Anthony Renzulli, the zany proprietor of “The best cigar shop in South Philadelphia,” knew he’d have to answer to his wife, Marie, for his latest purchase.
And answering to that fiery blaze of bodacious pulchritude, even when she isn’t armed with PMS and a hatchet, ain’t something any of us timorous patrons want to risk with our limited health coverage.
I mean, who doesn’t know: The difference between a terrorist and a wife is that you can negotiate with a terrorist.
Anyway, Anthony decided to get a new cash register to make business operations at the Twin Smoke Shoppe easier. Now he’s been drifting in and out of minor sales tax problems over the years with a cash machine that is about as primitive and basic as the Chinese abacus.
So he figured it’s time to go where everyone else seems to have already gone — high tech.
Which, in some ways, is a good idea. Afterall, today you’ve got to move ever faster just to stand still.
I guess that means that going fast ain’t the same as going somewhere.
Which is pretty much what we all seem to be doing: Speeding to nowhere while, at the same time, getting run over by the technology.
With all the computer and high tech largesse from the holiday season, one thing, in particular, rocked me: It’s the overwhelming speed — more than the ever bigger, better and pricier technology itself — that is obviously stampeding us with dumbfounded awe.
The stuff just keeps piling up, like the erstwhile never-ending versions of Bill Gates’ Windows.
I mean, it all seems to manifest even faster than the speed of gossip. And you know, in that arena, quick ain’t fast enough. In Bill and Monica’s case we would have known everything that was happening even before they actually got to the legendary White House cigar.
The trouble, particularly for moi, is that the faster things go the more retarded I get.
Perhaps that’s because – I am!
And apparently I have a lot of company.
Anthony, for instance.
The cash register he’s got now — on monthly leasing payments that equal my ex-wife’s platinum credit card bills– is definitely an impressive looking piece of menacing, black, steely machinery.
The sales material promised it will do everything.
Which is pretty much Marie’s job.
At work, I mean.
Now, it ain’t none of my business how Anthony operates his establishment, although it does seem, at times, that he reached his intellectual peak in 9th grade.
But, don’t get me wrong, there are many more times when his 57-years of experience, street smarts, and personality shine more brightly than the top of his head.
Indeed, it is the way he gladly shares his grins and chagrins that bring us all in the door to regularly puff around a symbolic potbelly stove. And there we are allowed to disagree, but not be disagreeable.
At the same time, with pugilistic Italian passion, Anthony and Marie have managed to weather the daily combat of love and marriage the last 30 years. No doubt because she is one great looker and cooker who is not reluctant to season her opinions hotter and spicier than her culinary delights.
So, with Marie at his ear, Anthony is no stranger to the reproach: A man may not know he is a fool… unless he is married.
At that, when Anthony got this expensive new toy, Marie asked the question loudly and forcefully that all of us left unspoken: What duh hell, what duh hell, what duh heck youse go and get that for, Ant-knee?
It’s at times like these when I am unsure who is the slave and who is the master of the Twin Shop universe.
Since the sleek beast has positioned itself in the director’s chair, Anthony has had to inventory, re-inventory, catalogue and re-catalogue his thousands of cigars not only differently, but the way the machine commands. Which may not be all bad, but to what end?
He has had to put bar codes on the cigar sticks. And for those without prices he has to find a way to list them in separate computer files – files, that we all know, can get as lost as Moses in the desert.
Anthony’s got more to do now, it seems, than a divorce attorney for a polygamist.
And any special deals and discounts take longer to figure out how to input than locating Weapons of Mass Destruction.
In fact, the only task that seems to be easily accommodated is the automated computation of the taxes. Now doesn’t that just want to make you go out and blow cigar smoke where Uncle Sam’s sun don’t shine.
I am sure this stuff pays off in the long run. It just depends how long you can run in place.
Yet isn’t this precisely the same thing most of us do: We overbuy and overpay for technology we don’t use, or already got but don’t have the time, energy or anti-flummox pill to know how to engage.
In other words these bigger-better and more expensive gadgets, at the very least, make it easier to do a lot of things. But most of the things they do don’t need to get done. Or don’t, anyway. Or they merely offer repeat operations for things we already got something else that already does it.
I mean, with our computers we now get a phone with Skype. With our phones we get a computer with Apps. And then there is IPad that demonstrates size gets everything.
Hmm…. I wonder what I meant by that?
So why do we do the things we are doing? That is: buy stuff that we’re told will make us faster, but not really get us anywhere. What changes, except perhaps that we become tools of our tools? And I’m not talking about porn, here.
I guess it means we want what we want when we want it — even though we didn’t know we wanted it until we were told we absolutely needed it and our neighbors were getting it just a few moments after they suddenly realized they wanted it because they just couldn’t live without it.
I’m not saying this is all bad. It’s just what we are directed to do. Just like our military gets a new and redundant enemy each year; Our politics gets a new and redundant candidate each year, and we consumers get a new and redundant present to buy each year in time to boost the economy for the holidays.
And consider this: we spent more this holiday season than last — mostly on stuff like “over-high-tech” computers, cell phones, TVs and related equipment and games.
Meanwhile, in some parts of the world where I’ve worked, they don’t seek or ask for such redundant “stuff.” What they do want to know is when they are going to get a road to their village. Just like a great deal of America wants to know when its roads and bridges are going to get them home again.
And there it goes: Ant-knee got his high-tech cash register – at least until Marie reminds him that a damn fool and his money gotta pay the mortgage. And the rest of us folks got our latest version of the same toys to ride down the super highway of overpriced technology.
Look, it isn’t any revelation that we are sold on the ideology that we must constantly be moving faster than ever just to stand still. But if you take time to think – instead of merely reacting – you’d realize that no matter how fast we be gittin’, it doesn’t matter because we’re all gittin’ there at the same speed. Which is soon going to seem as slow as a Conestoga wagon.
It’s just relative. Like Einstein said in explaining his theory: Having a pretty girl sit on your lap for an hour seems like a second. Yet sitting on a hot coal for a second, seems like an hour.
Nothing is or isn’t what it seems until we pay the price. Then we may learn the value. And the value just may be a wife like Marie reminding Anthony not to fall in love with your technology. For one thing: You can’t sleep with it.
And dats yDrewIS on DIS penal colony…