Tributaries

My dishwasher is one of my most loved luxuries. It’s weird. If I’m round somebody else’s house I quite frequently find myself working through a pile of washing up in the sink just by way of contributing. But when I’m at home I’m not going near the washing up – it goes in the machine. Maybe I think of washing up as a holiday…

It’s very useful though, the machine, for my purposes. As I discovered in summer, you can dismantle, wash and rebuild chandelier crystals in a dishwasher much more efficiently and quickly than any other means of cleaning the damn things. I’m pretty good at getting the right wash for the right item as well. I’ve washed some extremely precious things over time without affecting them. Lots of them have subsequently fetched good prices at auction. You don’t have to tell people how you cleaned them, and the things sell better when they’re shiny.

Problem with a dishwasher habit is you get through those little tabs at an alarming rate, and because a dishwasher is a luxury, the tabs are marked up. I’m running out. I ordered some more online. But rather than just mindlessly buying the branded ones from the quickest delivery place, I went to an ethical online superstore. I bought these tabs that are probably made of camel dung and orange peel, but they’ll do the trick and they might not kill the planet so much. But they’re taking forever to arrive in the post and I’m having to manage my entitlement.

We are so conditioned to having everything immediately we notice when we have to wait three days. It’s harder to sell things on eBay even these days because it doesn’t always arrive the second you win the bid. I’m going through correspondence written in the early 1900’s at the moment, and back then, people knew they’d have to wait. Now it’s a different world, where I can pull something out of my head at random and set a stopwatch and find it. I’m going to do it now. I’m alone so I have to say a random feasible thing to myself. A CLOCKWORK LLAMA. GO.

Yep. 27 seconds later and I have multiple options for something I wasn’t even sure existed less than a minute ago. Including these two on Amazon which, if I wanted them, would be with me on Saturday for less than a tenner.

Before Covid they would have been with me tomorrow. Amazon was the third hit on my search – there are two independent companies who have paid Google to try and get their hits up and pull some business away from the megalithic all consuming monobrand. But a lot of people would ignore the independents and just click on Amazon instead – perhaps because at some point they’ve been suckered into paying for Prime, perhaps just because I WANT IT NOW MUMMY NOW!

Lots of us have turned into absolute bastards because of the internet. We’ve forgotten how to wait.

Seriously, if you want clockwork llamas, go to The Gift and Gadget Store, or to Funtime Gifts. They want your business. They probably pay tax. They aren’t trying to remove all competition and – eventually – have a monopoly on everything where they can charge what they like and run the world. And if the website is annoying because it doesn’t already know everything about you and have a one-touch link to your PayPal, and if it takes a day or so more for your llamas to arrive, just think how much harder it would have been thirty years ago to convert the idea of a clockwork llama into the reality of a pair of them that you can race on the weekend. Just think for a second before throwing more money into the big bald moneysink.

Convenience is a killer. It makes us lazy and impatient, and brings us one step closer to being batteries. Sure, in its place, it’s amazing. Brian got a Victorian nightgown for Scrooge this time a few years ago in time for the first show, when we discovered the existing one was torn right up the side. It was an actual Victorian actual nightie. With frilly tassles. Overnight. From Amazon. Humbug. But yes, in its place the speed is great.

But not for literally everything. Not for dishwasher tablets made of happy algae and fairydust. I can wait for them, and get my hands wet in my own sink for a day or so until they arrive.

If you’ve got the habit, try and restrain yourself just once, next time. Look around and maybe pay a few pence more for something that goes into a better pocket than the black hole of Bezos. And if you’re going to be a tributary to the Amazon, at least be aware of how incredibly fortunate we all are right now not only to have this convenience, but also to still have competition – just about.

So maybe, now lockdown is ending, maybe go outside, walk into a shop – ding-a-ling. Buy from the ailing High Street before there’s nothing left but coffee shops and pubs…

I’m as bad as anyone. I’m saying this all to myself as much as you. Happy end of another lockdown. Don’t die out there.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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