It was six months after my twentieth birthday, and several weeks after I had gotten my first real job that I learned the True Meaning of Thanksgiving. Before, like most youths raised in the culture of cynicism, I had heard "we have so much to be thankful for" that the bland benedictions were stopped by my filter before their meaning registered. But, at 20, I had a job doing tech support and I learned the meaning of thankfulness: it was the feeling when the first 15 minute break came, which let me know I was half way to lunch hour. And lunch hour was halfway through the day. And there was one more day down. Life was easy with that short focal length. Because I was a working man, now, I couldn't visit my family that Thanksgiving, but I went to my friends' house, and had a nice tofurkey with their somewhat-traditional Catholic family.
I am sure everyone has a story like that, where they learned that there was a truth behind the cliches of gratitude. A time when youthful cynicism fell away, and they were earnestly happy for all that they had. And to that, I have one thing to say: stop f*cking deluding yourselves.
My conversion back to immaturity happened today while I was walking in the rain, in Orchards, Washington, a suburb of Vancouver. I have recently been in Montana, where the winters are winters, and I had forgotten just how wondrous the electric green saturated Northwest winters could be. I am sure the charm would wear off soon enough, but while I was enjoying it, I would enjoy it. And while wandering around, I found a post office. Now, my interest in post and mail is well known, as some of those reading this are probably aware. I have a habit of buying postal supplies even when I already have them, so I decided to go in and see what was available. It is Thanksgiving Day, so the post office was, of course, closed. But the lobby was open, and in it there was an automated postal machine. Now I don't use these things if I can help it: I am a purist,
and somewhat of a snob. Unless I am sending a bill, I won't use definitives while mailing, and I prefer to send my mail with a mixture of old stamps, dating back to World War II at times. But, I could always use more stamps. So I swiped my credit card and ordered a booklet of 18 holiday definitves. Out they came, and with them came a receipt. I have a bad habit of keeping receipts, because I stuff them in my wallet and they stay there. But before I did that with this receipt, I looked it over and saw
It's a pleasure to serve you.
There are many things that are incongruous, and many things that we take for granted. We know that when a person asks us or wishes us a nice day, it is an empty formality. When a stamp dispenser does the same, it
is doubly empty. And I could have just taken it as an empty phrase, but I chose to think about it. It was not only empty, it was also insulting. On a day meant for expressions of gratitude, where do my thanks come from? From a stamp machine. I don't imagine that when AI researchers do manage to create artificial intelligence, a stamp
machine will be the first place they will put it. Hopefully, they will instill it in whatever Real Doll derivatives are crawling (and I mean "crawling" literally) through the lonely streets of tomorrow. Especially if polymer research has been keeping up with AI research. I don't bring the Real Doll in casually (trust me, there is no way to bring in a Real Doll
and remain casual). I don't think I am reading too much into it to think that this receipt spat out at me has a vaguely psychosexual tone. On a day where gratitude is meant to be given, I would wish that someone would be so grateful to me for all of my many sterling qualities, that they would be enrapt at the thought of bringing me pleasure. As a man,
my needs, be they emotional, romantic, or something more basic, are often cast into being something either threatening or ridiculous. Which is fair: I am an unemployed, bald, overweight thirty year old man that lives with my mother in cabin in rural Montana. I don't expect that too many girls are dreamily fanning themselves, sipping
on wine, and becoming giddy with the thought of bringing a smile to my face.
I understand that that is not going to happen. But do I have to be taunted? Do I have to be reminded that the only entity that takes pleasure in my pleasure is a grey little machine that prints out postage stamps, and at that, prints out definitives? I mean, if it was giving me rare inverts, that would be one thing. I live in a society that has taken away from me the idea that I could be a source of delight and interest. And then, I have to pay it back, establishing my worth through the spending of money. We could be living in a world of togas and spires, where we build a paradise in Hell's despite. Instead, we live in a world where the only gratitude I get is from a postal machine. To thank this world would be just another example of the Stockholm Syndrome. So I don't think
thanking will be a goal this Thanksgiving: we should have a day to blame those who force us to live as we do.