Recently, Memory got an Amazon package in the mail, and, walking through the house with it, casually mentioned that she’d forgotten what she’d ordered. We both laughed sardonically, sensing the implications. Oh. My. God. It’s come to this.
It made me wonder if America was on the verge of a collapse like ancient Rome. But, I think the excesses of ancient Rome lacked the nuance of modern indulgence; Romans certainly had technicolor excesses but bread and circuses were simple brick and mortar events. Today’s quest for fulfillment plays out in a long Kafkaesque play where something is always almost going to happen. (Franz Kafka was a writer whose surreal fiction vividly expressed the anxiety, alienation, and powerlessness of the modern individual.)
The best part of doing cocaine is going to get it. (We’re not talking about Memory anymore, I have, ahem, a friend, who has some experience with this.) Amazon allows us to always be on our way to the coke dealer and that journey –knowing that something is ordered, and in the mail– is the fix. This personal fulfillment process –running concurrent with all the steps companies must take from the moment they receive an order until the items land in customers’ hands– gives an extended buzz of anticipation and it’s almost a shame that Amazon is making two-day delivery a standard because when the product arrives, something dies. What remains is good, and maybe even useful, but not so important that you’d always remember its name at a party.
I tend an extensive vegetable garden and I can tell you that the harvest is a different animal than watching the vegetables thrive and grow. If I could inject only one of the two into my veins, it would be watching the plants burgeon and stretch out green and lush in the warm brown dirt, soaking up water while reaching hungrily for the sun –and it would not be plopping the basket of picked vegetables on my kitchen counter at the end of the summer.
Maybe it wasn’t always like this. I traced Amazon’s lineage on one of those ancestry websites back to Sears Roebuck, and Montgomery Ward. These catalogs revolutionized mail-order, and credit, and shopping as if in the big city. This was now done from the distant farm kitchen table miles from nowhere in the great wild West. Shopping equality came to minorities, and the poor, in a boon that hasn’t subsided. And I’ll bet that when they ordered a plow, or new shoes, or a rifle, or a wooden toy, or a gingham dress, –I’ll bet that when that box arrived on the weathered front farm porch –they knew what was in the box.