elizabeth said...

Well, I will just have to come up to visit and get out of this crazy city!

KC said...

I love looking at the SkyMall catalog during flights because it's so entertaining. Though it does trouble me to think about how all those useless things will wind up in the trash after they break or are no longer interesting to the people who buy them.

The rabbit is adorable. I'd cover the umbrella hole with a bit of duct tape, but then I'm pretty heavy-handed when it comes to things like home repair!

Elizabeth said...

KC, it bothers me too to think about the volume of trash and waste from all this "stuff". People even add on more rooms to their homes to house it all. Then they have to heat the extra space etc and the waste just goes on and on. Amazing.

I will try the duct tape -- might just work.