About a year ago now, something happened to me which shook my reality a bit, although hundreds of others also experienced this small event, for me it had a profound meaning that I will now share with you all here.
During the middle of my work week, just after lunch, I ran out of shipping envelopes, so I headed down to the local wholesaler to pick up a cool thousand 10″x14″ envelopes. Due to the distance between where I parked and the wholesaler, it was fastest and easiest for me to cut through a local shopping mall. From past experience I knew the thousand envelopes were going to weight quite a bit, so I decided that on the way back I would stop for a coffee in the mall.
I picked up the envelopes, and carried them back to the mall’s third floor coffee shop, my muscles we’re getting tired, so when I found an empty coffee shop table next to the third floor railing of the mall’s courtyard, I dumped my envelopes in one of the chairs, went to ordered my coffee, then returned to my table to drink it.
The coffee was nice, and so was the view of the busy mall. This mall is always extremely busy, and getting more so by the day. It was a suburban mall once, but the city has grown so much over the last decade or so, the surrounding roads which were once full of houses are now full of condominiums. The population density in the area has more than doubled over the last few years, as has the population of the mall.
I people watched as I slowly drank my coffee, there were lots of people all over the place, many had a bag or so in their arms. There were people on laptops in the coffee shop, some with friends, some that looked to be on dates, and then there was this one table that I couldn’t quite figure out. Sitting at this table there was what seemed to be a very well off lady, drinking her coffee, she was just beyond middle age, well made up, with a designer haircut, about 5 ft 5 inches tall, and 180 pounds. The lady was very nicely dressed in what I would assume to all be all new designer clothing, she wore a blue floral dress, designer shoes, lots of jewelry, and polished leather high heals. She seemed very relaxed, I would guess she was wealthy enough she didn’t need to work, this was mid day after all. The man who sat with her did not have a drink of his own and was not dressed so extravagantly, from the look of him, I assumed he was probably living on an income below the poverty line, his clothing looked plain, old, but looked clean and ironed, he had no jewelry that I could see. He was about 5 ft 8 inches tall, thin, in his early 30s, and fit. They did not look at each other or talk. The couple finished just moments before I did, so my thousand envelopes and I ended up following them out of the coffee shop.
Other than the physical differences between the two, I saw some other very obvious clues as to who they might be. While the lady was obviously leading the man, as she carried what seemed to be a very expensive designer purse. The man was following and carrying about fifteen designer brand name shopping bags, fanning out from his hips, which I would assume had just been purchased. I reasoned this man was an employee of the woman, brought with her on these shopping trips possibly as a driver, and then due to the fact that the woman bought more clothing that it looked like she could carry, he was her porter as well. The way this all played out, this looks like a common event for the two. It is possible that this woman never wore the same clothing twice, and maybe did not even wear some items once.
This particular mall had five stories to it, and conveniently at the front of the mall, there were four floors of escalators all facing the same direction with about a 20 ft gap between the top of one escalator, and the bottom of another. The up escalators lined up with the next up escalators, and the down with the down. Due to the efficiency of this design, not to mention the huge population of the shopping mall, I could not imagine just how many thousands of people that this row of escalators moved during a normal day, however at this there were at least 200 people using them, as well as another hundred or so queued on the islands between the escalators.
Just as this lady and guy reached the extremely busy center of the third floor island between escalators, something happened, this lady just figured out that she didn’t know where she wanted to go next. So she stopped, as did her servant. This was of course an immediate problem for the hundreds of people who were being pushed onto the already full escalator island by the up and down escalators. A lone person would have caused some inconvenience in such a place, but this wide girthed lady together with her servant and the 15 bags of clothing, were taking up the space of about five or so people.
A human traffic jam began almost immediately, things like this happen from time to time, so I expected the woman would figure out what was happening, and leave the busy area to let others past, but she seemed completely unaware of what was going on around her. As she put her finger to her lip for some harder thinking about what to do next, the man with the bags was looking around a bit worried at all the trouble they were causing, he looked to the lady, which he stood behind, but did not say anything to her, he seemed to be uncomfortable at the thought of informing her. People tried to force themselves by, but the population of the island was growing fast. After a few more seconds, I became scared, I was afraid that the escalator machinery’s continuous push of people both up and down from this spot was soon going to crush, injure and kill many people. I had a pain in my stomach about this possibility, and it seemed the man with the bags was concerned about this as well, I could see from his quick glances around that he was fully aware of what was going on, but his master was not, she stood there a while longer, it was getting very bad on the island, very dangerous, then she took her finger down from her lip, and walked back the way she came, not taking the escalator after all. Possibly she was not yet done shopping for the day.
I stood out of the way for a bit while the crowd died down, then took the escalator down to where I would get in my car.
As I was driving home I kept thinking about the incident, it had caused quite a bit of stress to me at the time, and it went over and over in my head…. you see what really bothered me about this situation, other than the possible horror this woman had almost caused to the other people in the mall, was that this shopaholic, slow thinking, ignorant woman was the boss to the man who carried her bags. She was the one that had the money, she was the one that was calling the shots here, yet the man who served her was obviously a hard worker of higher intelligence.
If this was truly a modern darwinistic world where the hard working and intelligent people were supposed to rise to the top, it would seemed far more logical that she should be following him, not the other way around.
How exactly did this lady have so much money, and therefore so much power over others?
I thought later of all the things she had just bought, all the people that needed to serve her in the stores, all the cotton farming, the picking, sewing, and delivery needed. The petroleum used for her bags has likely been fought over in wars causing people to lose their lives, not to mention the environmental destruction which goes along with it, the raw oil gets shipped and refined, processed and shipped again etc, the things she had bought had taken up enormous amounts of manpower, and were constructed from raw materials that came from all over the world. Yet she might only wear it once ? If that.
I can hear the average news watching economists saying “But, But, she creates jobs!”. However, she doesn’t really create jobs, what she creates is work, tons of it, and she creates environmental damage, and in this instance she created trouble. Maybe if someone wasn’t slaving away in the factory for her, they could be doing something better for someone else.
How much of humanities manpower is spent on this woman and people like her? How much work do we all need to do to support shopaholics? How much work does she do for society? From the looks of her, I would guess she takes countless millions of manpower work in her life, and probably gives zero in return.
The strangest part of this coming from me, a retailer, is that she would be my ideal customer, as much as I did not want her in front of me at the mall, people like her are what I need for my business survive. In fact I was out buying envelopes to serve consumers just like her in the first place. My lifestyle depends on shoppers and improves with over shoppers.
But how come she was in charge? How come all these hard working human beings need to serve her?
Does that seem right to you?
I hope one day soon, all the world’s shopaholics might find something better to do with their time, then all the poor workers who served them can take a well deserved break.