Skip to content

Faux Outrage

Literally the most important blog in the universe since 2010.

Monthly Archives: April 2011

Okay, tell me if you think this is weird.

On Monday, I was 28 years old.  But by Tuesday, just 24 hours later, I was 30.

Pretty strange, right?

I did some research and as it turns out, 29 is no longer an age that a person is allowed to be.  The number 29 continues to exist — still between 28 and 30! — and it is theoretically possible for a person to have been alive for 10,592ish days (for example: me), and there are not now nor have there ever been any known rips in the space-time continuum, yet it is somehow no longer possible to be thought of as a 29 year old.

Why is that?

Why is anything?

Marketing, of course.

In 1997, a paper called (what else?) “The Widespread Use Of Odd Pricing In The Retail Sector” was published in everyone’s favorite marketing bulletin, Marketing Bulletin.  The study concluded that a full 60% of advertised prices ended in a 9.

This technique is called psychological pricing.

Instinctively, we understand that this is done because consumers, in the aggregate, are idiots.  We assume that Average Joe and his wife Mean Jeanie are more likely to purchase an item for $2.99 than that same item priced at $3.00 than the actual price difference (one measly penny) suggests.

We assume correctly.

If Joe and Mean Jeanie were completely rational, the emotional difference between $2.99 and $3.00 should be about the same as the difference between $2.99 and $2.98, but as it turns out that is not true at all.  Researchers have concluded that consumers pay special attention to the left-most figure of a price, in part because we read left-to-right.  Apparently, our brains get bored after reading one single digit.  This is good for business, but bad for anyone who needs to buy anything, ever.

So it’s true, Average Joe and Mean Jeanie are not perfectly rational.

Savvy consumers (like us!) recognize that a price ending in 9 is nothing more than a parlor trick.  We know better, and constantly remind ourselves that $0.99 is “really” $1.00, $4.99 is actually $5.00, and so on… We are the smart ones!  We cannot be fooled!  We are the ones we have been waiting for!

Unfortunately, we have become so proficient at rounding our 9’s up to the nearest easily-digestible number that as we begin to see $29 as $30, we also develop the ability to view a doe-eyed 29 year-old as a member of the Big 3-0 club.

Perhaps this also explains why it is so difficult once you hit 30 in earnest to convince folks you are 29 (especially if you attempt this feat for several consecutive years).  There is no marketing tool, psychological study, nor slight-0f-hand maneuver available to you, unless of course the “maneuver” involves 1.21 gigawatts and a DeLorean DMC-12 going 88 miles per hour.

The weirdest part of all of this is that despite my being temporarily obsessed with pinpoint age accuracy, I have rounded myself to 30 in completely unnecessary situations.  While “discussing” life decisions with my mom, I made sure to note that “I am 30 years old.”  While I listened to a friend lament how weird it is that “we’re 30 now,” I made no effort to correct her (obviously quite serious) error.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve always made a point to be well-rounded.  But after turning 29, I was disappointed to find out that I’m just, well, rounded to 30.

I find my own answer to the following question a pretty compelling reason to never get arrested.

How many phone numbers do you know off the top of your head?

Let’s see here.

I can tell you my own phone number.  That’s probably a good thing.  I know my parents’ home number.  That’s normal.  I can call my mom at work and I can call my dad on his cell phone.  Reasonable.  In terms of real people currently in my life, that’s all I can tell you.

That’s it.

Other than that, the phone numbers still lodged in my brain are symbols of my (misspent) youth.

For example: I can put you in touch with Clover Lanes, the bowling alley near the house where I grew up.  Need to call the Putt-Putt Golf and Games (now Clubhouse Fun Center apparently?) on Jay Scutti Boulevard in Rochester?  Well then, I’m your man. Want to know the various numbers my 33.6 (!) kbps SupraExpress modem dialed and screeeeeched alongside in order to access the Internet before anyone knew or cared what Google or even Friendster was?  I’ve got you covered.

Not sure how helpful they would be in a moment of crisis.

As an added bonus, I also (awkwardly) still remember the numbers of most of the girls I dated in high school.  If I try, I can even channel some of the heart-wrenching anxiety I used to associate with those seven innocuous (to you!) digits.

Fortunately, though I remember their phone numbers, I am rid of my now-hilarious, anal-retentively numbered “Things to Talk About” lists  I had at the ready on more than one occasion.

To give you an idea, here’s an example of a Things to Talk About list:

  1. School
  2. Movies
  3. TV
  4. My Apparent Lack Of Self-Awareness
  5. How Horrifying This List Is Going To Seem In Retrospect

So, that’s the entire set of phone numbers I have memorized.

Not a single person — not even a single bowling alley! — within 400 miles.

I’m not sure if we can trace my (and probably your) ever-dwindling knowledge of numbers back to 20th century speed dial technology, or if this is a creature born primarily out of the cell phone movement; but either way our lack of attention to detail could leave us in a pretty tricky situation if we every find ourselves blackberryless in the back of a squad car.

Unless you want to explain to your parents what you were doing that night.

So, how many phone numbers do you know?

BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP
BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP huh?
BEEP BEEP what? oh BEEP
BEEP BEEP okay-BEEP-okay BEEP
BEEP okay i’m BEEP up i’m up BEEP
BEE-

breathe in.
breathe out.
breathe in.
etc.

radio on.

a brand new day.

it’s true.

“hope springs eternal” they say
only communicating in cliche
and i buy in, hang on every word
maybe they’re right about today
that the grass smells sweeter
that everyone seems happier
as if we forgot how this story ends
(in heartbreak)
as if we can escape the inevitable
(heartbreak)
and i buying in too
smiling unknowingly

opening day!

it’s true.

i am a motorcycle now! i am a racecar!
let’s drive one hundred miles per hour i say
i want to see the time and scenery fly by
seconds and hours and cornstalks blurred by velocity
like a fastball, a meatball over the plate

i am up!  it’s opening day!  i am ready!
is the world ready?  wake them up!
why aren’t they awake?
wake everyone up, wake them!
tell them anything is possible today!
it’s true!
where are my shoes?  it’s time
anything is possible today

anything.

it’s true.

the first pitch is thrown!
and everyone reacts
as if it weren’t going to happen
“i thought this day would never come!”
you didn’t think that
you couldn’t think that
did you think that?
this day always comes
you remember
ready or not

this day always comes.

it’s true.

RING RING RING RING huh?
RING RING what? oh RING
RING RING okay-RING-okay RING
RING RI- hello?

hello?

(a pause)

hi, zachary.

hi.

are you there?

(a pause)
(a pause)
(a pause)

go to where it’s quiet she says
this is the best i can do i say
i got a call this morning she says
we lost grandma last night she says

(and i want to ask
where did we lose her?
maybe we should start looking
but then i remember
how this call started
the quiet place
she told me to go to a quiet place
just like in the movies
based on a true story
unfolding before me)

as the blood
rushes from my face
like fans for the exits

she’s not lost at all
they found her this morning

anything is possible today.

it’s true.

——————————-

Epilogue: Honestly, I didn’t know whether to submit this to the Faux Outrage universe.  This is literally (yes, literally) the first thing I wrote about my grandmother’s passing after learning of the news from my mother on Thursday afternoon.  It’s personal, not particularly well-edited, and not in line with what is normally posted on fauxoutrage.com.

I couldn’t ignore the fact that I learned of this dreadfully sad news on Opening Day.  I am a huge baseball fan, of course, but I’ve always struggled with the compelling argument that sports are objectively unimportant.  They don’t seem to “matter” in any real sense.  Time spent and thinking about baseball is time that might be better spent focusing on important details of life, like family, like friends, like social justice.  And yet, on the morning my grandmother passed away in her sleep, my mind was laser-focused on baseball.

This bothers me.

Death confuses me more than anything else since it is both the most obvious and most unbelievable part of living.  Death, with great irony, reminds us that we are living.  At the same time, without irony, death reminds us that at some point we will no longer get to hear our alarm clocking beep beep beeping away.

We walk around with this knowledge — we all know that our time is limited — but we rarely feel it.  We push push push this realization deep into the back of our minds because otherwise we would not be able to function in polite society.  Although I wouldn’t be surprised if a society perpetually aware of the temporary nature of life would be much more “polite.”

Rest in peace, Grandma, and say hi to grandpa for me, will ya? 🙂

%d bloggers like this: