How Online Shopping Is Getting Me Through the Pandemic
Sometimes I think I have PTSD. Post-traumatic shopping disorder. I shop to distraction. I shop to get away. Not from my life, as my wife is asking what’s wrong with my life. To get away from the news.
When I find myself staring at a blank browser window I can either open a firehouse of outrage or go shopping. Where nothing is wrong and if it is, it can just be returned.
So I shop.
Shopping for nothing
Even before the pandemic I used to shop for nothing. Things I couldn’t afford and could never get delivered (I live in Sri Lanka).
Watches, for example. There is nothing more oblivious than a watch. The best mechanical watches are sublimely out of date — they’re far less accurate than a $20 Casio and obliterated by a phone. And yet they persist, as jewellery men can pretend are tools (I’ll go diving with this, someday). Watches have just completely fucked off from the modern world and continued evolving in obscure, idiosyncratic ways.
They’re also extremely expensive, starting at $5,000 for the good ones, almost none of which are available where I live. And yet I began ‘shopping’ for them after Trump was elected, and cruelty began taking over the news. It was one place I could absolutely get away. As the media descended into a carnival of fuckery, Hodinkee was the one place the madness could never touch.
Shopping for stuff
Today that place is Daraz (our local AliBaba). This is a place I can actually shop. Cables, microphones, lights. Clocks, baking items, Christmas lights(for the fam). Most importantly, spare parts, that particular adapter, that charger. All the extras and erratum of modern life.
There is a deep sense that if I optimize my life enough it will be optimal. That the perfect set of consumer goods will make me a consummate human being. And to a large degree it works. At least better than reading the news does.
My wife’s USB cable organizer brings her joy every time she charges her phone, which is all the time. Every time I find the right power supply I feel as cunning as Odysseus. When my daughter puts her little shoes on the shoe rack I’m thankful.
Storage, electronics these are objects we touch every day and improving them does improve our lives. During the pandemic the world has collapsed into the home, so self-improvement is home improvement.
The world has imploded this far. This is wealth now, this is status. Not conspicious consumption, but the inconspicuous. Bury me in bubble wrap, surrounded by box cutters and terra cotta delivery men.
The obscenity of it all
It is of course obscene privilege, shopping for wants when so many have needs. Our family gives at least 10% away, but who are we kidding. Charity is how cash launders class. Generosity is a PR exercise, not actual change. Who gives a fuck about expensive podcasting equipment only noticed by people with expensive headphones. We’re literally rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
Even acknowledging privilege is a privilege, for the woke living the dream.
Online shopping is obviously not getting everyone through the pandemic. Not the Amazon workers on food stamps, fired if they dare slow down. Not for the community shops the pandemic shutters while Bezos laughs. And not, of course, for the poor, for whom there is no adapter to make ends meet.
This is literally the reality that I shop to get away from. To look away from. To turn from a messy world to a world of packaging. From uncertainty to money-back guarantees. From a basic needs going unmet to every want, potentially, n being satisfied.
I have died and gone to capitalist heaven, while capitalism is turning the Earth to hell. I have Post-Traumatic Shopping Disorder, but some people really have PTSD.