I guess it all started when I became Amazon Prime. For some reason they told me that I qualified for free membership in their exclusive buyers club, and that from now on, free and nearly instant shipping for all my purchases would apply.
When I’m bored I like to shop online, and even before I became Prime have been guilty of buying things I don’t need, just because they seemed inexpensive. I have been surprised the next day to find a box or two or three from Amazon on my front porch, containing things I barely remember buying.
I wonder what possessed me to buy three kilts in different patterns? Surely one would have been enough, for I have never yet worn even one of the kilts in public, and it doesn’t look like I’m likely to do so anytime in the near future. And even though a nose flute is an easy instrument to master, I don’t know why I needed to buy one made from African Ebony. Wouldn’t a plastic nose flute have sufficed?
OK, I forgot to add that I like to drink while I shop late at night, when everyone else is asleep. I sometimes I take Ambien to help me sleep, which as far as I can see is either a harmless or terribly dangerous drug. You can never tell what’s going to happen when you take Ambien.
Once after taking Ambien I came to standing in line at our local twenty-four hour supermarket, my arms full of groceries. It was three in the morning and I was naked. The others in line just ignored by nakedness, as did the cashier, a fact for which I am eternally grateful.
I decided that I must take action to break my dependency on online shopping, so I flew across the world (on a ticket purchased at a very reasonable price online) to a tropical resort. It proved excruciatingly boring, not just for me, but for all the guests. We sat dazed in the common area during the long, hot afternoons, staring at our laptops and cell phones, hoping for stimulation that we could not find in sun and surf. None of us had the least idea what to do with ourselves. Our hosts offered us speedboat rides to neighboring islands, but they promised to be carbon copies of this.
Of course, there was no point in going to the Amazon site, because even the most powerful drone could not make good on their Prime promise of two-day delivery. After a couple of brief swims in the warm, salty water, what was a person to do? I stopped wearing my watch, for watching the minute hand crawl in agonizing slowness was torture. My waterproof watch which only days ago had brought me joy, for it was accurate to the millisecond, using at atomic signal sent by shortwave radio to recalibrate itself, this the advanced Timex I had purchased only weeks before as one of my first Prime purchases, now totally without function. Here I was stuck in paradise unable to practice my primary addiction. I had signed up for two weeks of this, and there were no refunds to be had.
One afternoon I’d finally had enough. I snapped. “Boring!” I began to mutter, then grumble, then pronounce, then shout. “This place is boring!”
I looked around at my fellow vacationers. They hadn’t heard me, or if they had, they weren’t going to give me the satisfaction of being noticed. Most of them were wearing earbuds. I guess they were listening to the same music they listened to back home. I looked over at the bar, a separate hut on the beach. Two women and a man were actually talking to one another, but I suppose that could be attributed to the alcohol they were drinking.
Maybe I should close Facebook and concentrate on reading or writing something of substance. But then there was another ding alerting me to someone’s comment on one of my posts and I just had to look. Someone had used one of the new emoticons instead of the like button. Big deal. Summoning all my courage, I closed the app. I swallowed hard and began to shake. Looking around the common space I saw that everyone was still glued to their phone or laptop. No one was talking, or smiling, and the gentle lapping of surf as the tide came in was occasionally drowned out by a motorcycle driving down the sand path outside.
That’s it! Suddenly it came to me. I should start a recovery program for people addicted to social media! Facebook and Twitter addicts who have lost all hope of ever freeing themselves from their desperate need for Internet community approval. So I took action. I made flyers and announced a meeting for Internet Addicts Anonymous. We would meet in my bungalow that evening at 8.
For this, I decided to upgrade from the simple shack I was renting to a larger one, with air-conditioning. It was like moving to a palace. So what if the room was four times as expensive as the hut I’d been staying in, I was finally moving forward again.
Four people showed, two men and two women. I recognized them from the community dining area we all shared. One of the men, a deeply-suntanned fellow even older than me, pretty much had his own table which he occupied all day. He smoked and divided his time between a mini-laptop and a smartphone. The two women seemed pretty normal, except they wore a lot of what I would call “bling.” Rhinestone-studded sandals, flashy turquoise bracelets, sunglasses with designer carrying cases. I could just imagine the price descriptions. “Regularly $189, now $59.”
The other man didn’t say much. He looked like a retired high school principal, which he well may have been. I got the impression he might get up and leave at any moment, so I braced myself for that event, promising that I wouldn’t let it upset the group.
We began by introducing ourselves, and then I made an opening statement about my tendency to shop in a trance state and then be surprised the next day or two by finding the purchases on my porch. I saw the others nod their heads. Then one woman suggested I was “powerless over Prime,” which I found poetic, but I thought she was headed in a Twelve-Step direction that might derail our little recovery group before it began, so I merely responded with “Yes, you might say that.”
The other woman suddenly confessed “I spend over eight hours a day on Facebook. That’s too much, right?” Nobody said anything. The suntanned man said “I got you beat,” but then didn’t offer a precise figure.
“Should we go the Twelve-Step route?” I asked the group. Three of the four shook their heads “no.” Do you really want to change? Again, the same number shook their heads. The high school principal looked out the window like he finally saw someplace he’d really like to be. He suddenly spoke up.
“Why don’t we transfer addictions? If we simply give up what we’re doing, we’ll feel empty and lost.”
“Good idea,” murmured the other three.
“Sex?,” suggested the suntanned man. “Swingers Group?”
The women looked sad.
“Gambling,” countered the principal. “Texas Hold ‘Em. You can make money if you’re sane and sober and willing to put in the time. And it’s extremely addictive.”
So that’s how it began, the thing that really took hold of my life, that changed me in ways I never could have predicted. I now never worry about price. Promotional pricing and discounts leave me cold. In fact, the cost of things doesn’t interest me. If I really want it, I’ll pay whatever price I have to in order to have it.
The five of us formed a tight little group, and since then we’ve recruited as many more. We all live together in a rented mansion in a place where the cost of living is a fraction of what we were used to. No longer victims of an obsession, we’re now entrepreneurs.