In William Leith’s very good book The Hungry Years, which I’ve written about before on this site and which you should really read as it’s great, Leith talks about the moment when he drops the latest piece of food (which, he says, seems suddenly tiny) into his open mouth (which is, of course, suddenly huge). I can’t be sure I remember correctly just how he describes it and I don’t have the book here but I think it’s in terms of blinks. As in: blink. One piece of apple pie. Blink, blink, it’s all gone. Blink, a month goes by and he’s fatter than ever.
I’ve been thinking about this today, not in terms of food but in terms of shopping. Internet shopping. Of course here the appropriate work is click: click and I have a t-shirt being sent from overseas. Click, click and the judgemental arses at Amazon.com who delight in sending me unasked for books about depression have something new to pop in the post. Or, as I recently discovered, click click and you’ve just spent more on music in the past ten minutes than you have in the past six months. Bloody itunes eh?
I blame iinet. No, really. I have been internet free since I moved house thanks to these geniuses and their incompetent boobery. So, naturally, when I happen to nip home to use my parents’ computer I think oh I’ll just have a little look and… oooh only $1.69 per single eh? Well that seems reasonable… click, click, click. Ooh I like that song with the drums. Mmm The National – I’ve heard good things, click. Click. Click. All well and good at the time, of course, and you don’t even have to put your credit card details in if you’ve got an account but then there’s the unpleasant matter of the bill. Much like in a restaurant, by the time the bill arrives you’ve already consumed the product and are probably already looking onto the next meal or song. And for some reason itunes appears to have a two-day delay, meaning by the time I receive an email to tell me how much I’ve blown I’ve practically forgotten buying it in the first place.
The other problem is, of course, my atrocious maths. “Outrageous,” I say to no one as I open the bill. “I don’t remember this. I bought a whole bunch of singles at $1.69 – surely they can’t possibly add up to this.” Hmm, quite.
The danger of internet shopping is, obviously, that it feels all a bit fake. Like monopoly. “I will give you $500 for Pall Mall,” I would confidently tell my brother or sister in the old days, well aware that I didn’t have $500 just as they didn’t own a piece of property. “I have three children,” I’d tell my opponent in that underrated boardgame The Game of Life, equally sure that I would drive my little fake car with its tiny plastic inhabitants into the nearest river if the wee pieces of pink plastic actually represented real children.
“I will pay you $100 of my fine fake dollars for whatever goods you can post to me,” I tell internet site after internet site, assuming, of course, that they realise I don’t have the money: I have, instead, a credit card debt, a mildly acquisitive nature and no self control.
Unfortunately, of course, they’re not playing.