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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

HAVING STUFF - A Cranky re-run

A re-run from May 2011

Having stuff does not make you happy. Not having stuff that other people have makes you unhappy. The more people that have stuff that you do not have, the unhappier you will be.

When I was a kid we didn’t have a lot of stuff. We didn’t have a color TV; we had no air conditioning, and we didn’t have a computer, laptop or otherwise. We didn’t have an i-pad, an i-pod, or Netflix. We did not have a CD player; we did not have a DVD player; hell, we didn’t even have a VCR, and yet we were happy. Why? Because no one else had any of this stuff either.

Our car (not plural) had roll-up windows and no air conditioning. It had brakes that had to be stomped on to stop and steering which took a two-hundred pound man to parallel park (note to Microsoft Word- parallel is not the name of a park and does not need to be capitalized). The clock was analog and did not work. The radio was AM only. Still, we were happy. Why? Because no one had a car with power windows or air conditioning; clocks were all analog and never worked in a car, no one had FM radio in the car, and power brakes and steering were still not invented.

We had one telephone. It was all black, it had a rotary dial, there was no call waiting, no caller ID and calls outside of your area code (wait, there was no area code either) calls outside your county were long distance and cost more. Cell phones were a Dick Tracy wrist radio pipe dream. GPS was Dad with a map. Even so we were happy. Why? Because one phone was enough, call waiting is annoying, you could hang up when you lost the nerve to ask a girl out and she would not know it was you, and we didn’t know anyone outside the county. Cell phones tie you down. Dad with a map was as good as any GPS and he never had to recalculate.

One July, in the mid-fifties, the Newmans, our neighbors to the left, got a window unit air conditioner for their den (family room today for you young people), and we were unhappy. Then my Dad got central air for our entire house, and the Newmans were unhappy. The Tullys, our neighbors to our right, got a blue princess touchtone phone for their kitchen. We were unhappy. Dad got a new princess phone, and a color TV. The Tullys were unhappy.

The Tullys countered with a power lawn mower, the Newmans got a car with power windows, brakes and steering. Dad got a new stereo and the neighbors' “high fidelity” systems were to be pitied.

Thus the battle of stuff goes on. No one is any happier for all the new stuff; everyone is actually less happy until they catch up in the battle of the stuff.

If there is any value at all in becoming a cranky old man, it is stuff becomes less and less important. You have some new stuff that I don’t? Cool, look at me I’m still above ground! You can watch any movie on a portable device at the touch of a button? What will they think of next? Hey, look at me; I’m fucking breathing! You can download any song in seconds and store thousands of them in a cigarette sized box. Wonderful. I can whistle any song I want for free! Your car has a sun roof, backup camera, i-pod deck, hands free cell speaker system, satellite radio and a drop down TV in the back for the kids? That’s fantastic, watch this: I can still get out of bed in the morning!

I don’t really need any more stuff. I am very happy with the stuff I have. The stuff I have is way more than any stuff I grew up with, and as far as I know, the Newmans or the Tullys don’t have any of this stuff.


  1. As George Carlin would say. "Would you please move your SHIT so I have room for my STUFF?"

  2. Absolutely WONDERFUL post, Cranky! You've hit the proverbial nail right on the head... it isn't about the stuff itself, it's about envy and needing to have what someone else has... and even more! I agree that the older we get the less that drive to have more fuels us. I am all about having less now, paring down, sorting wants from true needs, and I am so much happier for not caring about what anyone else has or thinks they need. Now if we could just find a way to stop new generations from buying into the consumer game!

  3. A perfect post, perfect premise, perfectly articulated.
    Stuff is the root of all evil.....well, that which generates envy.
    When I was very poor I realized how very little we actually need and have neve forgotten it. (so how did I get all this stuff??)

    I LOVE this post!