This second story of my American Greed peaking through at a young age can probably answer my questions. I put myself through hell for my apartment, my car, my clothes and my money for status. We desire status. Knowing we all (supposedly) have an equal shot at obtaining the big boss baller lifestyle at birth we relentlessly pursue it for the status and the ability to roll down your window and say, “Yea, I played the game and I won. Now let me shit all over you.” Or something along those lines.
Anyway, back to my second example. When I was 16 I lived in a dry town. That means they can’t sell liquor Like a lot of high school kids we drank at parties and other social gatherings, but on top of being under age (the drinking age in The States is 21) the whole dry town thing made it next to impossible to get liquor.
We had a pretty clever method of getting our hands on it though. Let me take you into a night of acquiring high school currency–liquor.
Three of us, myself, Stevie and David pile into a car. Stevie is the driver, David the lookout and I’m the runner. You see, I was a bit of a track star in high school, providing me a great advantage in acquiring wealth.
We drive through subdivisions in a town near ours, searching for open garages. Finally we spot a street with a high volume of open garages and I jump out. I sprint from house to house, creeping into the garages. The first thing you look for is a fridge. The Midwestern dad needs his beer and his wife needs her liquor to get through the week. Their house fridge is much too full for all the cans and bottles though, which is where the garage fridge comes into play.
If the garage fridge isn’t there a quick peak into any boxes near the door could potentially hold a case of beer or wine. If there’s nothing I dart out, on to the next house. By the end of the street my arms are full. The final garage has a couple bottles of whiskey and a champagne. I have a pretty nice date lined up for the party later that night so I take the whiskey and champagne, leaving a case of beer in its place. An odd surprise for my victims I’m sure.
With our trunk nearly full we leave the subdivision, but the last house on the right, in perfect view, as if taunting us, has an open garage and a huge garage fridge. We stop and I tell the guys to stay put, I’ll do a quick in and out.
You see, there’s a trick to entering a garage. Newcomers are almost bound to get themselves caught without proper instruction. I was taught by another track guy and I taught the track guy below me. Unfortunately, after huge, flawless success early in the night I made a rookie mistake on this last house. Maybe it was the idea of making it a quick in and out or maybe I was just distracted by the amount of liqour we already had, but regardless I made a terrible mistake.
The trick is that you have to leap into the garage. Some garages, not all, but some, have a light sensor going across the entryway about six inches off the ground. Knowing this it is always wise to leap into the garage just in case you run into a light sensor that could alert the homeowners or neighbors to your presence. On this night, on this last house, I didn’t leap in.
I sprint straight into the garage and trip the sensor. I freeze immediately in place, unsure what to do. I make a quarter turn to leave, but realize the owner probably doesn’t even know I’m there. I take another couple steps for the fridge, arm outstretched and I see the light flick on beneath the door connecting the house to garage. I freeze again, hand inches from the fridge door.
The door to the house opens and a short, stocky man in his early forties looks me right in the eyes. SHIT! I sprint out and he yells something about me being a punk and follows in pursuit. I get to the end of the drive and yell at the guys, “Go! Go! Go!”
They peel out and I turn back up the drive, narrowly avoiding the owner and sprint toward the back yard. He hesitates, debating whether to go after the guys or to follow me. I know that all I have to do is keep moving in one direction and I’m home free. There’s no way he can keep up with me and this is before cell phones were molded to our bodies.
I sprint across an empty cornfield and finally stop to look back once I hit a country road. I see nothing, but suddenly car lights are right on me. I jump off the road into the deep irrigation ditch. The car stops and idles for a minute and I peak up to see what’s happening. I notice the make is similar to Stevie’s and I ease out of the ditch, but they start pulling away.
I wave them down and they stop and I hop in and we pop the bottle of champagne, much too young to drink whiskey straight.
Why did I risk my track career, my education, my youth for a couple bottles of liquor? The answer is clearly status. When I showed up at that party as the liquor supplier I was immediately elevated into a status above a majority of my peers.
Finally in the real world and I was still risking things–relationships, my health and sanity all for status and the ability to roll my window down, cock my head and say hell yea I played the game and I’m killing that shit.
The last thing I want to leave you with is a question I often ask myself. When people in the future look back at this history books what will they say about the things we did as a society? We look back at the 1700’s and earlier and speak about how disgusting and wrong slavery was. We look at the Roman times and speak about how disgusting and wrong it was to have gladiators. Years from now, say 200 years from now, what will people say about us? Will they say, “The people of the 2000’s were so infatuated with productivity and status and wealth that they worked their people to death. They took stimulants to get through the day and to remain as productive as possible.”?
I often asked myself what societies in the future would think about track and field athletes, too. What would they think of any sport, really? We already look down on gladiators, will they look back and say, “Wow, they treated their people so poorly. They made them race each other and bash each other while wearing little padding just to score a point and they did it all for entertainment.”
There’s no way to tell, but if history repeats itself (and it tends to) my guess is that the people in the future will probably look at numerous pieces of our society in shock and disgust, so why not try to weed those actions out as soon as possible?
Until next time.