(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Friday, January 21, 2011


so nothing has changed. thought maybe some of the ravenous consumption monster might have been tamed a bit, but not so much it seems.

on the plane, we were a captive audience pummeled with an onslaught of offers to do what 'mericans do best. buy. shop. consume. collect. the headsets were no protection from the PA announcments encouraging people to grab that duty free magazine and shop. how easy it would be because they take credit cards. and please, consider getting another one. the handy dandy shiny United Airlines in partnership with Chase bank card where you can buy buy buy and earn miles too! Why, hold on because the hostesses will be passing out applications in just a moment. (I kid you not.)

later, a jingle came on the television screen and we were treated to a singing version of how wonderful the Sky Mall is and how we can use that United Airlines in partnership with Chase bankcard to choose from over 2,000 items in the SkyMall Magazine!! yay!!

oh and if you want food or drinks on the plane now, be advised ... they no longer accept cash only Credit Cards!!

When I bought my ticket online I had to page through 3 separate upsells from United ... more legroom, earn extra miles by paying, pay your way to the front of the check in line, and on and on and on!!

when I boarded the 2nd flight, first class was full of suits. it was one of the big 1st class sections (Dulles to SFO) and there was one lone woman. suited. All had laptops whirring and gabbed nonstop into their wireless mikes while thumb-flicking their touchscreen phones. barking orders and exchanging office gossip. who knows how many secrets could be picked up just by loitering there?

making my way to cattle class, I quit counting after about the 5th row because it seemed futile. What was I counting? why touchscreen phones of course. why was it futile? because EVERY SINGLE PASSENGER had one. and was busily doing something on it. head tucked downward eyeing the tiny screens. EVERY SINGLE ONE!

somehow, looking at all of this made me sad. I mean, it used to be me. and the fact that it isn't any more makes me happy. but it is sad to think of so many people ... driven to consume because it is the nature of the society they live in. Everyone is on the merry-go-round so it must be the place to be... when they wake up because they are pushed off at the age of 60 or so ... what will they really have? a lifetime of experiences in the office and the mall? a desk drawer rattling with a collection of outdated cellphones and other gadgets that they spent hours working to pay off the debt for?

I knew people (me included) who bragged about their airport club membership levels (premier, premier executive, million mile club) ... and strove to get to the next level. for what? a nicer drink, a bigger seat? never thinking about the true cost of that badge of honor...the hours logged for meaningless miles to even more meaningless meetings. nights in stale hotels. poor health from restaurant food and minimal activity...or better yet, hours on a stair machine heading nowhere fast.

well. in spite of the crisis. unemployment. etc etc. my little slice revealed nothing remarkably different than witnessed before. the same onslaught of ads and flashing light posters and endless airport boutiques hawking all the latest. kind of turned my stomach to see the kiosk boasting "green products, products to make your life better" but as I grew closer it was just an assortment of clothes and chatchkes and more stuff ... stuff that will end up in a landfill some day and really stuff that was dubiously green (in my opinion). le sigh.

want to hear something ironic? the movie on the flight was Wall Street 2.

it was, however, quite lovely to see and hug my daughter after I landed.

ciao, more to come ...


Kathleen said...

glad you got back safe and sound... your observations reminded me of when I flew into Los Angeles after my wonderful, life changing year in Italy.. no wonder I cried for 2 weeks upon my return. And,that was 1990... and still, not much has changed. But, I'm glad you're closer and hope to see you soon. xo

Notre Vie Juteuse said...

well said. I too was a suit and I too played the game, but that was so many years ago, don't miss it at all. don't miss the USA, don't miss the crap in your face. I love the french countryside, the simple life, not buying just to buy. Enjoy your daugther and can't wait to see you when you come home.

Rosie said...

It is shocking when us country bumpkins are hit by the technology updates.
I remember going to our son's graduation and from the back of the hall every single person was holding up a little lit square screen and looking at it not the graduation............
Have a lovely and successful trip

rastreator said...

Thanks for the informative. Fantastic blog. Congratulations!!!

PicklePits said...

Though new to your blog, I second everything you penned.

America: The Infomercial. That's us. So pathetically overindulgent.

I look to my students who are all immigrants. The first thing they buy an English/nameyourlanguage dictionary? Au contraire mon frere. Why, a cell phone of course!

And then I look at myself. So pathetically overindulgent. So American. I deserve this nightmare of packing up for the big move over to Spain. I earned every minute of this living nightmare.

Maybe I'll get lucky and we'll be able to sell the house "furnished" to someone else who wants a ton of
crap. How likely is that?

Well, a girl can dream now can't she?

Looking forward to more of your posts!

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

Ppits, yes my move prep. was excruciating and ideserved the pain of every layer shed. I wrote a lot about it in 2008, check out the archives. & welcome!