On crass consumerism and the changing tides of fortune (and a sense of entitlement)
By Monte Williams
I learned four months ago that I would only be allowed to complete one year of my two-year teaching contract in Lahore, Pakistan. I try not to be bitter, ’cause I witnessed first-hand the fact that it could be worse; I was at least able to stay through the school year, whereas my administrators had to flee the country in secret before the school year ended.
While I still had a regular paycheck until this month, I of course immediately stopped spending my monthly “allowance” when I received the bad news in March. (Good thing, too, as I have yet to find a replacement job). Combine that fact with the obscene tariffs the Pakistani post office charged when my dad shipped some toys to Lahore for me in December and it comes to pass that, in addition to the fact that I am still (so far) unemployed and living in an RV, my decision to live and work in Pakistan has thus far cost me over $1,000 in toy funds.
On the other hand, if I can look at joblessness and the threat of homelessness primarily as lost opportunities to purchase children’s toys, I must still be fairly optimistic that things will work out. In the meantime, and to keep my self-aggrandizing self-pity to a minimum, I thought I would share some staggering statistics pertaining to my action figure purchases in 2011. I share the following data with no excuses or defensiveness or apologies, because whatever one thinks of them, I believe the numbers should say what they have to say without any hand-wringing or blushing on my part. What follows is adapted from a year-end post at the Hiss Tank forums.
Inspired by Poe Ghostal’s annual tradition of reporting how much money he spends on toys each year, I kept a running record of my own in 2011. Not counting gifts, only toys I paid for myself, I paid $1,596 for 221 toys in 2011. I bought toys in California, Idaho, Washington, Florida, Istanbul and Lahore using US Dollars, Turkish Lira and Pakistani Rupees. I bought toys from websites, independent retailers on eBay, generous friends and big box retailers.
I logged into my Big Bad Toy Store account in Asmara, Eritrea, in the Horn of Africa (and more recently in Lahore, Pakistan) and ordered toys that were then shipped to my father’s house in Washington (or, more recently, Oregon; he moved a few months ago), at which point he opened them and repacked them and shipped them to me. My father-in-law in California provided the same service once, as well. Considering these toys started out in China, they’re pretty well traveled!
I purchased perhaps a dozen Star Wars figures and twice that many Indiana Jones figures and a few oddities like a bigass dinosaur and a Transformer or two in 2011, but a comically overwhelming majority of toys I purchased in 2011 were G.I. Joe action figures.
There are several figures I purchased more than once in 2011, including every figure in Big Bad Toy Store’s two G.I. Joe Resolute action figure 7-packs.
In 2011, I spent more on novelty items designed for children than most families in the cities where I lived probably spent on food.
I spent $1,596 on toys in 2011, and I never once donated to charity in 2011.
I spent an average of approximately $4.37 a day on toys in 2011.
I have only saved $1,700 towards my daughter’s college tuition, and I spent $1,596 on toys in 2011.
I spent $1,596 on toys in 2011, and my wife and I have agreed to increase our monthly allowance from $100 to $150 starting January 2012.
I spent $1,596 on toys in 2011, and there are still many, many toys I wish I could have bought.
Toys are my primary source of creativity.
Toys are the only reason I spend time on the internet; toys are the reason I spend far too much time on the internet.
I already have a long list of toys I want to buy in 2012, and a folder on my desktop filled with photos of toys I want to buy in 2012.
I spent $1,596 on toys in 2011.