Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Hedonic Stairmaster

The "second most expensive watch in the world," at least according to these people.
A couple of weeks ago my watch broke, and I decided to buy a new one.  I knew -- at least, I thought I knew -- what I wanted:  something rugged, large-faced, aggressively styled, water-resistant, and not to expensive.

At the store I found it -- it-who-will-remain-nameless.  It was large-faced, and water-resistant up to 30 feet.  It had a simple face, without one of those little "date windows" that I've come to feel are so annoying.  It was 35 dollars.  Canadian.  I bought it.

But two days later, it was broken.  I brought it back, and I was back in the market.

That's when I started climbing.  I wanted "something nicer," maybe something a bit more expensive.  First, I wanted a cheap diving watch, maybe 100 dollars.  But then I thought, well if you're going to get a diving watch, get a nice one.  You could spend, what, 300 dollars.  But then I was at these websites where 300 dollars is the "clearance" section and I caught sight of some real beauties, and I thought wow, a person could really enjoy that watch.  And it's, what, only 1,000 dollars.

Then I was listening to that song "Hot" by Missy Eliot which is such a hilarious send up of wanna-bes and con artists, where she calls out a guy who tries to rent a Bentley and pretend he's rich.  "Yeah boo you know you a joke, wear a fake Rolex, call it a Ro."  I like hip hop music, and though I know this shocks some people, I kind of love the crazy materialism of it, the lux brands obsessions.

And so I thought, Yeah. A Rolex.  Turns out there are even Rolex diving watches.  I can't tell you the price because the site I looked at took a distinctly If-you-have-to-ask-it's-too-expensive approach.

Then I remembered an old friend who was kind of into watches and how he told me about these antique self-winding watches with super craftsmanship and I thought "Yeah, wow, that's what I want."  And then I though of all the even cooler really old beautiful watches and how spectacular it would be to own something like that.

Before I knew what hit me, I had decided that only the Nicest, Most Expensive Watch in the World could possibly be really satisfying.

In a way I'm not surprised, because much as I love it, that's what consumer culture is like.  As long as N+1 object is nicer than N object, how can you be satisfied with any N?  You always know there's something better.

I call this The Hedonic Stairmaster.

Maybe you've heard of the Hedonic Treadmill?  This refers to the fact that people constantly adjust to the current status quo.  So that to feel the same happiness or pleasure, you can't just continue with the same state of affairs, you need that state of affairs to get better and better.

The Hedonic Stairmaster is different; it's a distinctly consumerist problem.  The Hedonic Stairmaster means you have to keep climbing.  It's never enough to have a mid-range thing, it's never enough to have a really-quite-nice thing; it's never even though to have a really nice thing.  Whatever it is, it'll seem shabby next to the even nicer thing, which you know is out there.

There is only one way I know off the Hedonic Stairmaster, and that's to have a sense of cool that does not track expense.  Real rebels do this, as do punk rockers, hippies, and goths.  Wonderful if you can manage it.  But like other ways of being Against The World, it gets harder as you get older.  


Christopher Grisdale said...

Goths are totally on the Hedonic Stairmaster. Have you seen the outrageous prices they pay for boots? Each additional buckle seems to progressively increase the price.

You're right about hippy and punk culture, though.

Patricia said...

Ha! I guess given that I was kind of a proto-goth, this shouldn't come as a suprise to me. I've always been a hedonic stairmaster kind of person.

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