Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A center piece of my mind

Today's anger might not resonate with all of you. Some might be sympathetic to the objects of my ire and some might just be idiots. Pick your poison.

No, seriously. Pick some poison. Either way, I am right and you are wrong.

I often get to listen to people hold conversations about buying things. I do understand that often, people need to buy things. I, myself, when I was a boy, was known to buy a thing or two. But the conversations around here often mention the buying of shoes. I currently am the owner of 2 feet and that's it. Two. I cover them with a variety of footwear depending on the situation, but I have maxed out at 6 pair of footwear (plus my falling apart moose slippers -- the slippers are falling apart; they aren't modeled on a falling apart moose). And yet many people at my workplace seem to own many more pairs of shoes than this. Mostly they do this because they make the mistaken assumption that other people care about their shoes.

Even in my own household, some people feel the need to play mix and match as follows:

heel toe color fabric/material arch/flat use

with no fewer than 3 items in each category. The game isn't over until each member of the household has one pair of shoes fitting each combination. Then, God laughs and makes the feet grow and we start all over again. This explains why we currently have over 18,000 pairs of shoes in our house. Imelda Marcos? Amateur.

But I'm not here to talk about shoes. I overheard the following request at work. "Does anyone know of a centerpiece gemach?" When I asked why anyone would need that, the person said that she bought hundreds of dollars worth of centerpieces for a recent event and figures someone else might benefit from them so she wants to donate them. That's very admirable but also possibly the dumbest thing I have ever heard.

For a single use, she spent hundreds of dollars on centerpieces. A centerpiece, if you don't already know, is the artistic construct placed in the center of each table at a social event which has, as its only purpose, to get in the way when you are trying to make polite (if forced) conversation with the person sitting anywhere at the table other than immediately next to you. No one likes them and people only compliment them because they have run out of other inane chatter with which to fill the time before it is socially acceptable to leave. The imposing combination of flowers, marbles, goldfish and sparklers has no purpose and the only one who would notice if they were gone is the hostess of the next event who is sizing up the celebration and planning how she will one up the current celebrant. That's it.

I know that some people have money enough to but what they want, but to spend money on these things seems like so much of a waste to me. I implore all of you who are considering centerpieces, buy a chia pet and send me the rest of the cash.

So now, this very fine woman is left with hundreds of dollars worth of useless sculpture that she wants to donate to a free-loan society. This presumes three very troubling ideas:

1. Someone saw fit to establish said free loan society because he or she saw a really compelling social need for the exchange of centerpieces. Someone took of his or her own time to set this up because, instead of effecting the exchange of useful goods like crayons or chewed gum, this person thought that time and energy was best spent helping people reuse centerpieces.

2. Someone who doesn't have enough money for elaborate centerpieces should still be throwing a party to create the aura that he or she has more money and can have fancy centerpieces.

3. Someone is going to want the same centerpieces as someone else. Style and other personal preferences be damned and ignore the social stigma which ensues when someone else sees repetition in the centerpiece department. Oh, the shame.

So, some practical advice. Ditch the centerpieces. In fact, dial down the elegance of the event on the whole. Use the money to pay for real things in life, not transient and superficial collections of artifice. Next, set up a free loan society using the money you saved by not buying crazy centerpieces. Finally, buy a pair of really good shoes.

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