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Politics // Mostly Politics
Dan Boylan

’Tis The Season Of Ambivalence

First came Black Friday, then Small Business Saturday followed by Cyber Monday. Out of fear engendered by television footage of last year’s Black Friday tramplings, I skipped it this year. But on Small Business Saturday, I made a point of driving down to SWAM in Aiea, where Jill, my local sommelier extraordinaire, sold me a bottle of red wine. Maybe I bought two bottles. Perhaps three.

Two days later, on Cyber Monday, I dutifully went to the website of my favorite purveyor of aloha shirts, Hilo’s Sig Zane. Sig sells distinctive floral aloha shirts. I find them irresistible. My problem is that he sells them at increasingly resistible prices, currently $89 a pop. But on Cyber Monday he offered his finest at a discount sufficient to get me a beautiful orange-and-white number at the bargain price of $80, tax and shipping included. Not bad, huh?

Now I know, I still haven’t made one of those big seasonal purchases that will help the mall stores or the free-standing big boxes make it into the black in 2012. But mall parking terrifies me, and the big boxes seem to be selling nothing but phones, tablets, Kindle Fires, Apple this and Apple that, and television screens larger than barn walls.

I don’t need any of that stuff, for the simple reason that I can’t operate any of it. I am an impatient technological nitwit of the first order who, when faced with a smart phone, grows stupid.

And when I sit down weekly to write this column, I confront my worst fear: No, not having something to write about, but runaway Microsoft Word. You know: self-deleting paragraphs, saved copy that gets saved somewhere I’ll never find, words that literally shrink before my eyes. The list is long.

So what do I do in my befuddlement?

I scream, “Gloria!” She – the high-strung Filipina who makes frequent appearances in this column – of course, comes, fixes it and looks at me with all the scorn only a 40-year marriage can accumulate. Or “Erin!” My 26-year-old daughter, who solves my problem with dispatch, but also with a derision-dripping, “Ooooooooh, Dad,” accompanied by a mournful shake of the head.

No, I’m not going to burden myself with more frustrating technology. And I won’t attempt to gift my children or friends with the newest technology – in my ignorance, I’d buy a computer, smart phone or high-definition television that was two generations behind the times.

Instead, I’ll buy the wife the newest model Dustbuster and give the kids envelopes containing cash. They’ll pluck the envelopes off the tree, say “Thanks, Mom, thanks, Dad,” but I’ll hear in my own demented head, “Not very creative, old codger.” And “Is this all?”

Plus, I will be beset by guilt cut with a heavy dose of ambivalence. “Guilt” because I’ve failed my country. Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday spell consume, consume, consume. Consumption drives our economy, and I’m buying a bottle of wine here, a shirt there, a new Dustbuster. Man! I’ve failed my nation “in its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.”

But I’m also a liberal, a true-blue lefty, and if there’s anything this world needs less of, it’s stuff. We’re overrun with it. It’s literally lapping up on our shores. It’s made self-storage a growth industry. And it’s given New York 70-degree days in late November.

So call me patriotic.

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