I’ve reached the age where I’ve become the perfect corporate citizen. I collect no salary or benefits, take up no office space, argue with no boss – except the woman I live with – am never late, take days off or vacations.
Other than the government pension that pays enough to live in a rusty trailer on an all-bean diet, I take nothing. What makes me perfect is all I do is consume. I buy. I spend. Money goes out and doesn’t come back in. I even pay taxes on the pension. But, I am performing the role society has carved for us all. I buy. Consume. Spend. That’s my job.
The idea of aging is to spend whatever you have before your body is incapable of consuming more than your last purchase – a cemetery plot.
The largest recipient of my largesse is big pharma and the medical industry. Like most people I know, I’m on a first name basis with my pharmacist, Alexandre, who insists on calling me mister, but is the front line against the various scourges of aging – from shingles to vaccines to pain. In fact, the entire staff knows me, in part because I’m picking up one med or another but also they have great sales on laundry detergent. I can’t pass up sales on laundry detergent and now we have about a dozen plastic bottles of various brands bought at a couple of bucks a bottle – less than an empty bag at Provigo.
I’m not yet in need of denture adhesive, diapers and talcum powder, hearing aids or all the shit they advertise during sports events to increase testosterone, machismo and the blue pills that'll turn you into a porn star with sore joints and high blood pressure. I eschew supplements, but I also have a cheap watch habit, racks of which hover near the cashes at the grocery store and the pharmacy. Who can turn down a $16.95 wrist watch? I have eight and I keep hunting for more, though when they turn the clocks back and forth it’s a pain in the wrist. No matter, ‘cause I consume a lot of batteries and watchmaker’s time changing them. It’ part of being a responsible consumer.
Though I am against annual checkups and regular blood tests – everyone I know has received a false positive, often warning death is imminent – my last doctor insisted I at least test for cholesterol and blood sugar. It was negative. Maybe a false negative. Who knows? But at least I played my role and technicians and a lab somewhere made a few bucks. As did the doctor, of course.
Bust a couple of ribs in the gym – yes I consume there, too, about $75/month – not overly extravagant to break bones – but a doctor suggested an X-ray to make sure I was not in danger of puncturing a lung. So, I did, but not before I read on a government website chest X-rays are best avoided because of false positives. So, the X-ray led to a scan which assured me whatever they saw on the X-ray was a false positive and worrying for a week that I was going to have a lung removed was a waste of good worry.
Of course, the scan was paid for. For $300 plus I was slid into a machine in less than two weeks. Had I waited for our stressed public system I’d still be worrying I was knock knock knocking on heaven’s door for months. Well, maybe not heaven.
Living in the mountains, we consume a lot of gasoline, shovels, painkillers from shovelling, snow removal services, an alarm service to prevent thieves from sitting down to dinner should they break in and walk out with an old iPad or laptop. It shrieks when set off but the alarm company doesn’t call, the police don’t come and the only people the beeping, howling, talking – yes it has a human voice – it makes happy are the folks at the insurance and the alarm companies.
I have failed in my responsibility to buy a new safe tub with a seat and a door and a bar to hang onto. No elevator on the stairs. Yet. And, we might be failing to support the slave-wage garment industry, though the closets are still full of clothes accumulated over decades. A sweater every couple of years, a jacket every five, pants and shirts here and there and before you know you’re filling bags of stained and unravelling clothes for the Goodwill equivalent or you walk around looking like your grandfather did, frayed and faded, which in rural settings is about as high-fashion as it gets.
We also consume used Apple products. Between us, we have five machines and appropriate chargers and ear buds and plugs. We're wired, just short on sockets – punishment for being a first-world consumer. But, the gadgets have yet to make us suicidal. That’s spared for the men and women who put this stuff together in faraway lands ‘cause we can’t live without texting each other, “Can you pick up …” or taking selfies: “Here I am. And here. And here, too. Aren't I beautiful? It was a great trip even if all I saw was my phone."
Cooking three times a day has lost its allure. Now that work does not take me away from home daily with lunch in a bag, I consume more restaurant food – “$22 for a burger? Really,” more frozen food – “$20 for frozen shepherd’s pie? Really?” But, if eating robustly is what the economy demands of a good citizen, I’m there, just a few seconds behind my burgeoning belly. And, as my friend Penny used to say, “When in doubt, eat.”
Being a consumer rarely requires allegiance to time, except for doctors, dentists, osteos, physios, optometrists and their frontwomen. For the little cohort of ping pong players I consort with once a week, it’s “Ahh, whenever.” And the more tequila shots, the more “whenever.”
Rather than labouring for lucre, we consume labour. I no longer shovel deep snow – my back left town several decades ago and took my right shoulder with it – and have never cleared the stuff off the roof – a job for young folk with malleable bones or quick-opening parachutes.
But, of late, I have fallen down on the job. I buy no $100,000 Teslas, $50,000 trucks, $10,000 propane generators, $5,000 hand-made guitars, no thousands worth of gold bling. But, we are on a first-name basis with several garage owners, not unlike the pharmacist. Patrick was so happy with the last $2,000 bill we paid, he gave me a cozy hooded company sweatshirt so I can advertise his garage wherever I go.
And, the car does go. Which is sometimes more than I can say for me, despite the doctors, osteos, physios, pharmacists … But, I’ll keep on consuming. Online, if need be. That’s my job.