I'm stressed. Stressed about money.
No, not the kind of real-world stress we're all feeling these days. I have that too, don't worry, though I know I'm luckier than many, many people on that score. I'm stressed because, as those who follow my Twitter feed already know, I suddenly find myself with a $250 AmEx gift card that I had no idea was coming my way.
It turns out that the "professional favor" I did recently (which did not, contrary to scurrilous rumor-mongering, have anything to do with a "male escort service"), was not, in fact, something I was doing for free, like I thought. How cool! Something I thought I was doing just to be a nice guy has now reaped me a reward. It's like some kind of great moral lesson or something!
So here's the thing. As we all know, it's not often that unexpected money comes falling out of the sky. So immediately, I felt a great sense of pressure. HOW DO I SPEND THIS? When's the last time THIS ever happened, and when will it ever happen again? I need to make wise decisions. Decisions I won't regret in a week. I don't want to find myself banging my head on the desk or raising my fist to the sky in existential torment over the fact that I somehow thought it was a good idea to buy $250 worth of Cheetos. (OR IS IT?)
I've already decided, though, that this does not--and, in fact, should not--be spent on something I necessarily need. Screw that. That's what my job is for. This is a windfall. It is my duty to blow this money strictly on something I want, something that in the normal course of life I could never justify buying. The things I need I'll end up buying anyway. This is an opportunity to get something totally unnecessary and indulgent. And, yeah, let me be clear on that point: Indulgence is what I'm after here. I'm working hard these days, I support my family, I make donations to charity--all that. So I'm being selfish. Though some of the Buddhist reading I've been doing talks about "letting go" of such desires, which, in theory, probably makes sense, I guess, it's also true that those Buddhist monks didn't have the new Nintendo DSi to contend with. Let's see how strong they'd be in the face of THAT temptation!
Anyway, so, I need your help. I've made a short list of stupid crap I don't need, but I can't pull the trigger yet because, you know, WHAT IF I MAKE A MISTAKE?? What if it's the wrong crap? Maybe there's crap I haven't even considered yet! Maybe the crap I want actually IS crap! Here's where you come in. Help me decide. Participate in my impulse buying. There's nothing in it for you--not a damn thing, because I'm not sharing--but you'd at least get the satisfaction of knowing you helped another human accomplish something unnecessary and even somewhat shameful, given the state of the world today. But, hey, at least it's not you!! If you start feeling bad about how much you have versus the rest of the world, at least you won't be racked with guilt over money blown on nothing! You can point at me! You can scoff and feel morally superior to that greedy spendthrift Jeff Green! This is my gift to you! Moral superiority!
So here is the short list, with accompanying rationalizations and hesitations.
1) Nintendo DSi. I love my DS. Favorite handheld gaming device evar. However, I have the clunky old first-generation one, with the cruddy small screen. Also, it's purple. It's hard enough to be taken seriously on this planet without carrying around a purple DS. So this free money seems like the perfect excuse to upgrade to the new DSi, which is all cool-looking and thin and not purple. The hitch: If I wait, the DSi will eventually show up at the EA Store, where, as part of the "new employee program", I'll get a $100 discount. So I'm thinking I should use this $250 on something that would actually cost me, ya know, $250.
2) The Wire Complete Box Set. This is honestly my top choice. The Wire is probably my favorite TV show of all time, so the thought of being able to revisit it, and share it with others, is extremely tempting. The thing is: I have come to realize, like many people, that buying DVDs is largely a waste. Those DVDs spend a lot of time, maybe their entire existence, not being watched, but simply hoarded. I already have a hoarding instinct with books and music, and have mostly successfully avoiding doing the same with DVDs. I HAVE picked up some of my all-time favorites: Spinal Tap, Big Lebowski, Seven Samurai, The Godfather, etc--and I have no regrets. Though, again, I don't really watch them. I do like knowing they're there, though. And if any show will not only hold up to repeated viewings but actually reward you with new insights and discoveries, it's The Wire. In fact, the storytelling is so rich and deep and complex--like any great novel-- the first viewing is almost too overwhelming. So, yeah, I want this. It's $180 at Amazon, leaving me $70, which would get me either of the items in #3!
3) Two other TV DVD box sets, both "cult classics" of which I was happily part of the cults: Twin Peaks and The Prisoner. Again, two shows that reward repeated viewings. I just can't decide which I'd be happier to own over the long haul. I think episode-to-episode, The Prisoner is the stronger series, by far, and probably one, like The Wire, that will yield lots of new insight over time. But Twin Peaks is a delicious guilty pleasure that is hard to resist.
(And an aside before getting on to #4: Twitterites have been throwing Star Trek, Battlestar, and other such shows at me. I dig them and appreciate the suggestions, but, nah. Once was enough for me on those. I never was a Trekkie. And BSG was ultimately too erratic for me to suffer through more than once.)
4) A new motherboard or somesuch shit to fix my PC so I can play WoW again.. Not just WoW, but a few other PC games, too, that have been borked ever since I've had this jinxed rig. Computer hardware is boring though. Hard to get worked up about this one. Plus it feels, I dunno, practical. Like I'm fixing something. I'm trying to avoid anything remotely productive here.
5) Nice noise-canceling headphones. Most of my music-listening these days takes place through headphones. I have some decent cheap ones (Koss PortaPro), but I've been coveting the notion of getting some really good ones, ones that would also be useful for plane travel, etc. $250 would go a long way towards getting me a sweet pair that would leave me happily entranced until the day I rolled over them on my office chair and broke them.
6) Rock Band Beatles. Or Rock Band in general since Rock Band Beatles isn't out yet. But the Beatles set is the thing that is kinda pushing me over the edge, especially since my kid is such a big Beatles fan now, too (yay!). The problem, however, is that it's more clutter that we really don't need. Plus, I'm not social enough, or I'm too old, or both, to have people over enough to make this feel worthwhile. I played the first few Guitar Heroes, and loved them, but always played solo. Rock Band solo seems a bit sad. Like I'll end up on the corner as an old man doing the one-man-band thing for spare change. Of course, if that IS in my future, then I suppose this would be good practice. Hmmmm.
7) Random games and books and music. This would be my opportunity to pick up a pile of stuff that will definitely get lots of use. Since I don't get free games anymore (except EA games), I'm like the rest of you rabble on that front. I'm always up for new new books, too, and could even pick up a few that I normally wouldn't cuz of being too expensive. And then there's CD box sets....which I'm a little loathe to do since I'm trying to abandon physical media as far as music goes. Still, all this stuff is the kind of stuff I can buy sporadically throughout the year as long as I'm relatively prudent about it. So it doesn't quite have that "I couldn't normally buy this" vibe than I'm trying to fulfill here.
See what I'm talking about? This is stressful! And, really, there are a million other things I haven't even thought about yet! What about one of them new Flip videocameras? How about some new motorcycle boots? Maybe a box of cigars! I don't smoke, but, what the heck, maybe it's a good time to start! Maybe a cool espresso maker for the house? Shit, if I'm gonna go down that road, there's tons of home appliance type stuff that could be great! How about an elliptical trainer, so I can exercise my fat ass instead of sitting around on it all the time? Or even a new bicycle! Sure they get stolen all the time because I live in Berkeley, which is like the bike thief capital of the world, but, what the heck! It's free anyway! And you know what I haven't had in like forever? A robe! A bigass fluffy robe to wear around the house! That'd be awesome!
Seriously, people: I need help. This gift card is like a 10-ton weight on my shoulders. Relieve my burden. Tell me what to buy. I'm practically incapacitated here. I'm almost sorry I even got the damn thing.