This morning at 7 o’clock on my way to work at my writer’s hideaway, I saw about three thousand people (ranging in age from eighteen to 30-eight) lined up to buy jeans at a shop across from Bloomingdale’s called Diesel. Although that shop has been at the site for years, I’ve never gone into it, for what it sells I’d never buy; but today, when I walked past Diesel, the front door was flanked by security guards controlling the crowds who wanted to go inside and pay $50 for a pair of jeans.
I talked to many of these customers on line—there were single men, single women, with young children in carriages, young men with girl friends, people of all colours and all talking on cell phones, or listening to iPod music, or eating bagels and sipping coffee from cups…all waiting to get into this store to buy a pair of jeans for $50.
Never mind that $50 is a great price for Diesel jeans, or that this isn’t much more than you’d pay for a low-end pair of Levis at a Wal-mart. Don’t these people know there’s a financial crisis?!
I thought to myself: We read about the city in financial ruin, we read the daily press with its dire prognostications about the collapse of our economy, we watched Charlie Rose on TV last night interviewing yet another numbed-out economist predicting doom and gloom, and lamenting the loss of trillions not only on Wall Street but on Main Street…and yet, yet, here on Lexington Avenue (Main Street) there are three thousand people wanting to spend 50 dollars on another pair of jeans! What gives? Should they be saving the 50 bucks, or putting it into Treasury Bills, or buying their out-of-work single-mum mother a new pair of shoes or a frozen dinner?
But when you boil it down, it’s obvious that Talese isn’t really interested in the economy — he just has contempt for the crass commercialism on display. All this kids with their “cell phones”, “coffee from cups” and “iPod music”, entering a store that sells products “I’d never buy”.
The essay takes a tone of befuddlement, but Talese isn’t really feeling befuddled — rather he’s feeling disappointed. He’s disappointed that the downturn hasn’t put the kibosh on behaviour in which he disapproves. His conclusion reveals it all:
If we had conscription, half of these people would be in the army. But we don’t. And so they’re lined along Lexington, slowly moving toward the Diesel shop anticipating a new pair of jeans…
Yep, send ’em to war. That’d be better than this. And on that note, is the Diesel sale still going on? And how’s the line looking?
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